Unusual to Dress Unusually: My Journey with Fashion Freedom

Unusual to Dress Unusually: My Journey with Fashion Freedom

When I wore a skirt for the first time in middle school, I didn’t hear the end of it from my family and friends for weeks afterward. My parents thought it showed too much skin, my friends accused me of trying to be like the “popular” girls (who didn’t actually exist), and my teacher dress-coded me because the skirt didn’t fall below my fingertips. I received so much unwanted attention for wearing something as benign as a skirt that I quickly reverted back to the leggings and jeans that were nearly the uniform at my middle school. 

I was thrilled to start high school because not only was the dress code more relaxed, but also other girls were starting to express their own unique fashion sense too. I could wear a skirt to school every day and no one would bat an eye. 

I wasn’t about to stop at a skirt. I went a bit wild with my newfound fashion freedom. Some highlights from my freshman year include: rolling up to school in a tutu, walking the halls dressed as an elf, and prancing around in a dress that would have belonged to a 1950s housewife. 

Looking back, I’m surprised at how unself-conscious I was. People I didn’t know would stop me in the halls to comment on my outfits, and it was even a topic of discussion in circles of which I had no part. I was a reserved person and hated calling attention to myself, but I continued to wear such eye-catching outfits because, to be honest, I didn’t think I was catching anyone’s eye. I didn’t think anyone cared. This was high school; people were more mature than they were in middle school, right? 

Not really. While no one looked twice if you dressed up in more than the classic t-shirt and jeans, there was still an expectation to stay within the current trends. It was unusual to dress unusually, and people noticed when you did.

As I came to realize this, I toned down my outfits and began to blend back in with the masses. Then, in junior and senior year, I began to experiment again. I tried out some business casual pieces from H&M, I worked with some crazy patterned socks, and, every now and then, I’d shake things up and throw on a pair of heels. I liked dressing up but knew people took notice, so before I left for school every morning I’d have to get over the part of myself that didn’t want to deal with the attention. 

At Princeton, I can appreciate a certain degree of anonymity regardless of what I wear. It’s been an unexpected perk of college. It’s partially due to the fact that there is so much diversity here, that to stand out is almost to blend in. Move over, it’s due to the glorious fact that college kids do not care about what you wear. There are so many priorities rolling around in our heads that there just isn’t enough room to think about something as trivial as someone else’s clothes.

Currently, my greatest challenge when it comes to fashion is whether or not I have the energy to dress up every day. While some may not notice what others are wearing, I always take the time to glance up from my text book and look around because my fellow Tigers have a great sense of style.

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