Image & Style: Fitting in and Standing Out

 In Consciously Woman

Many years ago, I was visiting a couple, acquaintances of mine, in Montreal. I complimented her on her brightly coloured sweater over tea. She said thank you and also remarked that I was more conservative in my style of dressing. I was surprised at first. I had never considered that I was conservative about my clothing. Giving it some thought now, I was quite regimented with my clothing as a teen. I mostly avoided skirts and dresses (exceptions were made, prom and graduation mainly), and wore mainly black, grey, navy blue and white with jeans. Sometimes there was red, and certainly my high school years fell in the grunge era, so there was plaid, of course. I wouldn’t say I was as conservative as some, but translating that into my twenties, even after I had embraced sandals and skirts (inspired by travel through Europe), I still wore those same colours and kept things fairly simple. I clearly had not realized it until this woman pointed it out. Being conservative fashion-wise is relative, of course. Depending on whom you spend your time with and where you work, ‘conservative’ is a moving target. As is fashion itself.

It’s human nature to want to be part of a community. At the same time, each of us looks to assert our individuality within that community. It is the conundrum of wanting to fit in (community/society) and stand out (individual). It’s a balancing act for some of us. How far do we go with fashion before it goes over the line, whatever that line may be? How much risk are we willing to take to assert our uniqueness? Is conforming easier?

Even those groups that may not be mainstream, at least in the beginning, are rebelling and conforming in equal measure. Take Goth for example. They certainly stand out and are not part of a common fashion aesthetic. They are rebels against the typical fashion trends and yet they are easily identifiable. Within their own subculture, they look remarkably the same. They are conforming within the Goth community. This is not a judgement, but a great example of the individual proclaiming their individuality to the larger society while adopting the style regime of the smaller community.

And then there’s Hipsters. To my mind, they dress in a similar way as well. The eyeglasses with a specific frame, neutral shades in fabric, plaid, scarves. I like a lot of those styles, but again, they can be considered a counter-culture which in turn has its own conforming nature. Even when you want to stand out, it can be hard to do.

For myself, I believe figuring out that middle place – that taking the risks and accepting that it may not appeal to all or many – is intertwined with self-acceptance. When I see someone put a great style ensemble together, even though it may be quite outside the norm, I have respect for that person – for taking the risk and owning it. To me it’s an act of courage to say: this is who I am and how I chose to dress, and I don’t care what anyone has to say about it. Those are some of the people that show up in blogs about street style during fashion week in NYC.

For now, I’m still working out which styles do express me best, but I definitely feel like just stepping out in a tutu once in a while.

*Image via: http://ow.ly/WwnB3000S9I

Written by Lia Robinson

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