You're Allowed to Love Fashion: Why Caring About Being Stylish Isn't Shallow
We can get in our heads about being stylish, but taking fashion seriously isn’t shallow. It’s the key to knowing ourselves and living authentically.
July 8, 2022
“I feel so guilty spending time and money on clothes.” “Being stylish shouldn’t be so important to me; it’s frivolous and not worth it.” “Caring about clothes isn’t a real hobby.” Sound familiar?
We have this idea that caring about your appearance and making style a priority is a sign of superficiality, shallowness, or even a lack of intelligence. And after we spend hours scrolling for style inspo or putting effort into curating our wardrobes, that societal idea sneaks back into our minds. Cue the “UGH, I should be doing something more productive or useful” self-shame spiral.
Caring about your personal style isn’t a bad thing, though. It’s not something you should feel ashamed of or guilty about. Personal style matters — and it’s about who you are and how you feel WAY more than it’s about how you look.
Caring about being stylish doesn’t mean you’re shallow
I care about my style, but that doesn’t mean I care about what others think of me. Being stylish isn’t about creating an outward image that people like and approve of. It’s about feeling so good in my clothes that nothing anybody else says matters. That’s possible for you—without conforming to trends or trying to control what other people think of you.
Figuring out what being stylish means to you helps you figure out who you are
Ever put on a piece of clothing and immediately felt how wrong it was? I’m not talking about the silhouette or fabrication. I’m talking about putting something on and knowing right away that it’s not right for you or your personal style.
That’s why putting effort into your personal style is so powerful. Defining your personal style will help you understand who you truly are. And when you know who you are, you’ll feel confident selecting pieces that support you in showing up as your authentic self every day.
Think of a piece that you’ve tried before and know isn’t for you:
- How do you feel when you’re wearing it?
- Why do you feel that way?
- What’s the disconnect between the clothes and your identity?
- What do you value, both in fashion and outside of it?
Each time you try on clothes that don’t align with who you are, you further define yourself, your values, and of course, your style.
Feeling secure in your style helps you be more present and stop worrying what others think of you
It’s hard to be present in the moment when you’re too busy adjusting your clothes or worrying over what everyone else thinks of your outfit. You can’t be fully engaged in a conversation when your mind is wandering toward what you saw in the mirror that morning.
But when you feel secure in your style and know that all your clothes align with who you are, you can put a stop to the anxiety and quiet that voice in the back of your mind. This is the key to embodying true confidence. Confidence isn’t something that happens when you wear the right clothes—it’s what happens when you feel at home in the clothes you’re wearing.
Related: How to make an outfit: 6 elements of a cohesive look
Style isn’t as frivolous as it may seem
I know how easy it is to feel shame for caring about being stylish. Fashion is often stereotyped as frivolous and unnecessary, and unfortunately, we’ve all internalized this message on some level, whether we realize it or not.
But that story is deeply gendered. I mean, how often do we hear about style being a “girl’s thing” or something only women — and unintelligent, shallow women at that — care about? It’s also dismissive of how powerful the fashion industry truly is.
That stereotype adds a layer of guilt to something that so many people (like you and me) love. It’s not meant to guide us, it’s meant to shame us.
All humans wear clothes, and all humans use clothes and style as a way to communicate (think about how many signals of leadership or power are clothing: purple garments, crowns and headdresses, the “power suit,” and so on) and express ourselves.
Style might not be as urgent as the social and political issues we care about, but it is an important part of our lives. Whether you’re putting on clothes because they’re functional, because they have a deep cultural significance to you, or simply because they make you happy, your style is essential to your identity (and your joy).
Great personal style is so much more than the clothes you wear. Get the guide and discover twelve life-changing style habits you can start practicing now, so you can experience having great style, not just great outfits.
Fashion shapes so much of our lives, both individually and globally
Clothes can be used as tools for power: every day, people are discriminated against simply for wearing clothes that hold meaning for their gender expression, religion, race, or class. How we present ourselves can be the tipping point in whether or not we land a new job, use the right bathroom, or get harassed in public.
The fashion industry is extremely broken. From pollution, waste, and climate issues to human rights issues, it’s understandable that we feel guilty for caring about clothes. But I think that if taking our style seriously helps us revise our long-held habits of overconsumption and overspending, isn’t that a positive? Caring about fashion’s impact on the environment can create major change in our own habits—and hopefully, through that effort and collective action, also in the industry at large.
Is changing our consumption habits, reevaluating our own conditioning and behaviors, and reflecting on the companies and systems we support frivolous?
I don’t think so. Not at all.
Personal style can be a personal value
Caring about being stylish isn’t shallow, unworthy of your time and money, or an unnecessary hobby. Your personal style can be a personal value. You’re allowed to take fashion seriously (not that you need my permission) because when you don’t, you’re acting against your own wants for your life.
Wearing what you feel good in boosts your self-esteem
Think of the most confident, self-assured person you know. Picture how they walk into a room, how they carry a conversation, and how they exude confidence. Now think of what they wear. It feels like it belongs with them; their style and their personality go hand in hand.
When you dress for your personal style, you feel empowered and confident. There’s a strong connection between your style and your sense of self, and feeling “like yourself” in your clothes can reinforce the identity and self you want to be.
You want to look in the mirror and see someone who looks and feels like you. When you don’t, it can hold you back from living authentically.
Being stylish in your own way establishes your identity
Our clothes aren’t just pieces of fabric or things we put on to have something to wear. Clothes are how we express ourselves, how we make our outside reflect our inside, and how we become the people we want to be.
We build and maintain our identities through clothes every single day. Your personal style develops right alongside your sense of self. Having a defined (but ever-evolving) personal style helps us express who we are and show up fully as ourselves through all stages of life.
Style is established through habits. Putting in the work to build good style habits is essential to feeling at home in your clothes and your identity. You’ve got to keep your habits strong as your style evolves — check out my Life-Changing Style Habits guide to jumpstart your style journey.
Your personal style helps you shed the pressure of conforming to beauty standards
When we start to dive into our personal style, we figure out who we are and how we feel about clothes. As we do that, we build the confidence to care about being stylish without caring what others think of our outfits and how we fit into societal norms.
It’s something that happens naturally throughout the questioning process. At the beginning, beauty standards feel like truths: I could wear that if I was thinner. Style isn’t for people like me. I can’t wear that. It’s really challenging to change how you feel about style norms at first.
You have to go through the surface-level work of defining your style and building good style habits first — then it gets a lot easier to go deep and deconstruct your internalized stories and conditioning around beauty standards.
You can’t let go of the pressure to follow what’s in the magazines when you’re still looking to the magazines to know what you “should” be wearing! When you break away from those standards, you’ll have the space to question how you feel about clothes, your body, and the person you want to be.
Beauty standards don’t matter when you feel good and confident in your clothing. They’re meaningless when you have a defined personal style and you know why you’re wearing what you’re wearing. If you feel good and confident, who cares if you’re on-trend or have whatever body type the media is obsessed with that month?
I’ve already said that you don’t need my permission for anything, so here’s a reminder instead: you’re not shallow for caring about being stylish. Loving fashion isn’t a frivolous hobby or guilty pleasure. And letting go of these notions helps you feel better in and about your clothes.
You deserve to show up authentically every day and dedicate time to yourself to define your personal style and grow your confidence. Join The Unfolding, my signature personal style self-development lab, to put in the work and start being stylish on your own terms.
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