Reclaiming your Fashion in a New City
By: Jailyn Duong
My closest is full of clothes from a plethora of stores (with every color known to man) for many a season, and with varying styles that all encompass who I am. Each unique part of my personality has its own voice in my closet. My fashion pecks at every piece of me, begging to be worn on my body, symbolizing me in a physical display. I know this to be true, and most do as well, but when I moved away from home to start college, these ideas slowly began to fade away as I lost myself in trying to fit in. I began to hunt for the outfits and clothes that will make me feel more accepted as part of my college community.
Fashion is my unapologetic protest to the norms of what people ask me to be, of what society expects of me. Yet, sometimes conformity seems to triumph over my urge to be different. When coming from a place like New York City that not only embraces but encourages individuality, moving to Boston, a place that can sometimes stifle individuality, began to strain my understanding of self expression through fashion. My sheer tops that I could easily walk around East Village in suddenly became more scandalous. My fuzzy and faux fur coats became less of a statement and more of an “extra,” flashy, looked down upon thing to wear. All the items that I used to easily experiment with became something I had to second guess wearing.
Like myself, many of my friends who come from some of the greatest culture hubs of America such as San Francisco and Chicago also felt as if their style was slowly changing. They felt judged for bright colors and complex outfits. They felt people’s disapproving stares push them towards the simplicity and limited clothing they see on their own campuses. The idea of having to look like everyone else in order to feel comfortable is not only a disservice to fashion as a tool for self representation, but also to a person’s right to feel good in their own skin. However, as I feel myself shifting my style to become more uniform to a native Bostonian’s closet, other friends and acquaintances of mine felt themselves beginning to stray from the fashion norms of where they come from. Their understanding of how fashion is a multidimensional tool to express themselves was influenced by moving to Boston.
The contrast between my urge to hide who I am versus others’ urge to become who they really are through fashion points at the real issue with varying fashion norms in different cities: styles commonplace to one environment is alien to people in another. The confrontation between opposing styles often gives people the incentive to shame others for not following the fashion norms in that city. If we do not feel the norms adhere to who we are with our fashion, we should not feel obligated to dress according to them.
So can I come to a conclusion about Boston’s influence on fashion? Not exactly. Is it a city that defines what we consider okay to wear? Maybe. Maybe it holds us back from utilizing fashion as a physical manifestation of who we are, and a means of expression. Maybe it shows us the power fashion yields in exploring ourselves in new facets. Maybe moving to a new place allows us to rediscover what style truly fits us individually. It’s just natural for a certain location to have specific fashion choices as a hallmark of its culture. However, we should never feel forced in a bubble where we are only “allowed” to wear what others believe is acceptable. Removing the idea of being “normal” with our fashion allows us to expand our style and reach out to trends that we may not even considered before. We must reclaim our right to dress according to ourselves and not our city.