Somewhere between revolutions, equality movements, and trying to be more intentional with our buying choices because of “fast fashion,” “minimalism,” and “upcycling,” we lost an important thread. Pun intended.
We’ve confused style with fashion and empowering self-expression with superficial vanity and consumerism. It can feel like tricky ground because we want to be more conscious, and fast fashion is problematic. However, if you think about it, becoming more conscious about what we wear should include how an outfit makes us feel and whether it aligns with who we are.
At first, adopting an attitude of “they’re just clothes” may seem like it’s coming from an evolved place of overcoming societal standards and gendered expectations around looks and values.
In reality, many of us have unintentionally ended up hiding who we are and disempowering ourselves because we’ve confused “not caring” with “freedom.” Unfortunately, “not caring” easily hides deeper truths like “I’m not good/thin/rich/brave enough” to wear that vibrant dress.
We’ve lost a vital gateway for authentic self-expression: How we choose to adorn ourselves.
How much intention went into what you chose to wear this morning? When last did you buy a garment that made you feel alive and energized? As a parent, your actions and choices inform your daughter’s current and future decision-making. If you’re not harnessing the power of clothing to express your authentic self, chances are you’re hiding and hindering your confidence.
It’s also very likely that your daughter is doing the same or is lost in the trap of fashion trends and trying to dress a specific way to fit in with a particular group. A dangerous path to quickly lose herself on.
There is another way. And it doesn’t involve you faking an interest in clothes if you don’t have any. This path is not about buying the “right” clothes. It’s about whether or not you know who you are and how to express your authentic self through a unique style. About helping your daughter explore and express her true self before she loses touch with it.
How Personal Style Supports Your Daughter’s Confidence
In her evocative and vulnerable TedTalk, “Dressing for Confidence and Joy,” Stasia Savasuk, a body-positivity advocate, explains that to see and celebrate your beauty, you have to know who you are on the inside. You have to see yourself truly.
The first step is how we show up. It’s a universal human longing to be seen. One of the primary ways we do so is through what we choose to wear. Our style gives people a lot of information about us, and when our external style is an authentic reflection of our true nature, we feel confident because everything’s in alignment.
We also harness the unique power that comes from being ourselves because our intentional style choice says, “I’m here. See me. This is who I am and what I’m about.”
In Savasuk’s words: “I learned that style, how you show up in the world, isn’t petty, trite or superficial. It’s complex, it’s dynamic, and it has to be congruent from the inside out. I call it inside-out congruency. Inside-out congruency can never be defined by any box, or preconceived ideas, or cultural norms and expectations that are designed by somebody else.”
How To Help Your Daughter Express Herself Through Her Clothing
Brene Brown‘s research on shame reveals that body image and appearance are nearly universal shame triggers. It also shows that authenticity is universally attractive and is a “collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
Between these two truths, the validity and importance of embracing personal style are exposed. Dressing from the inside-out necessitates replacing comparison and influence with inner authority and decision-making based on staying on our own team. It’s about belonging to ourselves and showing the world that we hold power over the dominion of our bodies and psyches.
When your daughter knows who she is and where she belongs, she doesn’t have to wait for anybody else’s approval. Style isn’t about her clothes. It’s about who she is on the inside and how she intentionally chooses to show up in the world. Not because “this is what the cool girls wear” but because “this outfit makes me feel fierce, and that’s what I feel like being today.”
You’re looking for resonance when helping your daughter express her true self through clothing. Does she feel uncomfortable in a flowy skirt but bold and free in tight jeans? Does that red dress make her fill the room, or does the dress wear her instead?
“Everyone has style. The question is not whether or not you have it; it’s whether or not it’s being expressed.” —Molly Bingaman
Watch this video snippet from Bingaman’s TedTalk with your daughter to help her identify the foundation of her authentic style. Then, go to her closet and let her work through what she owns from this new reference point.
Consider colors, textures, and clothing cuts, and notice the trends in what she places on the “This is so me!” pile. If that pile is small or non-existent, it may be time to head to a shop. Do so, forearmed with the new knowledge of her authentic style to avoid both of you feeling overwhelmed.
Savasuk recommends asking your daughter these questions:
- Will this give you “the spark”?
- Is this one vibrant/calm enough for you?
- Do you think this one will make you feel cool?
- What would you wear if there were no rules?
- What would you wear if you were getting dressed for yourself?
This exercise from her asks us to be intentional about authenticity every day. She says: “Instead of asking, “What am I going to wear today?”, pause. Take a look in the mirror. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself: “Who am I, and how do I want to show up in the world today?”
Finally, snuggling up with your daughter and reading this phenomenal interview with Stasia’s daughter, Rasia, who has physical differences and an emphatic dedication to expressing her authentic style, is probably one of the most motivating and clarifying exercises you can do together.
Here’s an excerpt:
Mama: “Anything you wanna tell anybody about STYLE?”
Raisa: “You taught me to dress how you want to feel. Like, if you want to be a happy person, then wear something every day that makes you happy. Wear your favorite clothes. Everyday. It doesn’t matter what activity you’re doing…you wear your favorite outfit because it’ll lift your spirits and make you feel good. It doesn’t matter what other people think. OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT YOU. You are your own person.”
Teaching your daughter to check in with herself each day before she dresses is a healthy habit that forges unwavering confidence and self-knowledge. It means she has full permission to be herself. It becomes the default for her innate wisdom and vibrant self-expression to lead the way, and other people’s expectations get to do the adjusting.
Written by Roxana Bouwer
Top photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash