From Abercrombie to Average

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

From Abercrombie to Average

By Jehn Kubiak

The most important lesson I’ve learned after completing a BA and starting a Master’s program at Biola University is this: stay true to yourself. Yes, I know it’s a cliché––but it’s very true, as I’ve learned throughout my education.

I was once one of those girls who wore everything the “popular girls” wore, which was basically anything from the mall or from specific brand names––Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Aeropostale, Forever21, and other similar stores. Basically, anything from thrift shops or Sears was a big “no.” Even though I could purchase shirts for as low as $5 at Sears, I still paid $15 to $20 for a similar shirt because it had the words “Abercrombie and Fitch” stitched into the fabric.

At this time, I completed chores around the house––dusting, washing baseboards, organizing the cupboards––and also helped clean up after my dad’s horses. Ergo, my parents paid me minimum wage in exchange for my labor. Instead of saving that money for more important things, such as college, I spent it on clothes. I spent somewhere between $50-$100 a month on clothes in high school, and I’m definitely not proud of it. I would much rather have all that money back to pay off my student debt or given some to a charity.

However, even though I wore brand-name clothes like everyone else, I refused to wear makeup. I refused to wear it. First, I’m allergic to many kinds of makeup, and I refused to pay a fortune on brands without those ingredients. Second, who wants to go around looking like a porcelain doll all the time? Third, if you touch your face a lot, it smears. Since I was in color guard and marching band, I did not want to mess with that. Fourth, many girls wake up very early just to put on makeup. I’ll take that extra hour of sleep over beauty.

As I progressed through high school, I started noticing that the girls I tried to impress still refused to hang out to me. Apparently, once these girls make up their minds about you, they always view you in that manner. So, if they think you’re a loser because you don’t have a face caked with mascara and foundation, you have no chance of becoming part of their friend group.

During my first year of college at Biola University, I decided it was time for a change. I couldn’t afford expensive clothes anymore, and I wanted to try something new––making my own style. This was difficult at first because I didn’t know what my style was. I had become a clone of the “in girls” at my high school, so I lost sight of my own personal fashion preferences. I kept wearing the clothes I had from high school during my freshman year of college, but I stopped obsessing over every little detail. Who cared if the color of my jeans didn’t perfectly match my shirt? Actually, most people didn’t, as I found.

During my second year, I finally figured out what my style is. I love athletic clothing at times, but I also enjoy cute dresses (my friends can tell you how many dresses sit in my closet). I usually can’t wear patterned prints, but I’ll buy athletic shirts or leggings with wacky patterns to change things up a bit. I enjoy dark or pastel colors, but I hate neon or other bright colors. I wear my Saucony running shoes with lace dresses, just because I feel like it, and nobody has told me that it’s not okay. I’ll pick a few favorite tanks or camis, then mix and match with cardigans. This year, I found out that I now enjoy color jeans instead of denim. Although I don a blazer and dress pants some days, I enjoy my drum corps t-shirts and running shorts on others. Some days, I just don’t feel like messing with my hair, so I’ll throw it in a very messy bun, even if it makes me look like I just rolled out of bed and went straight to class.

Now that I’ve completed my undergraduate education and am in my Master’s program, I understand that having your own style is much better than copying someone else’s. You’ll almost never be happy with another person’s style––especially if you have drastically different preferences. Plus, some patterns, colors, or clothing styles look great on one person, but they look different on another. For instance, I can rock fit-and-flare dresses due to my shorter torso and wide hips. However, others look much better in a maxi dress.

Another thing to keep in mind is, even if other people say something doesn’t look good on you, they don’t dictate your style––you do. Someone once told me that I wouldn’t look good in a romper, yet I eventually bought one and received quite a few compliments. I also used to feel so self-conscious about wearing dresses because I have very muscular legs and arms from swimming, yet many people tell me my toned body adds a unique twist to formal wear.

The journey from labeled luxuries to personal preferences did not happen overnight––I had to first develop self-confidence in my favorite clothing, then I needed to stop looking at what others like and understand what I preferred. Since God created people with different tastes and personalities, there will always be some people who don’t like your specific style. If you enjoy odd patterns with gold jewelry, then mix the two. If you love converse and elegant dresses, pair them together. If you like wearing black and white all the time, then make those your permanent colors.

If you see someone else wearing something you like, then by all means, wear it––but don’t just wear something to make other people like you. Learning to love the person God created you to be includes dressing the way you want. Don’t let others stop you: step into your own skin.