This post comes from reader N., who contacted me a while back with some astute and eye-opening feedback. I’ll let her explain.
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I first emailed Sally a month ago when I first got into reading fashion blogs. I started thinking about the feelings that I got when I looked at incredibly gorgeous people in incredibly gorgeous clothing. I’m talking about blog envy, of course.
It’s something most of us have felt at least once, “Why didn’t I think of that color pairing first?” “If only I could work an SLR.” “I wish I could afford a closet full of Jimmy Choo’s.” “My legs never look that smooth and tan. Not fair.” We see it. We envy it. We get over it. It’s inevitable. It just comes with the territory of fashion blogs and readership.
However, when I started to read this blog in particular, I came to the conclusion that most of the envy I felt towards blogs sounded less like what I typed above and more like, “I wish I could just stand in the street and take pictures of myself,” “Why can’t I just wear my purple dress outside?” “I wonder what would happen if I stood outside in that outfit.” Let me explain.
As a teenaged girl just recently recovering from an eating disorder, I learned that fashion was the only thing that made me feel amazing. (Ironic, I know.) I didn’t have to do anything because I could just throw on something beautiful and I would feel beautiful. With my hair done, makeup put on, shoes shined, and guns blazing, I could actually hold my head up high. I’m not quite sure if everybody feels that when they first discover fashion, but I sure did, and it immediately became one of my favorite things in the world. However, fashion is and was something that I kept inside the house.
By the great, wonderful chance of birth, I happened to be born in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in one of the most dangerous sections of one of the most dangerous cities in America, give or take a couple of statistics. As much as I love fashion, it’s simply impossible for me to throw on my favorite outfit and step out of my house unscathed. You see, where I’m from, something as simple as what you choose to wear can mean catcalling, people touching you, and even driving up beside you and asking, “How much?” And they’re not asking you how much your new wedges cost, either. I’ve even had family members and friends get mugged because, duh, being somewhat fashionable shouts, “I have money! Please relieve me of it. Thanks.” My neighborhood is called “the Badlands” for a reason.
Most days, I just throw on a ratty school sweater, jeans, and an old pair of moccasins before going out. I throw my hair into a messy, frizzy bun (hair that’s the texture only a biracial girl like me could have) and I’m out the door. Did I mention the same people that harass you for daring to wear pretty clothes also harass you for doing the opposite? I’ve had the words “ugly,” “trifling,” and “ghetto” all thrown at me while walking down the street and to be honest, it feels uncomfortable. Not because random people are shouting at me, but because me-in-a-raggedy-sweater doesn’t feel like me. Just the same way I’m sure Sally or Audi or Gabi or Weesha would feel out of place in ugly clothes they feel don’t represent them or who they are. As a young girl recovering from several years of an eating disorder, it feels doubly awful because the one thing that I always wanted to be was pretty and now that I have the mindset to convince myself that I am, my environment still prevents me from physically showing people how much I’ve come to terms with myself. Many people forget basic privileges like this.
If any of you reading this have a fashion blog, I’m not sure you know how great it is that you can just step outside and take a bunch of pictures with your head held high, showing the world your fiercest/cutest/sweetest poses. And when you open your closets or your armoires or your bureaus in the morning and you say to yourself, “I’m wearing X, Y, and Z today and I’m going to look awesome!” you probably don’t stop to realize that many people can’t really do that. Realize how much of a privilege it is to simply be yourself when you step out the door. How you can present yourself as a vintage pinup or the sleek, embodiment of androgyny or a walking Alexander McQueen mannequin and the most you have to worry about is a few stares or sideways glances.
Be happy with yourself and your choices. Not all of us can show ourselves to the world.
Image courtesy Infradept