Each season, I pack up my winter or summer clothes into a separate box to conserve space in my closet. Recently, I unpacked my boxes of winter clothes. I also cleaned out my old boxes from high school, left behind in my parent’s garage. The boxes are full of high school pictures, tennis team uniforms, prom dresses and powder puff t-shirts. Like your high school wardrobe, This takes me back just a few years, reminding me that, just like the seasons I have also changed.
You are constantly changing and so is your sense of style. In psychology you learn about different stages of life. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in pre-counseling. This means I have more schooling to go before I can sit down and counsel someone, but have had enough to understand psychology and people. The weirdest part about studying psychology is when you discuss the life stage you are going through or can relate with. I’ve had classes on adolescence and sat there thinking “This is me. I am going through this right now… but I am 22 years old….” It is a good time. Anyways, one thing that stood out me is the difference between adolescence and early twenties in regards to fashion.
Erikson is a psychologist who I really enjoyed studying. He wrote about the stages in life and called it “Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development”. In adolescence 13-19 years of age, you are figuring out identity and role confusion. In young adulthood 20-24, or 20-39 years of age you are figuring out love and fighting between intimacy and isolation. According to Erikson you are asking the questions of “who am I?” and “who can I become?” in high school. When you are finding a career, going to college or thinking of settling down you are asking the question “can I love?”. I would argue this does not mean only romantic relationships, although those are more important during this stage. This also includes friendships. How do both stages relate to fashion? Let me explain.
High school is a blur of rushing out the door early in the morning, cramming for tests and trying to make it home for curfew. During that time I just didn’t care what others thought about me. My most fashionable days are when I don’t care. When I stop caring is when I feel the most like myself. To explain, when I say “I stop caring”, I wouldn’t say I stop caring about myself. I start caring about myself when I stop caring about what others think. If that makes any sense at all! I got into the dating game much later than most. I am actually very thankful for that. I wore clothes without the desire to impress. I wore what I wanted, when I wanted. I wanted to look good, obviously, but it was just for myself. This was part of my identity in high school.
In college, I was on a floor with around 30 something girls. At first, I hated that I wanted to win the approval from my roommate. I would get up in the morning and put on something to wear and ask “does this look right?” She would do the same…. “should I wear leggings with this skirt?”… or another question we would ask each other, “What do you think about this?”…It was an adjustment I had to get used to. At one point, I realized my roommate and I had different tastes. The conversation went like this:
“Do you think I should wear heels with this?”
“No, you look too dressy.”
“But that’s the point.”
“I mean you can wear that, but I wouldn’t.”
I used to feel insecure about what I was wearing if another one of my floor mates didn’t like it and I did. What do you do with that? Do you wear the heels? After awhile into the friendship with my roommate, I appreciated moments when she would say, “Han, that is so you,” laughing and shaking her head at a yellow beanie I would wear. Or when she would ask what was missing in an outfit, I would point out she wasn’t wearing her usual bow or ribbon in her hair. I felt known.
So back to psychology. What most high school girls go through is a process of finding themselves and their identity through their relationships with peers. They are going through a process I like calling “individualizing”. You can see this in the way they present themselves. This is an important time to figure out what they like. I remember a friend of mine going through three different fashion stages in high school. Punk, preppy and then what I like to call the “mom look”. As you look back at your pictures in high school, remind yourself that as confusing and embarassing your style may have been it is normal.
Women in their 20s and early adulthood desire to be known and find intimacy. This means that they want to feel known. Being known and understood is very important during this time. I noticed a changed within myself to be less concerned about having tons of friends and more concerned about having a few super close friends. This can be reflected in personal style when you care more about what your close friends, family and significant other think about your appearance. Adults tend to wear more safe clothing and not pieces that I like to call “wow” pieces. If you feel accepted by your peers and known you will find it easier to express yourself and wear what you enjoy wearing. You may find yourself asking your roommate dumb questions like, can I wear heels with boyfriend jeans?…. no, duh, you can do whatever you want!
I love fashion, because every girl has a different look, style and taste influenced by a specific stage in life. Just like the seasons affect how we dress, the events in our life stage effects the reason behind why we dress. Your box of winter clothes looks much different than mine. The nickname on the back of your powder puff t-shirt is not the same as mine. Whether you care if your roommate likes those penny loafers or not, if you are in high school or sitting on your parent’s footon as a college graduate, your style screams you and your season.