Coming Out of the Style Closet

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.”- Gore Vidal

I am a young advertising and marketing professional.

I am an otaku.

I am a cosplayer.

I’m a traveler and filled with wanderlust.

I am a Southern belle and African-American woman.

I support multiple fandoms both Eastern and Western.

I am a theater brat.

I am a choir sister.

I am an orchestra member.

I am a writer.

I’m a lot of things. And the best way I express myself is through clothing. That’s true for almost all people. I have a lot of patterns and colors that I like. My personal style seems to be constantly at odds with who I am. Clothing is one of the most basic means of personal expression that we have but it’s also an amazing way to not commit to a particular style. As a cosplayer I am constantly becoming and changing who and what I am.

My personal style journey has been a complicated one. I spent most of my childhood as a hair show and mini-pageant baby. It was also the 90s so there were plenty of bad fashion choices made by my parents. As I grew up and became the sporty more tomboy-ish Amanda many of my friends and family know came to know I wore more denim and overalls. Lots of color. But one thing was always the same: my hair remained long. My father was very against me cutting my hair. So, my hair stayed long and perfectly manicured.

After my father died I faced an interesting act of rebellion: I cut my hair. At 13 or so I found my hair shorter and shorter and with that my choices in clothing changed again. I was a punk. Green Day, Blink 182, Simple Plan. I loved it all. Also by 12 and 13 I had found myself an incredibly dedicated anime fan, though at the time merchandise from these shows weren’t available. You kids these days, you have it easy with your J-List and Hot Topic carrying your fandom stuff. I date myself. I was also a Catholic school student so I didn’t spend a lot of time in “free dress”. I also had incredibly conservative and non-supportive aunts that did not like my punk rock music and cynical attitude and comic books that read in the wrong direction. So my clothing stayed conventional.

And then high school. Oh high school. High school was fantastic because with conservative aunties, my dress seemed to not reflect the otaku I was on the inside though it always managed to show out somehow on the outside. I hung out with the goths but was a bright pink spot in a sea of leather and black. I worked at Hot Topic but wore mostly purple and white. Then I’d spout out Maximum the Hormone lyrics and my “goth cred” was verified. But high school always felt like I was the most me. My style was a combination of preppy with argyles to nautical with blue and white stripes to general otaku wear: thank you, Hot Topic for carrying fan merchandise. But high school always felt like I was the most me. I found cosplay and cosplayers. I could be anyone. Anything. All the things. I could wear plaid and still be the otaku Amanda everyone knew and loved. College was a lot of the same. I was anime club president but also in honors societies. I was constantly in between looking like a high school age teen and a professional trying to get a job.

A few years ago I managed to get my first “real job” complete with going to an office and having to dress like a “professional”. I had learned about professional dress from the debate team which mostly involved Hillary Clinton-esque pant suits and pencil skirts with fitted blazers but working in advertising and especially as a writer, my work environment has never been incredibly strict with what I wore as long as it was more than presentable and I always have been. I could still be that somewhat preppy girl but with little accents of the weekend me via Hello Kitty rings, cake earrings, bracelets from my favorite bands and the occasional party that involved dressing up: Thank you, Halloween.

So why did I take you all on this journey through my history and closet?

Recently I picked up my first pair of Converse in years. Converse: the shoe that defined an entire generation of punks, emo kids and goths. I was one of those kids. My Chuck Taylors mattered more to me than some of my high school boyfriends. My Chucks, signed by my theater friends, anime clubbers and kept for years. Paint-spattered, messed up, faded: they were perfect. They were also murder on my incredibly flat feet so I stopped wearing them. Their expense also made them a less than attractive addition to my closet. But when I returned home for Thanksgiving, a Black Friday sale got me to buy not one but two new pairs of Converse.

I broke both in (a mint pair and a black and white pair, both low tops) and have been wearing them pretty regularly. It wasn’t until I walked into work with black skinny jeans, a black v-neck, my black and white converse and a black cardigan that I realized something: I felt like I finally looked good in something. I felt the most like…well, me. And that’s saying a lot. For someone like me who’s look never really matched all that was going on inside to feel comfortable in something was fantastic. A friend had made a snide remark about what that means about me and my character that I felt most like me in all black but it was easy to shake it off. I felt good. That’s what matters. To feel like me beyond the body image issues, dark spots (learn more about that here) and all; I felt like Amanda. The purest form of Amanda. Simple. Timeless but a medium for personal expression. It’s not the clothes. It’s the person. The clothes are an accessory to my personality.

It’s always weird for a young woman to deal with style. Society expects one thing from you. Family another. How are we supposed to be able to express ourselves and be true to ourselves and still maintain all that is socially and physically acceptable? As of now, I feel great with my new shoes and better outlook. Getting back into cosplay has been another great way to express myself and I still flash little peeps of who I am on the inside. You don’t have to abandon who you are and more times than not, the clothes we wear don’t mean much about who we are. You can be a pop princess in all black or a scene kid in argyle.

Stay true, readerships! And tell me in the comments what your personal style is!

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