For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fashionista. In first grade in elementary school, my mom gave up: she went shopping with me, and let me choose five outfits I liked, one for each day of the week, so that she wouldn’t have to argue with me every morning. I already had a very strong sense of fashion, an impressive personal style (you guessed I’m being sarcastic here). Looks were important to me.
Growing up, I kept this vivid interest for fashion. It has always been a way for me to express my personality, to feel great about myself, to show the world who I am. At some point, it even took it as a creative challenge: in secondary 4, I wear a different outfit every day of the school year, finding ways to wear some old shirts that were given to me to make them fashionable again, adding on some jewelry, pairing them with cute high heels.
It wasn’t just about dressing and parading. I’ve always loved to draw, which led me to combine my passion for fashion with my artistic aspirations. At the age of eight, I was creating paper dolls, designing for them original outfits that I was cutting in paper to add to their wardrobe. Throughout high school, I spent my days drawing sketches, and even thought about becoming a fashion designer. Passionate, I took it a step further and started sewing some pieces of clothing.
Over the years, my love of fashion led me to accumulate a lot of clothes. And by a lot, I mean a lot. When I moved to my first apartment, thinking about a way to fit in all my clothes became a real challenge. I must have had about at least thirty pairs of jeans, as many pairs of boots, about sixty pairs of shoes, and a countless number of shirts, long sleeves, cardigans, and dresses. Not to mention the important amount of wool sweaters I love to wear with leggings. Even if I’ve never been a shopaholic, let’s say working at H&M made it easy to buy a few pieces once in a while, and over two years, my wardrobe soon suffered from obesity.
I loved it. It felt comforting to have all these clothes ready for my next date, or simply to get to school with style. It felt reassuring to be able to hide behind those, to feel protected by this polished reflection I was projecting.
However though, on some days, I started feeling stuck, hidden behind all these colorful pieces. I had accumulated so much throughout the years, and some of these clothes, let’s say from secondary 1 for example, even if they were still in pretty good shape, did not match anymore the young woman I grew up to be. But I wasn’t ready yet to separate myself from this fabric armor, so I kept them, “just in case”.
Two years ago, I was finally able to reveal myself. Like a molting crab, I let go of my old skin, to become the woman I want to be, the woman I am. A major cleanup was very much needed. It took me a whole week-end to come up with a wardrobe that made sense. I tried on every piece, and let go of anything that was too old, not good quality, or that simply made me feel uncomfortable. All these shirts I felt I had to tuck in my belly and stop breathing, I let go of. All these dresses I felt stuck in, all these low-rise jeans that created an uncomfortable muffin top, all these boots I couldn’t walk in, I donated.
It felt amazing. This first sorting of my wardrobe led to a few more since, usually at the changing of seasons. Every time, the filter is refined. If at first it was about choosing clothes that look great and of good quality, it became at some point about clothes that are comfortable, soft, that not only look but also feel amazing.
The last cleanup was the more drastic one. It is now all about joy. Inspired by Marie Kondo, I want every piece of cloth I have to bring me some pleasure. To make me feel delicate yet strong, powerful yet genuine. I separated myself from all the pieces that are brown, that were given to me by my sister or my mom and that didn’t reflect who I am. I separated myself from all these shirts I kept “because maybe one day”, all the clothes that are “practical”, all the pieces I bought three years ago, five years ago, and never wore.
It might seem like a trivial exercise. Of course, it’s not always a priority to dress up nicely. Caring for others, connecting, sharing, putting family first, being nice all come up first on my priorities list.
However, as a fan of “What not to wear”, I know better. I’ve seen enough episodes to state that what seem meaningless at first can have a powerful impact in our life. This process of cleaning up your wardrobe, and choosing to dress appropriately, is about learning who you are, coming back to your essence, your true self, and daring to show it to the world. It’s finding that delicate balance between expressing yourself with your outfits, yet leaving enough room for your personality to shine beyond your clothes, not hidden behind a too big statement, a bold pattern that will take up all the space. It’s giving yourself enough love, care and respect to offer you this gift of matching your outside with your inside, offering yourself the chance to be who you want to be.
But what if you don’t have much money? I’m no big spender when it comes to clothes either. I believe in the art of simplicity, in investing in only a few quality pieces you love and that will last. And as I get older, I also believe more and more in ethical clothing, and in buying local, which makes total sense when you think about building a quality wardrobe that fits who you are, coming back to the essentials, the basics, your foundations.
Finally, it’s also about joy. There are things in life, in fact most things in life, we don’t have much control over. We can’t control the way things will unfold. However, one simple thing we do have control over is how we prepare ourselves for each new day to come. Dressing in a way that makes us feel wonderful is a simple thing we can all do to bring just a bit more joy to our daily lives. It’s about choosing to shine. Don’t hold back: wear something you like, wear something you feel great in. Dare To Be Jolly, putting it all in and going all-out.