Compliments that Count

A fashion statement that takes guts: Wearing my coat inside out.

A statement about fashion: Daring to wear what takes guts is always in style.

A story: When an unexpected package arrived from my godmother, I knew it held clothes. Opening this box to find a few of my fashionable godmother’s castoffs felt like receiving presents on Christmas. The most exciting item inside was a faux fur coat that didn’t fit her right. One problem: It didn’t fit me right either.

I was crestfallen. This coat was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Every detail was unique. My favorite feature was the lining: fabric printed with an artist’s pencil-sketched portraits. I wanted—maybe needed—to wear it around New York City. It was too big in all the wrong ways, but I saw this as a challenge. I was determined to make it work.

It was my mother who had the epiphany: “Turn that coat inside out.”

Somehow, the coat fit like a charm. And though it was attention grabbing in its original form, it was even more so now. It was the kind of coat people would have an opinion about. Likely, many would think it bizarre. To be frank, that frightened me a bit.

This is hard to admit. I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t let others’ opinions get in the way of my happiness. I’m proud to march to the beat of my own drum. I look for ways to be different. I live in fear of following trends—fashion-related and otherwise—and becoming just another cookie made out of the same mold as a million other girls.

But standing in my room, cloaked in pencil-drawn faces and faux fur, faced with the real possibility of stepping outside in that getup, my instinct was to worry about what people might think of me.

The fact is, that’s human nature. We’re hardwired to seek validation from others. And in many instances, caring about what others think of us is healthy. Though we shouldn’t judge our worth based upon our bone structure, body shape, or any other physical characteristic that is out of our control, it is healthy to keep in mind the opinions of our dearest friends and allies when considering what type of person we want to be.

And that’s where outfits come in—we construct them to reflect our personalities. There’s more to an outfit than meets the eye. Sometimes, there’s a story behind a coat; there are conversations between mothers and daughters, styling sessions amongst sisters, and pep talks in front of mirrors.

In these instances, a compliment is not superficial; it’s a way of validating a gal’s willingness to experiment with the clothes in her closet. In this case, to compliment a woman’s coat is to reward her for taking a risk. It acknowledges the strength that it takes to feel vulnerable in public. In these instances, to love the coat is to love the gal wearing it.

It’s easy to think about fashion and all of the discussion that goes with it as meaningless, looks-driven, and shallow. True, the industry is a multi-million dollar machine that makes money by telling us how we should look. True, marketing departments try to convince us with each new season that our clothing isn’t hip anymore, and that we need to buy their product to be cool or successful or trendy or some other desirable quality. Yes, it’s true, many of the compliments we give each other about clothing are dull, and mainstream media seems more impressed by models’ thin bodies and Kardashians’ expensive purses than I think they should be.

But on the day I debuted my new jacket, a woman stuck her head out of a moving car to tell me that she loved my coat, and that felt great. Though her comment was technically superficial, it didn’t feel that way to me. Because by acknowledging my coat, she was appreciating my willingness to experiment, to be daring, to think outside the box. Or, I guess in this case, to turn the box inside out.

Lily K. Calcagnini, ’18, a Crimson Editorial writer, is a History & Literature concentrator living in Dunster House. Follow her on Twitter @lilmisscalc.


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