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Turning Looks

By Christina M. Xiao, Crimson Opinion Writer
Christina M. Xiao ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Eliot House.

I have a bright green turtleneck sweater that quickly becomes the focal point of my initial conversations with strangers. Once, at a party, a friend of a friend asked, “What’s the occasion? Why the green?”

The answer is that I like green a lot. And I am tired of wearing boring clothing.

Everything you wear, everything you put on your body: It all says something about you. Sometimes that’s explicit — if you’re wearing a Harvard sweater, you probably don’t go to Yale. Sometimes it’s more subtle. A pendant passed down through six generations of parents and children. Rainbow laces in support of the BGLTQ community. A ratty friendship bracelet from someone whose face is hazy in your mind by now that you can’t bear to take off.

Fashion is not insignificant or shallow or merely skin-deep. It is a method of self-expression. It shapes other people’s perceptions of you and your own self-perception. It becomes your second skin. Even if you think you don’t participate in the implicit language of style, you do. To quote Meryl Streep’s monologue from “The Devil Wears Prada” — and you know where I’m going with this ...

“You go to your closet and you select, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is … that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry...”

Everything you wear is a statement piece because every piece makes a statement about you. Your clothes are always speaking.

As much as we claim to be above such superficiality, people will always be making snap judgments on each other based on appearances. Someone somewhere will always hate what you have on right now. If people everywhere are always judging your look in different directions, why do you care what they think? You can’t control how other people interpret your fits. You can only control how you feel in them.

Stop worrying about whether you blend in with what everyone else is wearing. Stop worrying about what’s “normal” or being over- or underdressed. Stop worrying about how other people perceive you.

Instead, wear things because they make your heart fizz with glee. Wear things that make you feel solidly good, not just okay. Wear yellow eyeshadow and dramatic stage makeup and blood-red lipstick because you like to mess around with the planes of your face. Wear Crocs and socks even though all your friends clown you for it because they’re comfy and you’re working on your divorced dad cosplay anyways. Wear a ball gown to the grocery store because you want to reenact a Jane Austen novel with the misters in the cabbage aisle. Wear things that are ridiculous and impractical but so, so loved by you.

There are infinite articles of clothing and accessories and infinite ways to arrange them on your body. Why would you choose the one way that makes you feel like a fly on the wall, detached from yourself, an imposter in your second skin?

There’s a dangerous idea that we should save the things that make us feel truly, really good for “special occasions.” The good china that stays in the cupboard dinner party after dinner party. The scented candle that we keep putting off burning for the end of a perfect day. The cute stickers that never get placed anywhere because then they can’t be placed somewhere else. There doesn’t need to be a special occasion to bust out the special stuff. Every moment you are alive is special and unique and will never happen again. Dress like it — it’s not a waste if it makes you happier.

So wear the comfort overalls with embroidered flowers on the pocket, the biggest dangly pair of hoops you have, the tux that makes you feel ready to take on the world. Who cares what anyone else thinks? I’ll be in my bright green turtleneck and traffic cone orange beanie, beat-up Converse and too much eyeliner, and we’ll be turning looks like no one’s ever seen before.

Christina M. Xiao ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Eliot House.

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