It all happened so suddenly. Sorting through some department store sale racks, I spotted a grey cardigan covered in a contrasting sequined pattern that just two or three years ago, I would have picked up immediately. But that day, I left the cardigan hanging, standing around for a good five minutes staring at this piece of clothing that somehow elicited all these random feelings. At first, there was nostalgia of shopping trips past, memories of journeys to the mall with friends who would have been equally excited by such a bedazzled sweater. Then came the pride of knowing that my fashion sense certainly evolved from the chic fashion of the early 2000s, providing evidence of a life full of influential experiences. And then came the confusion, the classic twentysomething "I'm-not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman" uncertainty that dominates the space between knowing who you were, who you are, and who you're going to be.
And then it hit me — I was having a Quarter-Life Fashion Crisis. Underneath the fluorescent department store lights, I finally saw the reality of my current style situation. I was somehow still drawn to that sparkling sweater despite knowing full well that my sequined cardigan days were long gone. Such an item would find no place in my closet, totally clashing with my curated collection of oversized flannels, black sweaters, and boyfriend jeans. But I should like this, right? This is who I am, right? If it's not, then who am I?
Admittedly, I'm being a bit dramatic, particularly considering all of this happened simply looking at a sweater. But, I think there's something to be said about what it means to have a so-called Quarter-Life Fashion Crisis and how to go about understanding and embracing it.
Perhaps the greatest and most severe symptom of a Quarter-Life Fashion Crisis is the mix of feelings described above. As with seemingly everything in life when you're stuck in that twentysomething phase, a sense of fashion undoubtedly — and most of the time quite unknowably — changes. One day, you could be out shopping, spot a sequined cardigan, and realize that what you once identified with in terms of personal style no longer applies. (Hey, it's happened to the best of us.) Immediately, you being to reminisce about the years where you would have rocked that sweater to the fullest, quickly falling down a path towards a general teenage nostalgia.
Then comes the feeling of, well, feeling old. Certainly such thoughts are entirely debased — you are only in your twenties after all. But, that doesn't change the fact that you've grown up, moved on, and that time has indeed passed. You aren't wearing what "the kids" are wearing. Stand-by stores start to look less and less appealing, trends seem more and more absurd. It's not like you're running towards J.Jill, but you're not heading into American Eagle any time soon.
And it's with the worst of these symptoms that one beings to embrace the changes brought about by a Quarter-Life Fashion Crisis. When you leave the mall empty handed or close that go-to webstore tab with an empty cart for the fourth or fifth time, you realize that maybe those stores aren't for you anymore. And with that realization comes a bit of sadness thinking about eras past. But, after the nostalgia fades, a sense of pride and accomplishment will assuredly set in.
Forget about the old you and start embracing the new. I'm of the mind that fashion plays a huge role in defining an identity, and chances are if you're reading this, you are too. An identity should change, it should evolve — and fashion should follow suit. A transition in personal style is certainly confusing, but it's the marker of life happening and of your allowance to let it affect you. It shows a personal volition that comes with age, with experience, with confidence.
Sure, a lot of what we wear tends to be influenced by what designers, stylist, or fashion bloggers deem the next "Big Thing." But the greatest part of the Quarter-Life Fashion Crisis is that it shows undeniable personal growth, particularly in resistance to such trends. It wasn't until college that I first became comfortable declaring that perhaps the more popular fashion choices of the moment just weren't for me. Kudos to you if this happened earlier in life, but for a girl so used to following the masses to the mall, such declarations were major steps forward in understanding my evolving personal style.
Going through a Quarter-LIfe Fashion Crisis is confusing. However, just like most other of the uncertainties of twentysomething life, I've decided to just embrace it. An evolving sense of fashion is a good thing — it demonstrates change and change is almost always beneficial, especially when it means ditching some less than stellar wardrobe choices.
Thankfully, side effects to a Quarter-Life Fashion Crisis don't seem to include anything too dramatic. Of course, you will no longer prove able to shop in stores you once so faithfully did. But, in turn, you will find others more suitable to an maturing sense of style. You might end up buying some clothes that just do not seem to work — perhaps they would have found space in your high school closet or maybe they're just too different from anything you own, maybe they were too big of a step forward. Such mistakes are bound to happen, so make sure to always check the return policy. And again, don't get too stressed out about not knowing exactly what your personal style is and how to go about making it. Discovering who you are takes time.
Images: Netflix/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Giphy