Why do we always worry about our appearances? Why do we worry about whether how we dress is ‘too much’ or not? Or ‘too pretty’ for the occasion. Why are there certain occasions in which we can’t be that pretty, somehow? It’s like there has been a complete flip of rules since growing up. As teenagers, following fashion and wearing make-up was important – then when we got older it became cool to stop shaving and wearing comfortable shoes only. I don’t think doing either of these things is better than the other but it feels like we are stuck in constraints dictated by society. And it is all of our judgement on each other that’s keeping us trapped in these chains.
I remember planning to change my clothing style when moving to Aberystwyth back in 2015. In the two years prior, I had started enjoying making more of an effort – like wearing a skirt or a dress every now and then. However, back in the Netherlands, I felt like I couldn’t really do this too often because it was too ‘special’. As if I’d be making too much of an effort because everyone was used to me being the opposite of feminine, or something. And indeed, simply wearing this apparently feminine bag was very out of character and didn’t suit me, according to some people in my surrounding.
So in my first week of classes in Aberystwyth, I dressed up nicely. I wore a dress to class even though I hadn’t shaved in three days (Indonesian genes means hair grows quickly). I wanted to wear a dress because I felt good wearing it , but then very quickly I stopped making any effort at all. And not long after, I completely forgot that I had ever intended to. Instead everyone including me was baffled at the amount of clothes I owned but never wore.
I settled for feeling comfortable and spend most of my undergraduate time in my football kit. It didn’t really matter if I had a game, training, class, or went grocery shopping. Sport clothes and hoodies became my go-to clothes in which I felt comfortable. It was cool because a lot of people in uni clubs wear their sports kit around campus and I remember someone outside of the football club remarking how she could recognise us individually everywhere because we were always in our comfortable kit.
Don’t get me wrong; it is very comfortable walking around in sports clothes. It doesn’t require any thinking or planning and people won’t compliment you or actively judge you (at least not seemingly at uni). You’re a part of the norm. But in hindsight, I would have liked to wear something different and nice too every now and then. I mean, I had literally planned to change my ‘style’ when arriving in Wales because it would be a new start.
Anyhow, I graduated and left Aber last year and arrived in St. Andrews in September. I started out dressing as I always had over the past three years. Partly because I had to cycle 30 minutes into town but also because it was comfortable. But then eventually, I knew I wanted more than that.
I had kept a pair of heels unused for the past eight orso years. I absolutely loved the shoes but never dared wearing them, afraid that it’d be too much. So then one day I wore an outfit with those shoes and then had a full anxiety/dissociation episode. I remember leaving my room that day and running into my flatmate whose first response was: ‘ooh, are you going on a date? What girl are you seeing?’ And my instinct told me to turn around and shut myself back into my bedroom. I ignored my instinct, as I do, of course. Hence the anxiety/dissociation that followed once I reached town…
I was worrying about people looking at me. I was worried that they’d judge me for dressing up too ‘fancy’ or that what I was wearing made me look silly, unlike myself as the rest of the world seems to know me. I was meeting a friend in a specific place but I had to park my bike on the other side of the street. Once I locked the bike in place, I also stopped moving, overly aware of the noise my heels would be making. I spotted my friend on the other side of the road and decided not to cross and wait for her to come to me. I knew she would have to notice my shoes eventually, but postponing it seemed like the best solution somehow. Then we started walking and after a small compliment from her and a few minutes of walking along like normally, I started to relax a little. Her presence and response established that this was normal and therefore okay. I hadn’t overdressed and I wasn’t too much out of character. This was okay.
Since arriving here, I’ve slowly been starting to make more of an effort to look nice – or to, at the very least not go out in my sports clothes if I’m not heading to the gym or training. I’m doing this because looking good makes me feel good and (is slowly) starting to give me confidence. But I’m also, and maybe mostly doing it because I’m enjoying it. I’m doing it for me and I’m doing what feels good while trying not to think or adjust to what I think society might think.
In secondary school, it was important to fit in and wear what everyone else was wearing. There was this huge pressure of having to fit in. It felt a little bit like constantly walking the catwalk with all the spotlights aimed at you. Every move you made was judged. While I didn’t have a clue about fashion, I tried to keep up to some extent. For a while I even wore eyeliner and mascara every day because that felt like the norm. Depression then, of course, ensured that I stopped giving a f*ck because you know – life didn’t matter anymore.
I stopped caring about having to shave when society would deem it weird not to, like whenever I’d wear shorts (especially during training and matches), I stopped wearing makeup and ignored whatever fashion trend was going on at the time. I felt empowered by ignoring the status quo and by doing my own thing. And the older my peers and I got, they also seemed to start shifting to that same standpoint – until eventually, now that we’ve pretty much reached young adulthood, it seems like we’re still worrying about how we present ourselves. Except, now we’re not worried about keeping up with the latest fashion trend and more so about whether we are dressing up too nicely or not. Like, if we wear too much make up to class, or too fancy an outfit, we’ll have been trying too hard and it will be looked down upon because we’re only going to class now.
Even wearing a full matching football kit to training is looked down upon. Apparently doing so makes you a full kit wanker? But like… it used to be really cool to wear a full kit to training when we were younger. I mean, professionals wear full matching kits to training, but since we’re only amateurs we don’t deserve that privilege or something? And if we do wear it, it means we’re trying too hard because wearing sports clothes during training is weird somehow.
I completely get that there are different appropriate ways to dress for different occasions, but I don’t think that’s truly what we’re so worried about all the time. Apparently putting your hair up can be too prom or wedding like for a ball, while really… maybe it’s just nice to put your hair up. Maybe it’s okay if you’re simply looking beautiful for the night – as beautiful as you want to be without worrying about what anyone else will think. The dress code that’s going around seems to be ‘don’t try too hard because it’ll make you vain and we’re not supposed to be vain’ – it’s like we’re sabotaging our own beauty, because society says we aren’t allowed to be too beautiful.
We live in a society where everyone judges each other. Women judge each other, even though we should be united, shouldn’t we? Deep down inside we all want to be beautiful – and we all are beautiful, but it seems like we don’t allow each other to be.
I mean, with the general ‘you asked to be sexually assaulted for dressing that way’ and adult men telling me that wearing stilettos as a woman will indicate that I want to have sex, it’s no wonder we might feel the need to underdress.
And with the general weight shaming and idealised model images in the media, of course the majority of us feels like we’re not allowed / and or good enough to be here and wear those nice outfits.
But we should try and stop judging each other – embrace our own beauty and encourage confidence and the courage to be oneself. I get it. I mean I am a fully functioning wheel in the ‘needing to fit in and judging people that don’t because of my own insecurity’ system. Although, actually, I’m not really as functioning anymore and I’m proud of that. I shouldn’t need anyone’s approval to wear what I like and eventually, I’ll have enough confidence to wear whatever I want and feel happy regardless of receiving that first compliment and confidence booster