When people ask me for shopping advice, the first thing I tell them is to shop alone. While the gratification of a friend telling you what good taste you have is nice, the opinions of others aren’t always what matters when trying to add to your wardrobe.
But last week, when I was at a TJ Maxx attempting to shop solo, I realized that the influence of my peers was still all around me.
Not only are the trends they feature part of the zeitgeist of the fashion industry at the moment, but I also found myself wanting to send picture messages of the items I was considering to everyone, from my boyfriend to my mother for their comments.
As someone who considers fashion one of the best and most accessible forms of self-expression, I was a bit concerned about my need for validation from others. When I get dressed daily, I rarely consider what other people will think or say. However, on a subconscious level, I think the people we see or admire have a great effect on the way we dress.
For instance, Matt McNaughton, freshman at Maryville College, remarks that his gradual shift in style is due in large part to the way his older brother dresses. While he was in high school, he said he felt like an outcast due to his edgier approach to dressing that most of his classmates.
“Everyone where I went to high school wore short khaki shorts and southern T-shirt brands, and here I was in my skinny jeans and black band tee shirts,” McNaughton said.
Now, McNaughton can be seen wearing some of the very items he avoided in high school. After his older brother went to college, McNaughton said he looked up to his style and wanted to emulate his older sibling.
His casual style for class still has plenty of personality. He is even known to wear attention grabbing ensembles at practice for the Maryville College cross country team, eliciting plenty of compliments from his fellow runners.
Siblings aren’t the only thing that can impact the way people dress; McNaughton also remarked that he “absolutely” dresses up if he knows he will be seeing a woman he is interested in that day.
Similarly, Laura Pierpont, a senior at MC, says that she would dress differently if she were trying to impress men. But being in a relationship, she says that she feels secure enough to wear the trends and the clothes she wants to without fear of turning guys off.
“I wear pretty much whatever I want, even though it isn’t always ‘pretty’ or ‘sexy,’” Pierpont said. “Since I have the security of not having to work to impress men at large in some way, I also have the freedom to push my style and even experiment.”
Despite having a different style aesthetic from most of her peers, Pierpont still said that she discovers influences in the women around her. She finds that she connects to what the clothing represents about an individual or the story behind an outfit as a way of getting to know more about another person.
While I would love to give the advice that you should wear what you want with a “Who cares?” attitude, I realize that personal style doesn’t exist in a vacuum. With the rise of fashion blogs and social media, people all over the world are able to see trends unfold at lightning speed.
Rather than saying simply “Wear what you want,” I think the better advice for our generation is “Dress for the experience you want to have that day,” which can include anything from scaring people away from talking to you or impressing a crush.
As for my own struggles with making sure I’m dressing more for myself than for others, I’m lucky enough to have support in my fashion endeavors. Although, even if my boyfriend hadn’t liked the Rolling Stones tank top that I bought at TJ Maxx, I’d like to think I still would have bought it.
But the validation is always a plus.