Katie Freeman poses in a zebra-print skirt she stole from her roommate and still hasn’t given back. Graphic courtesy of Katie Freeman.
KATIE FREEMAN | CO-OPINION EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve heard it everywhere. I heard it in high school, I see it on social media and I hear it constantly from my friends. Most often, I hear it from customers at my job as a sales associate at a women’s clothing boutique.
“Oh, that is so cute — but I could never pull it off.”
I am here today to explain why this statement is incredibly, totally and irrevocably false.
The concept of ‘pulling something off’ simply isn’t real. Rather, it’s a projection of our fear of being judged by others. At the end of the day, that’s what would happen if you didn’t ‘pull something off,’ right? Someone somewhere would think — or, god forbid, speak aloud — “Wow, they shouldn’t wear that, it looks bad,” and then you’d probably need to take your wounded ego to Urgent Care.
We need to stop letting the judgment of others dictate what we choose to wear.
I know this is easier said than done. Wearing a style of clothing that is outside of your comfort zone can be scary and disconcerting. For instance, I haven’t owned anything low-rise in at least five years and don’t exactly plan on changing that anytime soon. If I were to put a pair of low-rise jeans on my body, I would feel completely vulnerable and over-exposed — but I shouldn’t be worried about not ‘pulling it off.’ The world would continue to turn and everyone else would go about their business as usual.
We have such an overinflated sense of how much people perceive us, and we are also our own worst critics. In reality, most students on campus are more likely to be wondering what concoction they might encounter in Atherton at lunch than tearing apart your outfit “What Not to Wear” style. I would imagine that most judgmental thoughts directed my way — or anyone else’s — are fleeting and inconsequential.
It’s also worth discussing what might make a clothing item ‘hard to pull off.’ Let’s face it, nobody ever says that about a basic day-to-day outfit such as a t-shirt and jeans. Instead, clothing items generally viewed as more difficult to ‘pull off’ are typically either more revealing or wildly trendy. Take a bra-style crop top or super-tiny sunnies for example; each typically evokes a feeling of vulnerability, unfamiliarity or newness to first-time wearers.
When we tell ourselves we can’t pull something off, we compare ourselves to an idealized, unrealistic standard of what a person who would look good in the item might look like. You don’t need to have any certain kind of body type, style or aesthetic to ‘pull something off’ — but after years of being exposed to unrealistic beauty standards, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we do.
I absolutely do not feel confident that I have a flat enough stomach to wear low-rise jeans without fearing judgment from others. My body does not look like those of the girls on Instagram posing in ultra-low-rise I.AM.GIA, and therefore, it feels as though that style of clothing isn’t meant for me.
And you know what? I am absolutely sick of feeling that way, and you should be too. Clothes are meant to be fun; they shouldn’t instill anxiety or discomfort in the wearer for fear of criticism.
So, how do you gain the confidence to wear what you want?
Try, try and try again. Wear something outside your comfort zone that you’ve always admired or wanted to try, and keep doing it until it feels more natural. Remember — you are your biggest critic! If you catch people staring, it might be because you look absolutely fantastic.
I am no stranger to experimenting with personal style. You could find me traversing this campus in anything from an obnoxiously pink monochrome outfit to painfully angsty 2014 Tumblr-esque garb to something akin to what you might find on People of Walmart.
And somehow — even on the days that I feel like absolute garbage — I don’t care what people think when they see me. I doubt people even think much of me or my outfits at all!
All you have to do to ‘pull something off’ is put it on, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.