Little Shirt, Big Pants: The dichotomy between self-image and style

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Little Shirt, Big Pants: The dichotomy between self-image and style

Megan Ellis - Graphic by Ally Rzesa / Beacon Staff

Megan Ellis - Graphic by Ally Rzesa / Beacon Staff

Megan Ellis - Graphic by Ally Rzesa / Beacon Staff

Megan Ellis - Graphic by Ally Rzesa / Beacon Staff

By Megan Ellis

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*Content Warning: This article discuses themes of disordered eating and body image.

In high school, I used to cry in the mornings as I got dressed for school. I didn’t want people to see my body, no matter what I wore. I didn’t want my classmates to look at me for more than a second when passing by in the halls. I was so insecure with my body that every day I dressed in something that hid almost everything. I wasn’t sure how to highlight the flattering parts of my body, so I didn’t even try. 

I would come to school in my baggy Nebraska Cornhuskers football t-shirt, and either a pair of leggings, sweatpants, or athletic shorts if it was a little warm out. I’m sure you’re now wondering how I’m currently a fashion columnist, because I’m well aware that these outfits sound absolutely atrocious. You’re right, they were! At that point in my life, I didn’t feel good about myself, and the way I dressed didn’t make me feel any better.

Moving away from home and having to support myself in my first year of college only brought more struggles. All these feelings of not being good enough, pretty enough, or thin enough eventually caused me to fall into a rut of disordered eating. I lost approximately 35 pounds in one month and was the skinniest I had been since middle school. The funny thing is, I didn’t even notice I looked any different until I started getting comments about how thin I looked and people asked me what my secret was. 

During this period of my life, I also spent a lot of my time on the internet—reading blogs, creating my fashion Pinterest board with over a thousand pins, and exploring the fashion world. I found myself wanting to try new things and take new risks, so I made it my resolution in 2018 to experiment with clothes. I learned all the ins and outs of Depop, became a regular at the local Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill, and watched more fashion YouTube videos than you could count trying to learn how to shift my fashion sense. I quickly became one of those people who geek out over cool fabric, which might not be a good thing, but it gave me something to be excited about.

As I put more love, passion, and personal twists into my fashion sense, I found myself excited to get up and dress myself every morning. I had fun trying on different outfits, accessorizing with new exciting pieces, and seeing the final product on myself—something I had never experienced in my life before this moment. I put clothes on that made me feel happy to go out. I felt less scared about what people would see when they looked at me.

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I remember putting on a pair of hand-me-down bell-bottom jeans from my mom, paired with a rainbow turtleneck and heeled boots, and my thoughts of self-hatred were finally put to rest as I admired the (‘)70s dream I was living in for a day. Putting on an outfit that made me feel cooler, or something that I would never picture myself wearing, helped me feel a little more confident in my own skin. 

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I am now this amazing, self-confident goddess— I still wake up some days and don’t have the motivation to try on a million different outfits. But I did learn that fashion gave me more opportunities to love myself in different ways. I wanted to look like someone I loved, so I began dressing that way. Sometimes that meant dressing like someone completely different than I did the day before, or wearing my favorite sweater every Monday to give myself a warm hug for the day. I’ve learned that what I love about fashion is that it gives me the liberty to be a different person every day if that’s what I want to do. 

My journey of self-love has been a long one, one that looks more like a roller coaster or a sound wave than anything remotely linear. There are some mornings where I will wake up, look at myself in the mirror, and want to put on every single article of baggy clothing I own and hide in the fabric. It’s a lot to expect of myself, or for anyone to expect of themselves, to love yourself unconditionally every single day. But what fashion taught me is to let the things I love drive my self-love journey, and to let my desire to try new clothes and wear daring outfits help me find a new, confident version of myself.

Living Arts Editor Grace Griffin did not edit this article due to conflict of interest.