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Self-expression through fashion

How fashion gives me the creative agency to truly express myself

<p>Ella Powell is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.&nbsp;</p>

Ella Powell is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

Fashion and clothes have always been a form of self-expression that’s integral to my identity. I dress primarily for myself to communicate a sense of who I am to those around me. I cast aside all of the possible perceptions and expectations from others when I choose what to wear — with clothes, I’ve gained a sense of freedom to express myself.

At this stage in my life, a 20-year-old in college, it is more important than ever for me to establish a sense of individuality through my fashion. There are so many aspects of my life that are currently unknown such as my future career or where I will live after graduation. I understand myself on a deeper level through developing my personal style. This development is visually represented through new choices I make when styling outfits. 

Progress in developing my personal style is only possible through experimentation — which I feel is representative of life in general. Once I finish constructing an outfit, I ask myself if there’s anything else I could add. This principle of a little extra is what pushes me to try out different styles. The maximalism attributed to the way I dress helps me transform any ordinary outfit into one that is unique and fully encapsulates my eccentric personality. I recognize the positive growth and change that has occurred in my fashion sense and feel grounded in my identity. This allows upcoming life changes to seem a little less scary. 

I am never at a shortage of new pieces to style thanks to my love for thrifting and second-hand fashion — which I discuss in my “Thrifting as a lifestyle” column. The unique clothes I find while thrifting inspire my vision for new outfits. With the wide variety of clothing items in my wardrobe, I am never sticking to one aesthetic in the way I dress. My mood, the weather or simply how much time I have to get ready may affect what I wear. From patterned tights and mini skirts to a classic pair of jorts, I’m styling different items every day. All of the difference between my outfits helps define who I am as an individual. 

I let this sense of difference between my outfits evolve naturally, finding inspiration from my surroundings and within to dress how I feel at a given time. There are periods when I’m more inclined to experiment with color and patterns and others when I lean towards neutral tones. Last winter, I developed a liking for the color gray — a color I have always sworn to be the ugliest. The outfit pictured incorporates a lot of these neutral tones emphasizing the structure of the outfit rather than just the pieces themselves. 


I take a low-stress approach to coordinating my outfits. My mom always says the best outfits are thrown together at the last minute — and I think she’s right. There’s something magical about simply not having the time to stress about which pieces will fit perfectly together and pairing things based on the inclination that they will mesh. In terms of my daily dress, I don’t feel the need to plan my outfits ahead of time but accept what I feel like wearing in the moment.

My best advice for anyone trying to develop their personal style is to be themselves. I try not to fall into the trap of following microtrends and styles that aren’t true to me. I follow influencers who inspire my fashion sense and have compiled a huge fashion board on Pinterest. I admire designers like Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs, whose artistry adds a new conceptual understanding to how fashion works. It’s fun to see how other people style certain pieces and pair things together, but the goal is not to copy what anyone else is wearing. 


Like any other art form or medium of self-expression, outfits are a product of the creator. I am provided with new ideas to challenge my personal fashion from others, but I retain my own sense of style through transforming concepts in fashion to fit my own mode of expression. I absorb the world around me and may draw inspiration from anywhere. The individuality I attribute to my style is exemplified by my creation of handmade jewelry. My ability to source charms and piece various materials together to make new accessories adds a new layer to constructing any outfit. I am afforded a limitless opportunity to turn any vision of mine into reality through this creative process of making something for and by myself. 

I look to inspire others experimenting with their own personal style. I feel confident knowing that wherever I go — I’m showing up as myself. My style doesn’t have to be accepted or understood by others. I find joy in how I choose to dress and connect with those who share the same love for clothes and creative expression as I do.

For others, this may be true for another creative ambition — it’s all about finding our niche mode of expression and maintaining an openness with ourselves to carry out our passions. I know that maintaining my individuality in fashion will only allow me to grow further into my identity and embrace change as my life progresses.

Ella Powell is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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