Interviewed by Stephanie Montatore
Artwork and photos by Lucy Turczynowicz
What does clothing/ fashion mean to you? Is it an important means of your self-expression, why or why not?
Clothes and fashion are a massive part of my self-expression! It’s how I present myself to the world. Because I’m really into art and design, I’m naturally drawn to interesting clothes that incorporate cool shapes and colours and textures. I don’t claim to be a fashionista, but I think my personal style expresses my personality really well!
I have recently sworn off supporting fast fashion, and have moved towards buying my clothes sustainably. This is something that greatly impacts what I wear and how I wear it because it makes me think more critically about the fashion that I am buying. I feel really strongly about slow fashion and supporting it is a way that I can live authentically and express my values.
“My own self-confidence and feelings of anxiety are really helped by my outfit…”
How would you describe your personal style today? Has it changed over time? How so?
My style is definitely eclectic – I can’t think of a single word to sum it up. I wear lots of different things! I wear things that catch my eye. I don’t know how to explain it! I’ll just see something and picture myself wearing it instantly. I love big chunky earrings and brightly coloured eyeliner too. I think accessories level up any outfit, and are a great way to create variety, especially if you have a smaller wardrobe.
My style has definitely changed over time. In the last 6 months it’s levelled up and now my wardrobe is at a point where everything is cohesive, and I feel like I have found “my style”. Not participating in fast fashion means that the clothes that I’m wearing I genuinely love, and they are pieces that I can see myself wearing for a long time.
How has clothing helped or hindered your relationship with your body throughout your mental health journey?
Clothing has helped me to stop thinking about my body as part of me, but rather something that is helping me get around. My body is here so I can dress it up! My own self-confidence and feelings of anxiety are really helped by my outfit. Instead of the feeling of “everyone is looking at me” being an anxious one, I can wear an outfit that I feel amazing in and then think, ‘yeah – they’re looking at me!’
This might sound really self-centred, but it’s my life – I’m the one existing in it and I’m running the show so why can’t I wear whatever I want, wherever I want? I realised that there is no reason why not. My self-confidence was really helped by the realisation that my “desirability” to other people was not something that I needed to base my self-worth on. This helped me to start dressing for me, and wear shapes and colours that I liked, not things that I thought would make me attractive or desirable to other people. In saying this, it is super hard to get into this mindset and work through the anxiety surrounding how you feel you are perceived by people. It’s not a fast or easy thing to work through.
“I tried to think of my body as a vessel to get me around, rather than ‘me’…”
How would you describe body neutrality and how have you achieved this?
It’s taken a long time, but a big part of getting to the mindset that I have with my body currently has been to really question why I was doing the things I was doing. Why was I shaving my legs? Why did I dress a certain way? Once I figured out that a lot of the pressure I felt around my body was as a result of a beauty standard created to control women I realised that me being “desirable” was not something I wanted to cater to anymore.
This was the first step that helped me to understand how I felt about my body. I realised that this is how my body was supposed to look – that I had an adult body, and I wasn’t supposed to look like I did when I was a teenager. I stopped shaving my body hair, and I started to listen to how my body felt.
Beyond that, to achieve some sort of body neutrality, I tried to think of my body as a vessel to get me around, rather than “me”. I am not what my body looks like, rather my body is just the being to get me around and I’m proud of it for doing the things it does! I stopped focusing on the way it looks but why it looks that way, and generally the answer is because those parts of my body help me do the things I want to!
What do you think the media could be doing differently to encourage body positivity across all genders, body types and means of self-expression?
Breaking down gender norms and sexist societal “rules” (and actual rules – sporting uniforms and school dress codes being a prime example of this) around clothing is something that needs to happen for people to be able to express themselves properly. While these ideas that only certain people can wear certain clothes, and that women have to subscribe to this impossible (and frankly paedophilic) beauty standard – for example, removing their body hair and looking forever young in order to be considered attractive and worth something – are still circulating, it’s really difficult for people to accept their bodies!
Speaking from a woman’s perspective, I would love to live in a world where the advertisement of unnecessary “beauty” products wasn’t a thing. I would love for young girls to know that being “presentable” and desirable are not defining factors in their self-worth. I would love to see companies stop promoting an unattainable beauty standard and stop catering to people’s insecurities. I wish I had never felt that I needed to shave my entire body and be perfectly toned and have perfect skin to be beautiful.
To break through and stop accepting this standard is a difficult thing, especially when we literally grow up with it and it’s presented to us as normal and required. I think it’s very important to think deeply about why we do the things we do with our bodies, rather than just accepting what we’re being told is normal.
“Speaking from a woman’s perspective, I would love to live in a world where the advertisement of unnecessary ‘beauty’ products wasn’t a thing…”
What advice would you give to fellow uni students struggling with their body image?
It’s important to remember that body neutrality is not looking in the mirror every morning and loving everything you see (although, I do like to look in the mirror and tell myself I love myself simply because it makes me feel better!). I see it as accepting that I’m never going to love some parts of my body, but it doesn’t matter because my body is just getting me around. It doesn’t matter what it can or can’t do, or what it looks like. It’s here for me to wear cool clothes, get tattoos, and swim at the beach! This looks different for everyone as well – everyone’s body has different abilities, so it’s important to figure out what things you enjoy doing, and how your body feels doing them.
And, finally, what clothing pieces make you feel the most confident and why?
I love my denim jeans – I have three pairs of the same style in different colours! I really struggle finding bottoms to fit and this type fitted me and my style perfectly. I also love turtlenecks for winter because they’re perfect for layering, and skirts and smock dresses for summer, because I can often find them in funky patterns and colours. My go-to look is something with layers, a statement pattern or colour, gold jewellery and some cool shoes to top it off.
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