My Fashion “Two-sense”: Mahalia

Fashion forward: We say that for a reason right? But, I’m not really interested in whatever origin story that phrase has because this is my origin story — the origin story of my sense of fashion. While curled up on the couch in my pajamas, snuggled in a blanket with my laptop precariously placed in my lap, I thought about what it meant to be “fashion forward” and if I was even qualified to make any sort of determinative deduction in this manner. This spiral of thoughts led me deep down the rabbit hole of my past. I pulled out my phone and began a pictorial traversal of the dark depths of my childhood. It was this moment that made me decide on a definition for what “fashion forward” meant to me, but before I reveal my revelation, let’s look at fashion in reverse. 

Flashback to over a decade ago before Marque Magazine, before I started college, before Instagram, even before Obama’s presidency. I was as much a child as children come at the ripe old age of 4, and with that childishness came stubbornness. My mother couldn’t get me in a dress for the life of her and anytime she did it was straight to frown town for me. As if her expectations as a young mother with her only daughter couldn’t be crushed anymore, I also hated -no despised- the color pink. And worst of all my room had been painted that “hideous” hue. I refused to wear dresses, I refused to like pink, it’s a miracle that little ole me liked anything at that age. Because of that, my toddler experiences with fashion and self-expression accumulated to be a mess of tears, tantrums, trauma and drama. To this day I am terrified of letting other people brush my hair because it reminds me of the rough-tearing sound of my hair back when my mom used to brush it for me. 

Following the trend of not following the “traditional girl” model, I was totally a tomboy in my pre-teens. Partially because I had a twin brother and partially because my parents didn’t subscribe to the idea of gender roles and stereotypes, my interests until puberty consisted of video games, art, karate, more video games, trying sports (and failing), and of course academics (we do go to Johns Hopkins afterall). I like to call this my “ugly duckling” phase. Hitting puberty extra early, I soon began to tower over my peers to the point that my art teacher called me out for being a “hunch back” as I tried to hide my height. The only shirts that fit my long torso were Aeropostale V-necks or graphic tees from generic department retailers. Those, paired with men’s basketball shorts which were the only acceptable length shorts I could find that fit our ridiculous dress code, became my usual attire. At this point, fashion was fiction; all that I required of my clothes was that they fit the criteria for comfort and were within code. 

For Middle school the “emo” phase followed. Band t-shirts and skinny jeans galore, I looked like a standard-issued wannabe scene kid. But what “scene” did I belong to? Middle school felt more like a mid-life crisis as I was caught in the middle of several social spheres and didn’t know which clique I would click with. 

Finally fashion had found me by high school, though it was fleeting and faint. I had some sense of who I wanted to be, how I wanted to dress, but no means of obtaining these goals. Social pressure, body insecurity, and simple things like just not having my own money to spend held me back. Sure, I would buy the occasional token piece and wear it until it was completely worn out, but no style or cohesive theme stuck with me and my wardrobe.  It wasn’t until my Senior year, when the false sense of hierarchical high school social standing began to dissolve, that I grasped a firmer understanding of self and in turn, a firmer understanding of self-expression. 
Self expression. To me that is what fashion is. As an extension of our souls, our appearance is one of our only means of articulating our interior individuality. Materials help us materialize our personality or personas. Regardless of if someone thinks what you wear or want to wear is over the top, “not you”, too experimental, or inauthentic, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, what we like to wear is for our own sake, not theirs. That being said, if you ask me what fashion forward is, and expect an answer pertinent to a particular style or trend, I am sorry to disappoint. To me, fashion forward is literally as the name suggests. Moving fashion forward. Whether it be your personal sense of fashion, like my personal journey, or the global growth of garments and glamour, fashion is always moving forward because it is an ever-changing entity. Fashion is enigmatic.