MEGAN, SHE / HER
In reflecting, I’ve realized that this experience has meant more to me than I would have imagined at the beginning. I’ve reevaluated how I do my hair and makeup. I don’t strive for perfection as much anymore with my day to day looks. I’ve tried to look at myself in the mirror less critically. And I’ve thrown out the damn magnifying mirror.
I thought an all black outfit paired with perfectly straight hair and flawless makeup, something I’d wear to a client meeting would have been Look #2. It was polished and professional. But then I started to ask myself, “Why was I wearing all black? Because it was classic? Or because it allowed me to blend in?”. I realized I rarely ever wore color in the workplace because I didn’t want to draw too much attention or come across as too frivolous or feminine. I also reevaluated the silhouettes I was wearing. Yes, they were classic, and yes, they were flattering, but they were a little boring. Expected.
The all black look with straight hair became Look #1. It was exactly the definition of how a professional graphic designer should dress. It was polished, shiny and safe.
I started to pay attention not just to style, but what sparked joy. I thought back in time to when I was a kid. “What would she have wanted to wear?”. The answer was easy: not what made her look smaller, but whatever made her happy. So I stopped being so hard on myself. I stopped examining myself from every angle in the mirror. I began not working so hard to find flaws—reasons to not wear something just because I’m too fat or too tall or my butt’s too flat. I fell in love with a pair of pleated rust colored high waisted pants with an extra wide leg. Those, paired with my favorite pair of pink sneakers, a white boxy tee shirt, and my naturally wavy hair became Look #2.
It wasn’t a perfectly polished look, like Look #1. It was a little messy. My pants and my hair were a little too big. But I felt that I could take up space and not be sorry about it. I felt bigger and more confident in a way that my small, sleek black outfit could never do for me. It wasn’t a look that fit into a traditional workplace. But I also learned that my job was not the right fit—Look #2 is something I’ve worn to meetings at my new job. I learned to trust my gut and listen to myself, not the nagging voice in my head that finds every flaw, but the one that speaks to me like she’s speaking to a friend.
At first in school, and then later, the workplace. From a young age, I’ve always leaned towards dressing more tomboy. Part of that was I liked to run around and play sports, so my clothes had to be functional. The other half was seeing more judgment placed on women’s clothing, especially when there was less of it, so I stuck to pants and tee shirts. I watched as many of my girlfriends were judged for wearing tank tops by teachers, boys and other girls. I already hate to be the center of attention so seeing those judgements pushed me further away from wearing anything “risque.”
Then came the internships, I saw how varied the dress code could be at different workplaces. My first office experience was a corporate setting, so I invested in a lot of button ups, sweaters and nice flats. Then, I was out in California, where the expectation for what to wear was much more relaxed. I was more inspired by what the men were wearing than what the women were wearing: nice jeans, cool button up, dope sneakers. The simplicity, comfort and effortless cool was it for me. But the effortless cool came with an undercurrent of perfection. Women had flawless skin and always wore their hair in perfectly straight coifs. So, aided by a magnifying mirror, I found the perfect makeup to make my pores disappear. I would chide myself every morning for not getting up earlier to perfect my hair.
Moving from internships to a fulltime job, I thought I knew myself. I wore a lot of black and clean silhouettes as a low-key way to identify myself as a designer and simplify my wardrobe. I cut my hair shorter so I could straighten and curl it quickly into compliance.