On Sartorial Struggles

By Ashika Sethi

I’m currently sinking into the crook of the couch in my boyfriend’s living room, fiercely navigating through four desktop screens and umpteen Chrome tabs.  My hair is 3-days-deep in grime and my shirt is stained from leftover pizza grease.  It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m feeling cussing gross.

Raised with two older sisters, I’m plagued by memories of my formative years splayed out on various department store carpets, yearning for better days with less shopping and more gooey Mrs. Field’s cookies from the bottom floor of the local mall. I would’ve rather eaten broccoli than try on clothing for my first day of kindergarten.

Fast-forward a couple years to my days as the (self-titled) sartorial star of my fourth-grade class. My wild, gangly, unibrow-ed self had a particular fondness for detachable sleeves and purple psychedelic leggings. On a typical afternoon, you could find little Ashika gallivanting around the playground with unshaven, ashy legs that were laden with scabs. I was killing it.

Speed the tape to sixth grade when the media finally convinced me my unibrow wasn’t pretty.  I pleaded with my mom to get it threaded until she agreed. It hurt much more than any scab I’d earned from colliding with playground asphalt, but I powered through each sting between the eyes, in hopes this simple fix would transform me into a glittering butterfly. The next day at school, nobody seemed to notice. Strange.

Skip a few scenes ahead to the day my well-intentioned sister introduced me to the confusing and expensive world of Abercrombie and Fitch. It was all overpriced skinny jeans and aggressively branded low-cut shirts, and I was smitten by the chance to mirror what the hip middle schoolers were wearing. My mom was less enthused by all of the above.

High school came and I became conflicted with sartorial guilt for wearing things that weren’t necessarily a true representation of my style or personality. It took me until college rolled around to realize not everyone had to comply with the unspoken uniform, hammered into our psyches by the front pages of Cosmo. My closet began to mirror into its fourth-grade self, purple leggings and all.

If fashion were my boyfriend, I would have an “It’s Complicated” descriptor on my Facebook profile. There are some days when I can confidently paint the town in a pair of leggings and old sneakers, days when I need to put on my beloved patchwork-denim overalls to feel a sense of empowerment, and other full weeks when I can’t see myself in any piece of clothing in my closet.

What I’ve learned from my incredibly confusing relationship with style is, self-assurance is the ultimate beauty. Dress yourself true and find strength in your flaws. Cliché as it is, you may find confidence oozing from the very pores you once believed were too big, not pretty.

It’s Sunday evening, I’m still wearing my favorite grease-stained shirt, and I’m feeling fly as hell.


Find Ashika on Twitter and Instagram and check out her portfolio.

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