My last relationship ended not with a bang, but a whimper. We slowly grew apart until it felt like we were just roommates existing in the same space but not really connecting. At the time, my life and my identity was so caught up in this relationship that, when we finally broke up for real, I really didn’t know who I was. I moved into my new apartment with a clean interior design slate—no mattress, no couch, no television, no wine glasses. The first thing I bought to furnish my place was not one of those essentials, but a completely frivolous fluffy, faux sheepskin stool. My ex would have hated it, both stylistically and from a practicality standpoint. It was a simple act of rebellion. I call it my independence stool, which is admittedly a really lame name, especially coming from a writer, but it gets the point across. My sartorial choices have undergone a similar treatment since going from LTR to single.
You can almost trace the dissolution of my coupling through my clothing choices. In the latter years of my relationship as we got a little too comfortable with each other, I didn’t really experiment with fashion, instead opting for basics in neutral colors. It was what I felt comfortable in. I lived in a uniform of jeans and T-shirts. As I felt it start to end, though, I subconsciously tried to stop the break by wearing clothing that was a little outside my comfort zone—a little sexier, a little dressier, and branching out into colors. Looking back, I think I was trying to remind myself and my ex-boyfriend that hey, I’m a desirable person. Look at me.
My style could be a clean slate.
Then, the breakup. Suddenly I was completely adrift and it felt like everything was out of my control. Except, I found, the way that I presented myself. Like with my apartment, my style could be a clean slate. So I decided that instead of wearing the basics I was so accustomed to, I was really going to lean in to the “independence stool” concept and experiment with things I wouldn’t normally wear. Fashion helped me rediscover that I’m this smart, funny, sexy person.
Being able to own this outlook, however, took more than investing in a new wardrobe. You see, self-confidence is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life, but over the last couple of years I’ve made a concerted effort—both mentally and physically—to make healthy lifestyle changes and get to a space where I am confident. So even though the breakup knocked the wind out of me, and there were moments where I suffered crippling self-consciousness, I was determined not to backslide. I didn’t put in all that hard work on myself to let some guy ruin it.
It took self-reflection to realize that I used to cover up a lot because I was insecure about my body—as my body confidence has risen, though, so has my sartorial self-esteem. I’ve spent so much time meal prepping, at CrossFit, and working on my own assurance internally that every time I step out wearing something short or sexy or fun, it feels like a way of celebrating how far I’ve come. I wear clothing that makes me feel good about myself.
I’ve stopped being as practical with my purchases. I have enough basics. I no longer live by the rule of “how many times will I wear this?” Instead, I ask myself if it would bring me joy to wear it. If the answer is yes, I guarantee I will wear it more than once—and I’ll feel amazing while I wear it. This has opened up a lot of room for me to experiment with colors and trends and silhouettes I normally would shy away from. I mean, I just bought knee-high snakeskin boots. Boo-ed up Allie would have never. She would have asked if they came in black (even though she already had three pairs of black boots), and then probably wondered how often she would actually even wear them.
Now things like super fluffy teddy coats, colorful faux fur, vintage silhouettes, funky sneakers, and, yes, snakeskin boots are all on the sartorial table for me. I’ve been liberated from the confines of a relationship and a wardrobe that wasn’t making me happy or allowing me to live up to my full potential. It was hard, it was painful, it was full of some questionable clothing choices as I got my fashion legs, but ultimately I emerged on the other side as a stronger—and better dressed—person.
Being single also means figuring out how to dress for first dates—here’s why I always wear sneakers and why they may be the secret to nailing the biggest online dating day of the year.
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