The Art Of Self-Expression

Backstage at a New York Fashion Week show

When you look up the definition of fashion in the Merriam Webster dictionary, the first three definitions are: 1) A popular way of dressing during a particular time or among a particular group of people, 2) The business of creating and selling clothes in new styles, and 3) Clothes that are popular. While all of these definitions qualify merit, I don’t think that they are the true definitions of fashion. To me, fashion is so much more than what is popular; it is the ultimate tool of self-expression.

I have always been what some may call a “fashionista.” I have loved fashion since I was a very little girl. Whether it be my all-pink clothing phase, my mortifying obsession with layering neon Sugar Lips tank tops, my love for high side ponytails, or my obnoxiously bright and sparkly Limited-Too wardrobe, I have always used fashion to mirror my inner self. However, it wasn’t until high school when I learned that fashion is really a form of self-expression. Throughout the awkward middle school years, I constantly felt pressured to follow the latest trends, even if I thought they were really freaking ugly. I’m looking at you, Crocs and Ugg Boots! I thought that I had to wear what the other girls were wearing in order to fit in.

It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year when I began to actually dress for myself. I wore what I thought looked good on me and not what looked good on other people, what I thought was cool and not what other people thought was cool. I do still like to follow some trends, but they’re trends that I like. There’s nothing inherently wrong with following trends, but there is something wrong with feeling obligated to follow them.

I have also learned to appreciate other people’s style and fashion senses. I do this through reading magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Nylon, etc. I’ve become obsessed with not only gushing over the latest fall or spring lines, but also with reading the critiques. It wasn’t only the clothing that peaked my interest, but also the articles about the clothing. I found a community where my love for fashion and writing could intersect. This community addressed all ends of the fashion spectrum, from fit & flare Alice+Olivia dresses to leather All Saints jackets. It introduced me to countless opinions and ideas. Reading magazines like Vogue allowed me to enter some sort of fashion fantasy world where I could change my style at the snap of my fingers. I was able to break out of my classic girly outfits and perhaps delve into the daring world of leather jackets and bold geometric patterns.

One of the things that I find so amazing about fashion is its endless array of styles. My style could probably be described as “girly,” but there are so many different styles (like tomboy, sporty, classic, edgy, trendy, and preppy) that women don’t have to be confined to a dress code of dresses, skirts, and high heels. This is the essence of why I think the fashion industry supports feminist ideals. Feminism is not only about equality, but it is also about not being confined to societal stereotypes. Fashion gives women the opportunity to transcend stereotypes and to, through their clothing, be who they want to be. However, many women don’t take advantage of this opportunity because they feel confined by societal expectations. Someday I hope to work in the fashion industry so that I can empower women to ignore societal pressure, and to dress in ways that express who they really are.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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How to cite this page

Bickel, Ariela. "The Art Of Self-Expression." 18 December 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 1, 2023) <>.

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