Fashion Empowerment Story

Illustration by Diana Garcia and Ramses Lemus

“I Choose What I Want to Wear”


What influences what you wear on a daily basis? Whether it’s the latest trend, the weather, or what’s not in your laundry pile, the fear of being seen as a mere sexual object used to be my deciding factor in my daily dilemma of outfit picking.

That old fear of mine can be traced back to my grade school days where dress code rules were enforced. Those rules were put into place because it was believed that certain clothing would distract boys. From a young age, I was taught that my body was not something that I should be comfortable being in, but something I should hide. As a developing young impressionable girl, the belief that my body could do so much harm simply by wearing a spaghetti strap shirt was quickly ingrained in my mind.

In high school, people judged you based on what you wore. If I were to wear a shirt that accentuated my maturing body and a short skirt, that meant two things. To the boys, it meant that I was ‘easy’ and/or ‘promiscuous’ and to the girls, it meant that I was a ‘slut’. If that wasn’t bad enough, my father also put a big emphasis on what it was acceptable for me to wear. Knee length shorts were the only form of shorts my father deemed as acceptable as he thought a girl shouldn’t wear short-shorts. The messages I was receiving as a young girl about what was acceptable to wear only made me overly conscious about how people would perceive me solely based on what I choose to wear.

Like many other young girls, I was taught that I should be uncomfortable in my body. The way boys talked to me and other girls in high school perpetuated the belief that our bodies were the only important thing we females possessed, and that if we didn’t hide them then we should be shouldn’t expect any less. It was really difficult to see past all the vulgar comments to realize that I had the option of embracing my body by dressing in whatever I please.

It took me a while to come to the realization that, not only should I be comfortable in my body, but the choice I make every day on what to wear should be based on one simple thing: what I want to wear. I now refuse to not wear a certain clothing article just because I’m afraid it will draw too much-unwanted attention or that someone will look at me as a sexual object. By doing the opposite, I feed into rape culture. I would feed into the belief that what I wear could directly lead a man to sexually assault me.

The issue is not the clothing, it is anything but that. Just because I wear something that is revealing does not mean I want men to look up and down at me like I’m not the independent woman that I am. I wear what I wear because I feel good in it and like the clothing. I also don’t wear anything, in particular, to prove a point, because I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I already know and have accepted that I should enjoy the healthy body I am blessed to have. My body is mine and I love feeling good in it.

I am no longer afraid to wear certain shirts or shorts because my feeling of confidence and happiness with my body overpowers the fear of being looked at as a sexual object. And it feels so good to just allow yourself to be happy with your own self without giving a damn about what others might say or how they may react. My sense of self as a young woman is much more important and powerful than the creepy stares I get walking through my school campus. Men need to be stopped being treated as if they are some animals who lack the ability to control their own actions which thus renders them un-responsible for their own actions.

It is so liberating to wear whatever I feel like wearing on any given day. I no longer let the fear of being looked at as a sexual object stop me from wearing exactly what I want. I am happy that I am in a place in my life where I am even comfortable enough in my own body to wear whatever it is I’d like. I have grown a sense of empowerment and confidence that I realize no one can take away from me, and for me, it all starts with the outfit I decide to put on every morning. Loving the clothing I’m wearing on any given day has made it easier to allow myself to be comfortable in my own body and even be proud and confident in it as well.