Writer: Alysse Dalessandro | It seems like every time I post a picture of myself online, I see someone comment something like “I wish I could wear that.” I know that the common response from a lot of folks when it comes to being more confident about something is “fake it ‘til you make it” but that just really doesn’t sit well with me. The idea of faking it feels inauthentic to me and if anything, confidence should be something that comes from within and isn’t something you pretend to have so you can post a selfie in a swimsuit. The more that I delve into my own self-love, the less tolerance I have for faking anything.
Instead of faking it, I find myself saying things like “you can do it!” I find myself cheering for folks in a way that I wish I could’ve cheered for myself in the past. And all of that got me to thinking about what tools helped make me feel like my personal style was a reflection of myself.
I started getting bullied for the way I dressed in middle school and fashion became my armor. There’s a quote from Rihanna’s CFDA awards acceptance speech where she says, “She can beat me but she can never beat my outfit.” That was the exact approach that I took to getting through my teen years. I learned to take pride in my ability to put together looks. When everything else about me felt like a failure, I never doubted my sense of style.
Being confident in my personal style didn’t necessarily make me feel pretty or good about who I was as a person. That was a much longer journey that really didn’t start until I neared the end of college. By the time I started my brand Ready to Stare, I was very confident in my styling abilities but I still felt invisible. It wasn’t until I started blogging in 2014 and taking pictures of myself that I started to feel confident in the total package.
There were a few tools that really helped me learn to own my beauty and sense of style in a way that I really begun to feel pride in. I started wearing my hair in a high ponytail in 2012 and that really became a signature hair style. I started wear bold lipstick colors around the same and that felt like a fit too. Blue and greens turned into deep purple and wine colored shades over the years but the bold lip stayed. I got stiletto nails for the first time in 2013 on a whim during a trip with my friend in New York and I never looked back. All of those became part of my high femme aesthetic that today makes me feel like me.
Body chains were another important design that sprung from this idea of using fashion as armor. I started designing them in 2012 and my very first designs featured chains literally covering my chest and heart. Fashion was protective. Fashion was my way of saying, ‘“this is who I am and if you don’t like it, cool, but I am not changing for you.” Fashion gave me power and agency in times where I struggled to find my voice in other ways.
Now let me be clear: I don’t need fashion to feel good about myself; not anymore. It has been a long personal journey to work on loving myself from the inside out. There are plenty of days where I don’t wear any makeup and I wear my hair in a messy bun and feel perfectly fine. It doesn’t matter to me how someone else prefers I look. I’ve had plenty of men tell me that I am “prettier without all the makeup” and I definitely remember times when I would change my appearance to appease someone else. But thanks to my fashion armor, those days are gone.
When I am wearing something now, there’s no faking it. I am wearing what I like and there was no quick fix to getting to this point. It’s a journey that I am still on every day. But a few things helped: I learned to listen to myself; try new styles but also not be afraid to stick to what works and most importantly, I tuned everyone else out. So the key to confidence isn’t faking it until you make it, it’s destroying this idea that what you wear has anything to do with anyone else at all.