I remember when I was little, I used to walk around the house draped in my mother’s clothing, my little feet unable to fluidly move around in her heels. I would look in the mirror, fumbling to adjust her sunglasses on the bridge of my nose as I struck a pose, feeling like I was on top of the world.
It’s an inexplicable feeling—the rush you feel when you look in the mirror and see a version of yourself that you haven’t seen before. You feel empowered not just by the clothing, but the way they make you feel.
More often than not, despite how you feel, people are quick to judge and criticize women for the way they dress, labeling them as “sluts” or “prudes” based on the length of their skirt and the height of their neckline. As you begin going out with your friends at night, you become fearful of the walk to the bus stop and the Uber rides spent alone, the uneasiness felt when strangers stare at the edge of your neckline while they’re speaking to you. Whenever incidents like sexual assault do occur, the first thing people ask—sometimes even before checking in on your well-being—is what you were wearing.
Fashion shouldn’t be used to put down anyone I miss the confidence and power I used to feel, dressing up in my mother’s clothes and my princess dresses, when I was a six-year-old—at 19, I no longer feel the same way. Now, I tug at the edge of my skirt, wondering if it’s too short and whether people will think differently of me.
What we wear can be used for artistic self-expression—however, more often than not, judgment is often cast upon clothing when it doesn’t match the conservative ideal of woman, the norm that has been set up from decades and centuries ago.
On an October afternoon last week, Zoé and I photographed our friends—the ones we know the best and who have all found ways to feel empowered through what they wear. We asked them to come to class that day in an outfit which makes them feel unapologetically confident, and there was a wide range in styles, from sleek, patterned, straight-legged pants to off-the-shoulder sweaters. We concluded that it is what we are comfortable with that we choose to wear.
Check out all the photos here.
Visuals by Zoé Claudel