Where Style and Confidence Intersect

Leandra Medine | February 4, 2016

Because they do intersect, even on the days you’re faking it

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence lately — who has it, how to get it, why it seems integral to the psychological construction of one person but then definitively impossible to muster in someone else. If I feel confident one day but not the next, does that mean that inherently, I’m not actually confident?

One of the most embarrassing qualities that I maintain is probably linked to the frequency with which I Google-image-search myself. It’s gotten better in recent months by simple virtue of a time-famine that has bled into the span I used to spend photo-searching, but if I may defend the impetus of my research, I’d like to argue that this tendency goes beyond the stroking of my own ego/battle with narcissism and might actually help reconcile one important conjecture on confidence, which is that you can fake it until it comes true.

Because here’s the thing: I don’t search for those photos in anticipation that I can pat myself on the back for having looked really cool or great, nor conversely to reprimand myself for having looked like a ding dong. Instead, I use those photos as a sort of litmus test to determine whether I still feel good — confident — about the clothes I wore. If I do, it feels cool that the current me is still satisfied by the decisions of a previous version of me.

Does that make sense?

Our relationships with our own style are such intricate meditations on identity. What are we going to say with these clothes? Who are we going to be, how are we going to perceive the world and use these slabs of fabrics to frame that?

I spent a lot of time thinking about clothes that I would have loved to wear but ultimately decided I couldn’t because…why? I didn’t feel like people would get it? I didn’t feel like I could explain myself? Style is not a preciously preserved blood vessel on the brink of popping, but even if it were, the difference between a blood vessel that has burst and one that has not is nothing more, nothing less, than stained skin that clears up in a matter of two weeks. So what’s the worst that can happen?

The popular opinion convinces us that stylistically-speaking, the tendencies we assume are only as good as public approval. Almost like we strive for what’s perfect, like Michelin-rated chefs in pursuit of consistent excellence rather than gastronomic trial and error motivated by the ebbs and flows that are assumed in order to create a delicacy that is entirely new to the human palette.

It’s 2016, though. We’re being bred to make a difference, change the world, reject the norms, so shouldn’t the clothes we choose to wear mirror that?

Of course, this stuff sound obvious. But it’s important to consider when discussing the notion of faking it until you make it. Confidence is still difficult to reconcile — some of us have it, some of us don’t — but in my experience, if you fake it for long enough, it tends to come true. That’s kind of the thing, right? No external variable, not a marriage, not a new handbag, not even really a job promotion, will meaningfully affect whether or not you experience confidence because that shit comes from a lot of tender, internal monologuing. But clothing does have a cool transformative quality and it can serve as an open window that initiates the flood gates.

Example: If you’re motivated by the vast eccentricities that raise eyebrows and present question marks, but feel self-conscious about it and thus aim for jeans and button downs more regularly that you care to admit, push yourself through the vacuum of doubt and dress like a fucking lunatic! My guess is that you’ll be running for president in no time.

Collage by Emily Zirimis.

hyperlink-gif-relationship-with-style

  • http://youngsophisticate.com Bee

    I wrote a little post about the same thing a few days ago. It’s so strange/fascinating when something you’ve been thinking a lot about suddenly begins to appear everywhere in the zeitgeist.

    As always, love your posts Leandra!

    Briana
    http://www.youngsophisticate.com

    • Kelly McGee

      ” My current salary is more than 4700 dollars each week..” Over a year ago I was in a horrible condition , jobless and no bank credit . Thanks to one of my friends who showed me a way where I was able to gather myself and making average of 58 d/h. So it can change your life as it has changed mine.

      Look here for details
      xw…

  • http://un-ruly.com UN-RULY

    Um…. ‘YAAAAAAAAAAAS’ @ “It’s 2016, though. We’re being bred to make a difference, change the world, reject the norms, so shouldn’t the clothes we choose to wear mirror that?”

    • http://careersreportsonline.org.uk/bo0507 albcl108

      37

  • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

    I discovered a few weeks ago you (Leandra) have a Wikipedia entry, all of your own. Of course you would 🙂 (I really have time problems which explain a lot about me.)
    Now, this may or may not be cramping my style and affecting my blog commentator’s confidence 🙂 :-), because I tend to use Wikipedia a lot and it is relevant in my little world, full of information quests and manifold sources I am addicted to. 🙂

    I would absolutely agree that we need inner and outer sources of confidence … I think being confident does not necessarily mean you are flooded/beaming with it all the time.
    There are generally acknowledged sources of confidence, which may hold true for most of us (like having enough meaningful tasks, good relationships, enough money …) and many very specific, personal ones (mine would be the fact I can spend much time working alone and have that special, undisturbed, direct access to me, myself and I which makes it possible to forget all about me, myself and I and simply function and concentrate on other meaningful processes and pieces of information instead. Couldn’t live without it.)
    I think there must be logical reasons for losing confidence temporarily (after all, it is just a particularly beneficiary result of chemical processes which may go awry from time to time – and cause us to appreciate the good moments all the more, just like that cliche about darkness making us able to see the light.). I also agree clothes are important – if we fake well, we get all the right responses and our precarious brain chemistry may simply switch to confidence cocktails, which makes us feel confident. Why not.

    In my case, clothes work in a different manner than with you: if I spend any time checking my sartorial choices these days, it is to find out whether the gap between my imagined effect of a certain choice and the visible effects is a big one or not. Because I tend to have a better imagination about these things than I have practical capabilities. And then: I always feel particularly well and happy if the fabrics I am wearing are good to me. The style itself doesn’t seem to matter that much: might be the age cramping it 🙂

  • http://little-shrew.blogspot.com Little Shrew

    I have to agree with it. Acting like you’re confident sooner or later makes you feel confident. And I don’t know why it works but it does.

    http://little-shrew.blogspot.com

  • giulia

    It’s funny because I thought just the other day: who knows if Leandra likes her old outfits (when I look at old pictures of myself I always think: how the heck I was dressed?!)!

  • http://insertwth.com/ Denisse

    Here’s my take on this, which I was coincidentally thinking about yesterday: I have always had body issues, and didn’t have much confidence. Last fall, I decided to finally get my act together and started working out. I lost 20lbs. People were like, “you look great” and all that jazz. Guess what, though? My confidence still wasn’t great. I had expected that losing weight would instantly make me confident. What I realize now is that the only way I could gain confidence was to nurture it from within. Like you said, Leandra, external things won’t really give it to you. If you’re still internalizing the same negative thoughts, not even the hottest body in the world (I don’t have it) will give it to you.

  • http://www.thestylestudiobykb.com Keri Blair

    Being an image consultant I believe that style and confidence really go hand-in-hand. Appearances are a big part of someone’s identity and can have a large impact in how they articulate themselves. Great post Leandra! Always enjoy reading your blog.
    Keri
    http://www.thestylestudiobykb.com

  • Jayne

    I can completely relate to this Leandra, it reminds me of a post Pandora Sykes wrote on her blog not too long ago which I loved. I often find myself creating ensembles that I love but when it comes to wearing them in public, I refrain from doing so because I am afraid of what people think and I really wish I didn’t! Safe outfits make me feel boring, I’d much rather wear something more out there and different from the ordinary – I guess I just need to learn to push myself to do so more often.

    electraviolet.co.uk

  • Samantha s

    I have been consciously wearing blazers lately (opposed to cardigans, it’s cold in Wisconsin) to appear more confident at work. And actually, I find I engage in meetings better and more thoroughly when I’m wearing a blazer. Kind of amazing.

  • Deanna

    Kind of a different point here but I find it interesting that when I was in school for fashion design I had no issue wearing outlandish thrift store finds while now I’m working outside the fashion industry and its all black all the time (into this comfort zone). I don’t branch out as much with my style. I still am not exactly conforming to the whole jeans an tshirt uniform like everyone else but still feels very safe for me. So I also think it has a lot to do with environment! Fantastic read, thank you!

  • pterridactyl

    You know what Leandra, the vast majority of these snaps certify something I’ve been suspecting for a while now… You are THE jean queen!

    You make me want to wear all the jeans all of the days.

  • Sugar Bones

    “Push yourself through the vacuum of doubt and dress like a fucking lunatic!” Words to live by.

  • Junglesiren

    OFF SUBJECT TOTALLY (my apologies)… but your crew always looks so fantastic in the pictures, comfortable and natural. I dig it and am hoping that sometime soon someone there on staff can do a piece on how to pose. I have inherited my mother’s gift of automatic celluloid distortion and therefore have no confidence before a camera. (oh god…maybe I really am ugly. Maybe, in fact, the photo is how I actually look! – wow, I have never considered that…) Who knows? I’m average height and weight and at 55 I’m no Binx Walton… but I still can rock some nice clothes… so help me look good on paper! Posing advice please, oh experts! Please be specific and detailed. (sorry, didn’t mean to hijack the thread with non related stuff).

  • Junglesiren

    Oh, and I’m a big believer in fake-it-’til-you-make-it on confidence and many other things in life. We can become that thing.

  • http://alleygirl.com/ Alley Girl

    I wrote about confidence last year by discussing “skirt over pants” looks.

    I feel like most important thing is being and feeling independent in today’s fashion world. We need this more than ever. We think we are free but we are criticized because of our weight, our religion, our backgrounds constantly. And this criticism puts us in certain stereotypes_ totally away from being free. I feel like If you feel more confident with your clothes and the way you look, you feel more independent from the inside.

    And this is my mom’s photo from 38 years ago. She used to wear skirt like this, because she wasn’t allowed o wear mini skirts without pants. 🙁

    Here is the whole article.http://alleygirl.com/lets-ugly-skirt-pants/

  • http://alleygirl.com/ Alley Girl

    I wrote about confidence last year by discussing “skirt over pants” looks.

    I feel like most important thing is being and feeling independent in today’s fashion world. We need this more than ever. We think we are free but we are criticized because of our weight, our religion, our backgrounds constantly. And this criticism puts us in certain stereotypes_ totally away from being free. I feel like If you feel more confident with your clothes and the way you look, you feel more independent from the inside.

    Here is the whole article.http://alleygirl.com/lets-ugly-skirt-pants/

  • Anya van Wyk

    I suck at faking it. I’ve found what’s made me more confident over the years is to stop caring so much what others think. It’s made all the difference!