1. The same threadbare floral dress almost exclusively from ages five to seven. My mom begged me to try something else, but I felt incandescent — invincible — in that dress. I’ve chased that feeling ever since.
2. A denim skirt and zip-up hoodie, my first attempt at an outfit a boy might find attractive. It was seventh grade and my best friend decided to set me up with Casey from art class. Nothing came of the crush, but I can vividly remember my cold legs, the creeping hemline and the sensation of being assessed.
3. Unflattering colors, avant-garde proportions and incongruous patterns in high school, when clothes took on a magical quality. In those years, every piece came with the imagined story of the girl I would be when I wore it. A shirt was never just a shirt.
4. Anything I could borrow from my mom (or steal from my sister).
5. A ’70s gown in cobalt blue with a plunging halter neckline. It was my first prom. I’d exhausted myself looking for a dress at the mall, but nothing was right. One day, I stopped by our local vintage shop (previous purchases included a children’s baseball belt, an ascot and a pair of platform motorcycle boots) and there it was. I bought it for 65 dollars, curled my own hair and felt that glimmer of invincibility once again.
6. A ponytail, a miniskirt and a men’s XXL tee with Obama’s face on it in gold foil. Cops were involved. That’s really all I’m at liberty to say.
7. A strand of pearls borrowed from my roommate whilst in the throes of an identity crisis my first semester of college in Alabama.
8. Not much, during my brief stint with the bar scene. It lasted exactly one night. It was like with my seventh grade art-room crush all over again, but much colder and with more hairspray. When I returned home (early), I promised myself that I would not voluntarily do something I hated that much ever again.
9. The aforementioned platform Harley-Davidson boots with jean cut-offs and a bikini top to my first music festival. And every summer since.
10. A white blouse, vintage skirt and leather jacket on the rooftop where he proposed. It wasn’t the outfit that made me feel beautiful that night.
11. I’m 24 now and my personal style is still evolving. Clothing continues to cast an almost mythical hold over my imagination — but it’s no longer the clothing that creates the magic; it’s choosing it, wearing it and allowing myself to be transformed by the experiences I have in it.
12. I like to think that when I’m 80, I’ll swear off everything but my favorite dress — just like I did when I was six.
Photo by John Rawlings for Condé Nast via Getty Images.