18 April 2020
Confidence, to me, usually meant black.
With a bold red lipstick if I was feeling extra kick-ass.
I love wearing black. Black empowers me. It is sleek, elegant, bold, mysterious.
It is powerful.
For every important meeting, interview, or presentation, the outfit was generally set: that one black blazer, one black shirt or top had to be available. Power ponytail. My no-fuss silver hoop earrings, neutral lipstick or sometimes a bold red.
For my very first university interview in London, I was from head-to-toe, in black. In a sense, I got the right memo for black is, by default, the architect's uniform. And it made me feel strong. In fact, it projected a more punchy version of me as I willed my awkward, shy self to socialise with the many stylish and confident candidates who surrounded me. That was the last time I felt true confidence in myself after college. For the next three years in architecture school, my black 'crit-day' outfits became more of a shield that barely kept me going amidst critical stares and skeptical faces.
I remember the day I interviewed for the role of part-time holiday stylist in AllSaints in October 2018. On a daily basis, I prefer loose, plain neutrals, oversized hoodies, and my (extremely) ripped boyfriend jeans. That chilly autumn night, I pulled on a (fine, light brown) leather jacket over a tight (black) heat tech top, tucked into high-waisted (black) jeans and slipped on my (black) boots. The top was gifted to me for practical reasons against the cold, but that was my first (and only) time wearing it because I am not a fan of tight clothing. That night however, the outfit drove off all the fear of not being cool or stylish enough as I strode in. And I got the job! :) My uniform was a floral black dress with pleated sleeves and ruffles. Receiving my first AllSaints outfit was incredibly exciting, but as you can imagine, I was secretly mortified by the idea of wearing ruffles. (Even though admittedly, I kinda dig ruffles now, occasionally.) Still, I showed up in that dress on my first day of work with a dark lip and heeled (black) ankle boots. And surprisingly, it was all good. For those few hours in the store, that outfit brought out a more confident, outspoken me - before I ran back to my usual hoodie and sweatpants situation. Being that sociable person for those few hours felt good- so good I was willing to ignore my sore feet from hours in heeled boots. Until my worn out Nikes saved the day.
That is how I want people, meeting me for the first time,
to perceive me. But the odd thing about confidence is
how two-faced it is.
Don't get me wrong: I do so love my oversized laidback style. It's comfortable, boyish. It just feels different- like I'm just me. A weird, crazy, awkward mess who laughs at her own jokes.
I love dressing up : when I'm travelling, on weekend outings with friends and family. But how I dress for myself, and how I dress in accordance to what I think people think of me, differs completely. When it comes to people I know (with the exception of family and really good friends), confidence comes in a wholly different form : no makeup, and carefully curated outfits of the simplest, most unassuming-looking clothes in my wardrobe.
I grew up with insecurities regarding how apparently, 'non-Chinese' I looked. So confidence in secondary school, ironically, came in the form of my personality and skill. Hence my 'outfit' would be the most bared version of me being : hey, I look horrid. So no judging my appearance- it's just gonna be my personality here. This stripped form of a 'confidence outfit' is admittedly, a lot more comfortable that my heeled boots.
Confidence here lacks the oomph of a stark red against black.
Instead, it was more of a laidback feeling of being
comfortable in my own skin.
Recently, snippets of confidence have come in times when I least expected it. A friend complimented on my photos and writing. I felt so validated, grateful, happy- while being in my (black) pajamas with stringy wet hair. A colleague pointed out my confidence growth during a random lunch break - while I was in a light-coloured shirt and skirt (not my best outfit, mind you). It is during these moments when I felt most confident in myself - random, unexpected moments that I was least prepared for. And it really prompted me to reevaluate how I have been perceiving 'confidence' for the past few years. Was all that black and edgy vibe truly confidence, or have I mixed that up with a facade I have subconsciously crafted for society?
Confidence is not confined to a specific outfit or colour.
Confidence is innate. (Duh, Sheryl - you JUST realised that?) I'm pretty sure my brain knows this, but up against a critical society and putting oneself out there, it is so much easier to link 'confidence' to a specific outfit or thing in order to pull out some ounce of courage. Fashion and makeup play a big role in how I feel and how I carry myself, but it does not define me. Because it is STYLE, not specific outfits, that exude confidence. And for this melodramatic youth here, I am still very easily influenced and starry-eyed over many stylish people, and am on a long journey to find my own style.
As a reminder to myself and to anyone reading this, the key is to believe in yourself. Because no matter what you wear, whether that black blazer is available or not, confidence is WITHIN you. And that it is YOU: your voice, personality, and skill that people will be most fascinated to hear about!
Anyway, what do you think of confidence? Do you have a specific outfit or item that you simply NEED as a confidence booster? I'd really love to know- so leave it in the comments below!
Fun fact: I used to wear a pair of Owl earrings for every tutorial in third year because owl = Athena = goddess of wisdom, nay? Yay!
Stay safe and thank you for reading!