Style is defined as:
A manner of doing something; a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed; a mode of living; a mode of expressing thought.
Style is an approach, an idiosyncrasy, and an artistry.
I used to wear the hand-me-downs that were budget or never fitted quite right until I had the courage to get rid of them all and find clothes that actually fit. I also started buying fewer, higher quality clothes, keeping only clothes I really love. I pick clothes based on their style, but mostly the feel of the fabric on my skin. Light, form fitting or drapey for work meetings where I want to feel confident. Stiffer, non-wrinkle fabrics when I want to feel sharp. Cozy knits for the days off. And lately, to challenge the status quo of what a female engineer should dress like, I’ve been pushing myself to wear more feminine and what some might call frilly clothes to prove that you can be successful in a technical field, but still be a woman too.
It's taken me a while to find the courage to publish this post. When I looked back at the photo in this post, I was humbled because my first reaction was that it was funny. Funny because it seemed odd to be wearing a crisp poplin shirt, earrings, and leather flats hack sawing a teapot in a machine shop. But why should that be funny?
I realized that for the entirety of my childhood, I've grown up associating machinery and shops with men and men's attire. I never saw a woman handling machinery until I was in college. Not in pictures, magazines, cartoons, or movies.
I recently watched The Dressmaker. The protagonist's mother, Molly, told her daughter that "...you can create. You can... transform people. That's very powerful. Use it." The keyword is transform, rather than change. What clothes you wear don't change who you are, but it can transform what you want to convey or bring out.
I truly believe that women have a lot of work to do to change the perception of women portrayed and carried through the generations. I feel the only way we can truly change that is by changing the mental images people have grown up associating with women. One way to start is by proving we can do our jobs just as well if not better regardless of the types of clothes or shoes we wear. That a dress does not imply a lack of "hands on" ability. While there are increasingly more women in male-dominated fields, I think there's more to it than counting numbers. Women need to be able to express themselves too as individuals rather than replicas of the crowd majority.
While the type of clothes I've worn have changed over the years, I don't think my style has actually changed. Rather, I'm slowly growing the courage to start wearing clothes that convey all the facets of who I really am.
What does your style convey about you?