Being Different: Dressing for Yourself vs. Dressing for Others

Being Different: Dressing for Yourself vs. Dressing for Others

Why—or who—do you really dress up for? In this essay, model and content creator Chennie Montero reflects on the struggles of developing a personal style amid society’s standards.

Figuring out our style is discovering our identities through experience. Style is shaped by what we see and the environment we grew up in; for instance, a lot of us are influenced by how our parents dressed and how we were styled by our mothers when we were still kids. 

My mom is a fashionista. When I was growing up, I would see her wearing basic pieces and classic — or what we call now vintage — clothes. Her style and character eventually passed to me and my eldest sister who equally loves styling. I am also greatly influenced by my dad, who happens to be a very thrifty man. Among the many valuable lessons that I learned from him, the importance of saving and spending money wisely dictated what clothes I chose to buy. I leaned towards basic, versatile pieces that I can mix and match with anything, and can be worn on different occasions. I learned to make use of what I have and that I don’t need to spend so much on clothes just to look and feel good. 

Dressing up is one of the things I enjoy doing. My style, my clothes, and my overall look is an expression of my personality and often reflects my mood for the day as well. What I wear is part of how I bring myself, the total package of who I am without needing to say more. I just strut myself out there and show everyone that this is how I dress and this is who I am. For me, the world is my runway. 

My experience growing up with a fashionista mother and being in the modeling industry for more than 10 years inspired me to experiment with my style. I learned that it can be quite challenging, especially for teenagers who are still trying to figure out who they are, all while yearning to fit in and feel belonged. Which brings me to this question — what is the difference between dressing to fit society’s standards and dressing for yourself? 

The author with her mom

Have you tried a certain trend knowing it doesn’t make you feel comfortable because it doesn’t speak of who you are at all? Do you know who you are and what you want to wear, but you choose to hold yourself back because you’re scared of what people might think? Were you ever told you couldn’t wear a certain outfit because of how you look or because of your imperfections? 

I’ve struggled with this growing up. As a people-pleaser, I used to be anxious about what people say about me. This was the result of being bullied in my childhood years.

I was once rejected because I looked different. It was because of my scoliosis, and the designer didn’t want that to affect the total look of the outfit, so I was ousted at short notice.

I was exposed to a lot of criticisms when I tried to be myself and fit in the clothes that I’m expected to look good at automatically, just because I’m a model. 

People will always have something to say. People will judge or criticize you. This is evident, especially in the modeling industry. There are standards. Standards will always be there. But the result or conclusion is up to you. How you react and manage will reflect how well you know yourself and have already embraced who you are. 

It’s okay to try out trends, but try incorporating them into your existing style. Don’t lose touch with who you are just to follow what is currently popular, or just to fit a certain norm or standard. Don’t stick to dressing or styling yourself according to what society thinks you should wear or look like. Don’t go broke and feel lost trying to look expensive or like someone who you’re not — your clothes need not be expensive just to feel and look good. 

Be you. It’s important that when you style or dress yourself, you show and do you. Be true to your style. 

The next time you pick out your clothes, aside from considering the weather and your mood for the day, remember who you are and speak your truth through the clothes you wear. 

I have eventually embraced my imperfections, and so should you. You are meant to stand out. Be different anyway. Be proud that you’re different, regardless of what they say. Love yourself, all that you are. Love your imperfections because those make you shine.