5. AMERICAN EAGLE
Skinny scarves are everywhere. In your left hand is a pair of straight fit pre-distressed jeans and a blue polo with a small eagle on the chest. It’s comfortable to you, something of a uniform that you’ve formed over the years.
Your right hand grabs hold of a pair of leggings that are coated in what they call a “tribal” print and a crop top that says “born wild” with two arrows in opposite directions. (You know the one.) At this point in time, you think it captures your free spirit, but in a few short years you’ll look back and question what exactly made you think that this was an appropriate decision.
You weigh the two sides of your personality against each other. Polo… Born Wild… Who will you be when you walk down the halls in school this year?
You ask yourself if you’re too old to be coming here as millions of sequins blind you. The colors are loud. The sparkles are everywhere. The wide eyes of cartoon monkeys follow you as you wonder exactly when it was that hearts and peace signs stopped being cool to you. Is it right now?
Wading through a sea of ankle-biters with snot and crumbs smeared on their fat faces, you select an obnoxiously pink shirt that says “Girls Can Change The World” on it. Your mom thinks that it will be beneficial in building positive self esteem. As you stare at your reflection in the mirror of the dressing room, you ruminate upon her miscalculations.
This topic is so prevalent in our culture that mainstream media has addressed it through the Saturday Night Live skit “Fashion Coward” (2019). It goes as follows: “As a child, you were humiliated in a Kohl’s fitting room, where your mother said something so harmful it seared off the top layer of your brain.”
This experience, shared by thousands of young children across America, has resulted in higher rates of Fashion Cowardice than had ever been seen before. No longer do average people wear flashy clothes with ornamentations in bold colors. Plainer materials in colors ranging from light gray to dark gray dominate modern closets. There are many support groups for Fashion Cowards– don’t hesitate to find a local group.
You try on one, two, three pairs of pink plaid bermuda shorts and a tight fitting graphic tee that makes you the company’s billboard, proclaiming “AERO” or some other variation of the store’s name. You look in the mirror, something seems wrong but you cannot place it. For no reason, tears well up in your eyes. At checkout, your mom asks if you’re excited about your new school clothes– they go perfectly with your high-top converse. Ten years later, you unpack your body image issues with your therapist. It all began in that dressing room.
1. FOREVER 21
You want desperately to be twenty-one. If you wear these clothes, perhaps people will see past your braces and acne. They won’t notice how short and underdeveloped you are because you will be wearing the clothes of a twenty-one year old. You pick out a patterned sheer blouse, telling yourself that This is style, THIS is maturity. You pair it with bright red, high-waisted jeans. In the dressing room, the blouse hangs loosely and the sheerness shows your training bra. Tiffany wears a real bra. And she fills it out, you think to yourself. You shimmy out of the jeans and pull on your own clothes. In essence, you abandon one version of yourself for the comfortable safety of another. You hand the “You That Might Have Been” to the person working near the front. They have seen thousands like you before. They fold the clothes, preparing for the next fish to take the bait.