Self-expression through fashion: Learning to be truthful


Gwendolynne Royle

How the pressure of choosing an aesthetic has affected me and my journey to truthful self expression.

I only need three words to describe my fashion inspiration: “Frog and Toad.” There is no doubt in my mind that my many years of being obsessed with those books completely shaped who I am today. If I could dress like those little old amphibians everyday, I would.

There are a lot of labels that are thrown around when it comes to fashion, but I don’t really like to adhere to any of them.

There is dark academia, which I love, but I don’t have the money for. Boho which is super fun, but not really my everyday look. E-girl/boy, soft-girl/boy, vintage, vaporwave, grunge and so many others.

Since I don’t have the funds nor time to try and fit into these aesthetics, I have decided to make my own aesthetic: old man chic.

This perfectly encapsulates all of my favorite aspects from all my favorite aesthetics: 90’s cardigans, cord knitted sweaters, argyle sweater vests, turtle necks, plaid pants, oxfords (knock-offs, but they still work), button downs and basically anything I can find in boxes of my dad’s old things.

The first reason I dress the way I do is comfort. I spent so many years squeezing into skirts that always made me feel self-conscious, putting on makeup that made me feel fake and hiding my insecurities behind 5 inch heels. I look back on pictures of myself and I won’t lie, my outfits were fantastic, but I was never being true to myself.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say “beauty is pain,” because it’s not. Beauty is when you feel like you are representing yourself in the truest way possible. For me, circle skirts and bright red lipstick wasn’t truthful, so my “glow up” came when I decided to be honest with myself.

Although I am incredibly lucky to feel comfortable in my gender identity, dressing like an old man has helped me with exploring gender expression.

When I was little, all I ever wanted was to look like Audrey Hepburn and Betty Cornell. I wanted ballet flats, A-line dresses and elegant necklaces. But as I grew up I realized that while I still wanted to look like Audrey, dressing like Gregory Peck just seemed like more fun.

There is nothing more empowering than playing with the line between masculinity and femininity. I have found that I feel most comfortable in the undecided.

When I go out, I wear makeup, but the makeup I wear brings out more masculine features. I wear mens’ pants, but in a way that highlights my feminine shape. Nothing brings me more joy then breaking gendered fashion norms.

At the end of the day, fashion is what you make it. Don’t break your back (or your bank) trying to fit into labels or stereotypes people have set for you. The most beautiful people I know are the ones who are confident in everything they wear, no matter what it is.

Old man chic is the perfect way to describe the clothes I wear when I feel most confident, but that’s only because I made it up. It is amazing because it doesn’t define anything. Old man chic is completely mine and only I get to decide how I look.

Whether you want to dress like “Frog and Toad,” or Audrey Hepburn, I urge you to remember that true beauty comes from acceptance of yourself.