Fashion reflects personality for all ages
In the fashion world, the only constant is change. As society and popular culture evolve, so do our garments.
Regardless of what styles have been in vogue throughout history, one thing remains the same: fashion is a high priority in American society, both for teenagers and older adults.
First, let’s clarify the difference between “fashion” and “style.” While the two words are often used synonymously, they are by no means the same thing.
“Fashion” is a trend — often popularized by prominent celebrities — that can encompass clothing, hairstyles, accessories or footwear.
Meanwhile, “style” has a more personal connotation; it is how individuals choose to present themselves — how they dress, how they style their hair, etc. While their final look may or may not be similar to what is currently deemed fashionable, their style is typically reflective of their unique personality.
Teens focus on fashion
Fashion is very important to teenagers, who are at an age where a desire to fit in tends to trump all else. Dressing similarly to one’s peers can inspire a sense of acceptance — you can feel confident in what you are wearing because you already know it is widely accepted as fashionable. This idea is referred to as “mirroring.”
In a Psychology Today article, Stephanie Newman explained the concept this way: “If someone feels unsure but sees him or herself reflected back in another’s appearance — say in identical clothing — that person feels pumped up, less insecure. …When adolescent[s] see aspects of themselves mirrored in their peers, they get an ego boost and feel less vulnerable.”
Sometimes, however, mirroring backfires. For example, I have often seen people at my school wearing the same shirt because it was displayed in a trendy shop window in the mall. In addition, the need to mirror can put pressure on teens to dress a certain way or to purchase items only sold by a specific brand or store.
Simultaneously, although it may seem contradictory, teens’ clothing choices are one of their earliest steps toward independence and differentiating themselves. No longer do their parents pick out clothing for them; they can express themselves in any way they wish.
As I have gotten older, I have enjoyed experimenting with different looks, some of which I’ve seen in catalogs, and some based on my own sense of comfort and confidence. I love to mix and match popular fashions with my own style; for example, a fashionable jean skirt with a T-shirt with the name of my favorite band. The elements of my outfit combine to reflect my personality, and the ability to control that is liberating.
Teens use social media platforms, primarily Instagram (a photo-sharing app), to debut their styles, many of which are copied by teens everywhere.
Older adults with style
Older adults can be just as impacted by — and influential in — fashion as teenagers and young adults.
They can be susceptible to mirroring as well (though perhaps not to the same extent as teens), and enjoy inventing their own unique looks which often reflect both modern trends as well as styles popular when they were growing up.
Lately, many fashion companies are recruiting older models. The idea is that 60-something models will inspire not only younger generations, but also older peers.
A perfect example is 64-year-old Lyn Slater, who is better known by her Instagram username, “Accidental Icon.” Due to her blog’s success, this inspiring fashion writer and model has been hired by companies such as Uniqlo for advertising campaigns. Slater proves that boomers can shape the fashion game.
This subject can lend itself to intergenerational relationships. Discuss with your teenage friend the ways fashion has changed over time. What styles do you like the most? Which are your least favorite? Which decade’s trends do you believe have had the most impact on the fashion industry?
You can also consider the impact of mirroring and the pressures to look a certain way. Together, you can work to create your own styles. Go shopping together and compile looks that are fun, glamorous and uniquely you. Don’t forget to take pictures!
Alexis Bentz is an 11th grade student at Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. She has been writing this intergenerational column for the Beacon for five years.