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Style Stories: Colette Barnes

Colette Barnes is a busy Chicago-area high school student with strong ideas about self-confidence and the power of positivity. Here she shares with Project Style how she feels fashion is a reflection of our innermost lives and an opportunity to express our individuality to the world, a worthwhile lesson for girls and women of all ages.

The most important thing you need to know about me is that I’m not affected by what other people think or say, especially when it comes to fashion. I like to put my outfits together in a way that inspires me to be the best version of myself that day. One of the things I do to make my outfits more interesting is reuse clothing items in unexpected ways. Think outside the box and try new things. If something doesn’t work with your outfit, find it and change it to make the perfect combination for you. One example that I love doing is taking a dress and wearing it like a skirt. I’ll put on the dress, grab a big t-shirt and put it on over the dress. Then I tie the shirt and bam! Cute skirt with a t-shirt. Sometimes I’ll wear a choker or boots with it to mix it up. Or you could put on tights or leggings underneath and wear it in the winter with a scarf.

I don’t wear what everyone else wears. In fact, I purposely avoid wearing outfits I know everyone else is going to wear. If someone else is wearing something cool or out of the norm, I applaud them and tell them that I love what they are wearing. Even if it’s not something that I would wear personally, I compliment them because I know not everyone is dressing for themselves.

What you put into the world comes back to you. If I give out compliments, chances are that same day, I get compliments back. On the days I received positive feedback from peers, I felt like I did better in class. I felt more confident, and it was great for my self esteem. I want others to feel how I feel when I get compliments, so I give them out regularly. I compliment the people who dress for themselves. Don’t you think it would be easier to give them if everyone dressed for themselves? Wouldn’t it be awesome if I gave a compliment to you and you gave one to me and the person next to you and they gave one to someone else? I can’t speak for other people, but I think the entire school environment would shift dramatically.

But the truth, is the majority of students are dressing to fit stereotypes others place on them. Labels like Geek, Outcast, Athletic, Easy, Cool Kid. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone dressed in an outfit that was completely and utterly themselves without feeling like they had to fit someone else’s expectations? Imagine a world where every girl broke the mold, the norm, the stereotypes thrown at them. Lots of people have a choice to dress however they want, but they’re too afraid. What will others say? Will they judge me? Will my friends find other friends?

First of all, if you are asking these questions, you are giving other people the power to control you and your actions. Second, there are always going to be people who judge you, but the truth is they are probably jealous that you had the courage to break the mold and they don’t. Third, if you think your friends won’t like you anymore after you express yourself, they aren’t your friends. And finally, there are a lot of girls who don’t have the opportunity to make that choice to dress their own way and be who they want. So if you have the choice, you should not waste it. Life is short, and the sooner you stop caring what other people think, the better your life will be. Part of the problem is there aren’t enough examples in our everyday life or people we can look up to who dress for themselves. That’s why I encourage you to become an example. Become a role model. Become an inspiration.

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