From Full Skirts to Mini Skirts and Back Again

Karintha Parker is a writer, blogger and kind of a lawyer, living in her native New York City. She graduated from Penn State University in 2010 (We Are!) and went on to graduate from an NYC law school in 2013, passing the New York Bar later that year. She likes books, beauty products, bottomless brunches and binge-watching Netflix. (She also really loves telling stories and writing, but she likes alliteration a little bit more.)

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It’s actually kind of a funny story. How I lost my personal style and found it again. I’ll spare you the “not-so-funny” details as best as I can.

If you ever met my father, you’d think the same thing about him as so many of my friends did upon first meeting him. “He looks like he stepped out of a 1960’s photograph.” There’s no mistaking it. From his cashmere overcoat with the fur cowl collar to his perfectly tailored suit to his wool felt fedora, he looks like he could’ve been best friends with Miles Davis or JFK. Like he developed a sense of style in 1963 and has simply worn the same clothes in rotation ever since. Not that he doesn’t have a plethora of clothing. Just all cut in his self-proclaimed style of “custom and tradition”. And it was “custom and tradition” that layered the inside of my closet for the first 18 years of my life – at least for the most part (there were, of course, the tighter tees and mini-skirts I hid in the back behind bulky winter coats and stuffed into my backpack as a change of clothes, but, in case dear ol’ dad stumbles upon this, those items do not exist).

Once I got to college, a university in the middle of Pennsylvania nearly five hours from home, I made all the fashion faux-pas that most teenagers make at fourteen. “Custom and tradition” clothing, like corduroy pants, straight leg jeans and tailored blazers, got pushed to the back in favor of the tiny bandage dresses, velour tracksuits, and cheap stilettos I bought by the bulk. I stock piled clothes like canned food, to sit in the back untouched and collecting dust just in case I needed it in the distant future or during an apocalypse. I suppose I was making up for the metaphorical starving I’d done for the first two decades of my life, bingeing on any and all fashion that I could get my hands on. I spent the first half of my college career in clothing that simply wasn’t me. I look back on photographs and wonder who that girl was in dresses that were more like tight shirts and outfits punctuated by Ugg boots (also known as the college girl uniform).

But by the time I’d graduated college, I’d learned that who I was, was a balance of the two extremes. That just because one style was chosen for me by my parents and the other chosen by my surroundings and adopted willy-nilly by me, I didn’t have to be one or the other. The classic tailored blazers and full a-line skirts could exist in the same closet with butt-hugging skinny denim and that somewhat scandalous club dress. Style isn’t mutually exclusive, barring you from wearing one thing because you happen to also love another. It’s not like sports. You can cheer for both teams, wear both jerseys, rep both sides. No one’s gonna call you out for donning a girly dress one day and a pair of Jordan sneakers the next. You can be both the princess and the wicked witch.

Although I still cringe at the old photographs of me that pop up on social media having been tagged by friends (for I surely burned all my evidence of said years), I’ve learned not be embarrassed by that time in my life. Those photographs are the trail I left behind to commemorate the process. I was searching for my style, searching for myself. You’ll search as well, during those college years. And better than that, you’ll find a few things too. Because that’s what college is for. Learning all the crap they throw at you, sure. But mostly, it’s for learning about yourself.

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