[Written and illustrated by Ellie Struewing]
Do you ever see clothes that seem to vibrate with life, not just because of their colour or pattern but because of how they’re carried on the hips and shoulders of their human home? Do you ever walk down the street and pass someone who’s clothes look less like a carefully coordinated outfit and more like a perfectly natural extension of their radiant humanness?
There is an undeniable energy in the interaction between human and fabric. Imagine currents of electricity being sent between sparkly blue pants and a soft fleece sweater, and how that plus the unique life and form given to them by the warm skin they rest on makes them much more than just a cool outfit.
It’s one thing to wear clothes and another to truly and authentically inhabit one’s clothing. I marvel at how people can rock outfits in a way that makes it seem as though they fell into place without a second thought. How stunning is it that people can take the daily fabric in which we wrap ourselves to go out and exist in the world—something simultaneously mundane and quite significant—and make it look so beautifully…effortless.
Achieving effortlessness in style is something that is elusive and mysterious to me—what I even mean by “effortless” I’m not sure. But I do know that when I see my friend Eleanor nestled in her signature button up under a soft grey sweater, fiddling with her lava rock ring, I see it. When I watch how Patrick’s dance moves send his flowery pants and light blue scarf spinning around the room, I feel it. When I catch a glimpse of Jude walking towards me from a distance, and their baggy overalls and striped long-sleeved shirt radiate even from far away the same magic that I feel when I sing or goof off with them, I know it.
While effortlessness in fashion has elements of the literal definition of the word, to me it’s about more than seeing clothes that have a casual ease. It’s a completely subjective and personal, positive aesthetic reaction to the interaction between a person and their clothing.
Encountering styles and outfits that speak to me, whether on a stranger in the street or on my dear friends, gives me hope. It makes me feel comfortable and secure. Not because I totally understand what gives me that reaction, and certainly not because I think I’ve found a way to feel effortless in my own body and clothing yet, but because we are able to react in such raw ways to the beauty that is all around us, including the things we don’t fully understand.
Sometimes I have to ask myself whether the people whose fashion aesthetic makes my heart melt are able to touch me in some way because of how they exist in their clothes or simply because they are wearing “fashionable” clothes and also happen to be skinny, and have perfect hair, a killer jawline, and flawless skin, or some other combination of beauty standards that I and so many others are trying to unlearn as the only way to be beautiful. Rewriting and rewiring those standards is a lifelong endeavor, and the effortlessness that I am trying to describe has nothing to do with them. The beauty we give to our clothes comes not from our physical appearance, but from the beauty we project out to the world in other ways.
This idea of “effortless” fashion in the more literal sense, while tempting to idealize, is somewhat of an illusion. I constantly have to remind myself that just because people can make their looks come across as natural and easy doesn’t mean that they don’t think carefully about what they’re wearing. I often trap myself into believing that to put a certain amount of thought into what I wear makes it less authentic and too overworked—that if people can tell that I spent time on and effort on what I’m wearing, then I’m trying too hard and have failed at achieving the kind of casual style that I admire so much in others.
It has become cool not to care. To wear things that don’t fit “correctly” and cost one pound at the thrift store. But there is nothing wrong with working to find clothes that make us feel good, just as there’s nothing wrong with spending about four seconds choosing clothes in the morning. We should honor and respect the energy given to finding the clothing that feels right for who we are, right now, right here.
Nobody really knows what they’re doing, in fashion and in every other aspect of life. But letting yourself be inspired and see beauty in others and in the things you can’t understand, such as a pure emotional reaction to clothing on a person, having the confidence to make decisions about what you wear for yourself, even if you can’t quite explain why, to take fashion and clothing just as seriously or lightly as you want—I think that’s cool. Because to be effortless is to be confident, to be confident is to be okay with being uncertain, to be uncertain is to be human, and being human is a beautiful thing.