Is it hard to believe that 2020 is coming soon? Well, I am just as shocked as you are because truth is, I felt like I really came of age at the start of this decade. In all honesty, I had to say that my style changed just as our society has changed. On top of that, I also felt like the style phases I went through from high school to now had one contributor: social media.
At the start of the 2010s, I was active on Tumblr, where I fished for style inspiration. My style icon at that time was Courtney Love, whose vintage babydoll dresses, Mary-Jane shoes and tights were my jam. I wanted to imitate the grunge look so badly, but I always had to play it safe. Also, I was constantly on Polyvore, a site where aspiring stylists like myself created outfit collages on what we wanted to wear in real life. Though I kept my online life a major secret and favored my anonymity at 17, I guess that being behind a screen helped me become more confident online as I was a shy kid in high school. Heck, I was even a FAILED fashion blogger with such a super basic name: The Fashionphiliac. (cue eye roll)
Apart from Tumblr, I buried my head in magazines, where I sourced inspiration. Since it was already the beginning of online magazines, I used to read more posts on Rookie than I meditated on the Bible. Started by Tavi Gevinson, an ex-fashion blogger turned actress, Rookie was where teens and young adults poured their hearts out on DIY fashion, photoshoots, stories, etc. Since it was heavily non-conformist (like myself), I came to discover designers like Meadham Kirchhoff, whose offbeat quirkiness still influences me to this day. Because of my consumption of subculture fashion, it really pushed me to shop vintage, watch cult ’90s movies, wear non-mainstream designers and DIY my own clothes.
Though I had an expressive soul, I was still stuck inside a box, where I was pressured into being a clean cut girl. In that case, it meant no dyed hair, less bold makeup and wearing clothes that teetered towards being mom-approved. And given that I was really into indie designers like Meadham Kirchhoff at that time, I still caved into whatever was hot like the whole Balmainia trend, where girls wore sequined striped tops with shoulder pads and inky black super skinny jeans with ankle boots (pre-Rousteing). I was a girl who dreamed to express herself, but I didn’t really know how to harness that inner fashion goddess.
After I graduated high school, I moved halfway across the world to Los Angeles for college. During that first year in college, I was still clinging on to the Courtney Love aesthetic, but I started to discover cult online shops that had a strong following in LA.
The first shop that sparked my transformation was Nasty Gal. Originally a vintage boutique from eBay, Nasty Gal became a multi-label e-tailer where it stocked the cutest little dresses to Jeffrey Campbell combat boots. In fact, I accidentally discovered the store via a blog post from British fashion blogger Susie Bubble, who reviewed the store. (I met her in person and she’s such a sweetie!) From there, I started to stock up on mini dresses from lace to leopard as well as buying combat boots and garter shorts.
Another store that helped me find my look in 2012 was The Cobra Shop. Founded by photographer Mark Hunter, the store was an extension of his party photos, where teen to 20-something partygoers wore tattoo chokers, thrifted clothes and had a nonchalant attitude to whatever was hot in the mainstream. Since I was using Instagram, I followed The Cobra Shop. Like Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen, I changed my style overnight.
In addition to Nasty Gal and The Cobra Shop, another store I frequently shopped at was Reformation, which had yet to build its name as a cult brand among celebrities. During fall 2013, they had cute little dresses made out of repurposed vintage fabric, and I was obsessed with their ’60s inspired dresses.
Even though I did adore ’60s velvet babydoll dresses, that whole fixation stemmed from Etsy, where I’d scour though stores for vintage ’60s velvet babydoll dresses. I only got one vintage red velvet babydoll dress, which I found on Etsy and I often wore it from time to time. However, I barely wore it much except to keep it in my closet for dressier occasions.
For a full solid year between 2012 to 2013, I was dressed like a super trendy Tumblr girl. I felt like I successfully changed my style; however, I kinda needed an extra kick here. Since I still looked like a clean cut gal, there was person who really changed my style for the better or worse: Miley Cyrus.
Why Miley, you ask? What really did me in was when Bangerz came out during my sophomore year in college (2013), I was starting to explore myself. Desperately trying to shed my Hannah Montana image from my high school days, I cut my hair short, dyed it in crazy colors, started going for more color in my closet and developed a predilection for statement accessories/apparel.
It was no brainer that I successfully shed all instances of my former clean cut self when my parents got mad at me for dyeing my hair. To match my new radical hairdo, I also adopted sexier clothing. Here, it meant wearing semi-sheer tops that somehow showed hint of boob (see below) or pairing lingerie-style tops with something more everyday. Thank goodness I don’t have a photo of myself wearing a bustier around campus, but I really DID wear a Nasty Gal black lace bustier on its own with jeans and looking back, it was something I’d rather wear to a concert or a date.
Because I was away from my parents, it gave me extra freedom to dress however I wanted to. Since I was told to cover up my boobs, I openly defied my parents by wearing risqué clothes to embrace myself. In fact, I was just trying to learn how to love my body, but I didn’t know how to properly express myself as I was self conscious (due to being body shamed for my boobs) the entire time.
On the other end of the spectrum, I wasn’t afraid to play around with a LOT of color and print, which I had to say kicked off when Miley Cyrus was entering her Dead Petz phase in 2015. During that time, she was wearing indie designers like Mamadoux and The Candy Kids, who made raver-geared apparel and jewelry for the kids at heart. I guess that resonated with me as I wasn’t ready to leave fashion Neverland.
Like Miley, I wore face gems, tie dye, platform shoes, colored faux fur, Marina Fini jewelry , patched denim and all things iridescent. Also, part of that came into play because I was starting my career as as fashion journalist, where I’d have designers give me jewelry in exchange for press. (TBH, I still have a handful of those pieces today and it’s something I am incredibly grateful for as Marina and Reba as they are kind, kind, kind souls who REALLY inspired me to champion small businesses and designers who are trying to make it while they aren’t being backed by a major corporation or investor!)
The difference was that I’d also pair it with dad hats, pins, patches, bomber jackets or wear Western boots for a sleeker look.
While it was fun to play around with campy psychedelic elements, the prim and proper city slicker from Singapore reminded me to play it safe with elegant basics like a black biker jacket, turtleneck or fancier fabrics like jacquard.
If I needed to introduce a bit of beachy sex appeal, I’d go for naked crochet dresses from Stone Cold Fox, which I randomly discovered while shopping at a boutique in Abbot Kinney. (I haven’t bought anything from them in years, but they have GREAT lace dresses and form-fitting clothes!)
At this point, I evolved my tastes in fashion. I swapped out tattoo chokers and extremely trendy apparel from my 2012 years to going for a colorful, yet refined young lady that like to juxtapose sleek silhouettes with funkier statement jewelry/accessories/clothes. While my style still teetered in extremes (‘cuz I’m a Gemini), the one thing that never changed throughout the years was my love of boutiques and indie brands.
If I had to find something cute and trendy, but slightly wearable, I’d go for LF as they were just a 10-15 minute drive away from campus. But must I go vintage, I’d surf through The Corner Store (founded by an ex-Nasty Gal employee who is now killing it in the fashion world) on Instagram or Tunnel Vision, which is similar to Cobra Shop, but stocked with LA designers like Mamadoux or Marina Fini. The latter was something I discovered on Instagram through a very dear friend’s account since he followed it.
Footwear-wise, I still favored Docs, but I gravitated towards Miista, a London-based footwear brand that sold trendy, but classically wearable and comfortable shoes. A family friend introduced me to that line when I asked her where she got her crazy cool PVC sandals from, so that snowballed into my full-blown shoe addiction. I never forgot those times when I’d wear everything from silver Western boots to opal holographic brogues, and at one point, velvet thigh high boots!
Looking at it now, I began the decade as a girl who hopped on the trend train and in five years, I became the girl who finally marched to the beat of her own drum. Though I ended up selling or donating more than 75% of my Nasty Gal purchases, plus whatever I bought at LF and Cobrashop, I had to admit that the happy memories of the clothes I bought from that era taught me that I needed to experiment and find what really suited me. Not just what was hot, but for what I could end up wearing in the long run after I grow out of that phase.
As a 26-year-old woman in the working world, these formative years from 2010 to 2015 really taught me to look at past style mistakes as lessons and not to take fashion too seriously no matter how much an item cost or whether it was secondhand or new.