Settling into your early 20s is a long and embarrassing journey. I cannot tell you how many times I had to hide my clothes from my parents or how much I sat down in the middle of my closet, contemplating why the hell I bought clothes I wouldn’t wear today in the first place. The worst part is having to confront yourself and ask why you wasted so much money during your college years on poorly made fast fashion clothing that ain’t gonna last more than a year or let alone a trend cycle.
I had to admit that while I loved being my rebellious, expressive self, a rude awakening jolted my system when a mullet hemline tee I bought on Nasty Gal couldn’t match half the the things I had in my closet. From there, that sparked the need for me to let go of it. Ditto with my brown round John Lennon Cobrashop sunglasses, which I’ve had to let go as I realized that the product felt cheap over time. Though I liked stinging on myself when it came to the trendier products like Pixie Market’s faux suede thigh high boots, I had to sell it on Depop as it made me sprain my right ankle. (I blame lack of solid construction!) Upon realizing that cheaply made products weren’t the solution to my short term needs, the only way I could invest my money on better made products was a return to something I once ran away from: designer items.
The full circle to loving designer fashion was a therapeutic form of healing. Before I radically transformed my style, I was simply just a clean cut girl who proudly wore ballet flats, skinny jeans and designer bags. With a handful of reinventions mentioned in part one, I realized that I couldn’t run away from the glamour puss inside me, which came from my designer bag-toting mama and designer jean-loving papa. Before I rebelled, I clearly didn’t understand why my parents bought expensive clothes and accessories or why I gravitated towards them when I was a teen. Despite my liking for these items, my mom had to bar me from wearing pieces from her collection or buying anything too expensive as she felt that no child under 18 should wear them as she felt that it was reserved for adults. Thankfully, a sense of maturity walked into me when I was a couple months shy of being 23 and graduating college.
So, what really got me into going after designer stuff? Well, I remembered that I had a Chanel bag with faux pearl and leather chain strap handles that my dad gave me for my 20th birthday, which I barely wore out much. It was so beautiful and I was sad that it didn’t get much wear out of it. Even though it was my birthday gift, it was something that was waiting for me to wear it. I recalled that I wore it a handful of times, which I paired it with vintage dresses to my Miista velvet high high boots! From there, that sparked a journey to lust after designer goodies again as I realized that branded bags are forever timeless regardless of design. With the fact that there was a higher resale value for older Chanel bags, I guess that was what finally brought me to appreciate designer goods once and for all.
One night, I was surfing through The Real Real, where people sold secondhand Chanel goodies from the ’90s to ’00s. (Say what you want about its latest scandals, but it was great to me during 2015. I no longer shop there today.) At that time, I was consigning a handful of clothes there as I wanted to have enough money for myself. Since it was relatively cheaper than an upscale vintage boutique, I managed to walk out with fun new goodies! One of my earliest purchases there was a Chanel ankle purse, which came from their S/S 2008 show. It was so tiny, but an iconic novelty as it was inspired by Lindsay Lohan’s ankle monitoring bracelet. (Ha! Beat ya, Kendall! I bought it three years before she wore it!)
Then, I slowly started to collect more vintage Chanel, which ranged from a pair of suede leather pants with oversized gold buttons from S/S 1993 to a turquoise patent leather vanity purse from its S/S 1995 collection, which was sported by Naomi Campbell. Because I grew up to seeing my mom all dolled up in Chanel, it was a way for me to embrace my full circle moment and a teenage fantasy to wear the most cherished luxury brand. Being 22 at that time, it was perfectly appropriate.
From there, I started to hunt for more vintage designer goodies whether it be a Dior bow choker, Versace safety pin adorned bag or Claude Montana shorts. If I wanted something more recent like 2010, I would spend countless hours finding runway pieces like Miu Miu’s satin cat print Mary-Janes or flower printed clogs. I’d find those goodies from vintage dealers (online or at markets), Poshmark or at bazaar sales, which were hosted by my mom and her friends. Such items were material things, but emerging into that phase served a bigger chapter into my life: NYC me.
Moving to NYC was a dream for a fashion girl like me. The Empire State was where I wanted to be since my first years in college as I loathed LA at that time. Though it was hot and humid in the summer and viciously chilly in the winter, NYC was where the street became my catwalk – in the real world.
Prior to moving to NYC, I was able to get away with wearing heavy plexiglass jewelry, wear chunky chain binky chokers and dress like a stoner. Sadly, I had to reduce half my closet from LA as I felt that I couldn’t take a shit ton of clothes to NYC. Also, I was letting go of my Nasty Gal apparel, trying to make quick bucks on eBay as it was the trend to sell Nasty Gal clothes there. I also spammed LMU’s Buy & Sell Facebook group as I wanted to make a quick sale among classmates to avoid lugging so many things across state lines. Ditto with Depop, where I could get money as quickly as a can of Coke dropping from the vending machine. As a symbolic cleanse from my college girl past, I was ready to embark on the next chapter of my style journey.
With a new occupation as an intern at an art museum and a freelance journalist at Galore, I realized that practicality was key. Comfort was a major priority as I was bound to walk blocks, hop on trains and deal with unpredictable climate. Thankfully, my friends who moved there earlier than I taught me style lessons on how to dress like a New Yorker. One of the major lessons that shaped my NYC style was layering two pieces of outerwear, which I never did in LA. Another major biggie I also learned is to get a bomber jacket as its satin nylon outer was great against the cold northeastern winds. Outerwear in NYC spoke a different language there than in LA as it was the shield to the public about who I was.
Another thing I observed was that nobody wore heavy jewelry as it felt uncomfortable to walk around in after long hours. Shall XL jewelry be worn, it either had to be a pair of hoop earrings that are thin or a choker. In addition to heavy jewelry, I swapped out super tight boots in favor of chunky Fenty x Puma creeper sneakers for extra comfort. Statement shoes and heels be damned unless it was time to pull ’em out for Fashion Week. Most importantly, a designer purse was a winner as its expensive craftsmanship and luxurious leather surface were sturdier than my cotton backpacks, which were less likely to endure long hours outdoors.
After all, I frequently wore my more expensive stuff than the cheaply made stuff from my LA days as it was durable against the tough weather. Plus, my designer purchases were truly worth my money as I was able to wear them again and again without having to feel guilty of throwing them out. Regardless of what I wore, what I loved most in NYC was being able to play around with so many different looks regardless of season or mood.
Whether I was playing around in a vintage ’70s yellow prairie dress from The Corner Store, matte millenial pink Mansur Gavriel backpack or feeling super duper rock ‘n roll in a jet black PVC Tripp NYC miniskirt, I wasn’t afraid to embrace many facets of my own personality as the city itself was a melting pot of its super posh Upper East Side polish, gritty Williamsburg grunge, funky urban glam Harlem, trendy Soho babe and brash East Village punk.
Shopping-wise, I spent less time online as it was so easy to walk around the city. I’d frequently hit up The Vintage Twin, Planet X, Dusty Rose Vintage, Stella Dallas, 10 Ft Single, Hamlet’s Vintage and Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. If I had to shop online, I’d stick to Internet Girl on Depop, which was where I stumbled upon a lot of great vintage finds. If I had to scour for better priced quality vintage, I’d hit up A Current Affair, a marketplace where vendors statewide would sell their best wares. Ditto with hitting up Artists & Fleas at Williamsburg, where I managed to score a pair of vintage Levi’s flared jeans.
Compared to LA, NYC vintage was just far more better as the clothing geared towards dressier aesthetics. Heck, you can get a pass for wearing lingerie as outerwear, which I’d wear a sheer babydoll top and pair that with a turtleneck top and jeans alongside a vintage Baby Phat coat and Harley Davidson boots! Since it was easier for me to find vintage from various decades, I’d wear more than one vintage piece in one outfit for a fun flair on fashion!
However, I realized that playtime was over when I had to move back to Singapore two summers ago. I wasn’t prepared to move back to Singapore at all. In fact, I felt that the conservative approach to fashion over there made me feel stifled due to the hot and humid weather as well as its mentality for following the norm. Despite my love/hate relationship with Singapore, it was home as I spent almost all my entire childhood there.
Because of the torturous weather in Singapore, I realized that I had to purge out my closet in half. I repeated the pattern like I did in LA: I’d sell my Reformation clothes on eBay, consign my coats and heavy Harley boots for cash at Buffalo Exchange, give a handful away to my younger cousins in Florida and donate the ones that couldn’t sell to a thrift shop. Breaking up with half the clothes I wore with love was traumatic as I realized that I couldn’t wear half the things in Singapore. Had I brought all of them back, it would’ve been a hassle at the airport as I would’ve had up to six suitcases full of clothes in total!
Although moving back home made my family happy, I struggled to adjust. Style-wise, I could only wear my fun apparel to photoshoots or events like I did here:
If I had to squeeze in something for an everyday occasion, I liked to play around with color and shape as I did with this yellow on yellow combo and white Miista platform sandals.
Ha! I was even HOPPING on to the tiny sunglasses trend early when I styled it with a Stone Cold Fox jumpsuit, Dior choker and woven straw bag.
Thankfully, that journey back home also led me to another breakthrough style moment: going back to my grandmother’s house to find unworn vintage gems from my older cousins. Here, I wore a pair of chain printed jeans that used to belong to one of my cousins.
And with what you seen above, I also kept my full circle journey consistent when I wore my mom’s treasured accessories and a pair of metallic blue dVb shades (designed by Victoria Beckham for her denim line) that I used to wear back in middle school!
Rather than caving back into the basic girl of 2010, I searched for style inspiration on Instagram via @velvetcoke and @virgomood. I googled old ’90s movies to look out for inspiration, too. Listening to older music as helped me form my vision on what I wanted to wear, too.
Looking at all these outfits below, it was a healthy mix of my inspirations as well as making the most out of my mom’s closet as she basically gave away her greatest vintage gems to me and my sister.
I wish I can show photos of my mom’s style in the ’90s to early ’00s, but what I reflected in those last four photos from 2018 was her taste for prints, details and body-hugging silhouettes.
Ever-evolving, my style really went up the hill this year when I dared to experiment more with playful prints, retro footwear and campy accessories.
Among those outfits above, I realized that I was putting more emphasis on my waist. As one of the best features of my body, placing emphasis on my waist made me appreciate my own build more as it defined the look.
I also had to admit that I grew more confident in showing off my gym-toned body, so I’d wear anything that would show off my arms AND legs! If I wanted to go for something extra sexy, I wanted to show a little of skin around my boobs. (Sorry, mom and dad! :P)
Shall I choose to show off my ENTIRE figure, I’d do it with great confidence.
Below, you could clearly see that I was gunning for a schoolgirl aesthetic.
Another aspect of my style evolution this year is letting out my inner rockstar, too.
I guess that after all, my love for statement jackets, animal print, lace, hoisery, Docs, loud accessories, menswear-inspired silhouettes (or outfits) and PVC was a symbolic embrace of all my past selves coming together.
Compared to two years ago, I was daring enough to play around with prints, uniting them based on a color or theme.
Between my past and present self, the biggest lesson I learned from all my reinventions was to mix and match different pieces to manifest my own style. Irregardless of whatever a magazine or blog says, nothing is ever “in” or “out”. All you need to do is to discover the BEST version of you.