Imitating department store mannequins may seem like the easy route into becoming fashionable

Wandering through your local department store, you see the limber sculptures of white plastic mannequins poised on every raised surface. They appraise you with hollow eyes, almost in judgement, as immaculately-crafted outfits hang off their bodies. “This is fashion,” they seem to proclaim. And the thought worms into your head — if I buy this same outfit, I too will be ‘fashion’.

Long, limber, luxurious models cruise the runways in the season’s latest offerings. You watch, you project those outfits onto yourself, and perhaps you go out and buy one. You put it on. Now, you are a model. You are fashion.

“Fashion does not mean ‘follower’”

But as winter melts into spring and spring blooms into summer, the trend of quilted skirts morphs into denim on denim and that soon morphs into big leather jackets. Never static, always constant. The changing seasons seem to be driven by mysterious forces beyond one’s understanding. You glance at your clothes which are no longer all the rage, and you feel your sense of self begin to dissipate. Who will I be now?

You look to the mannequins and the models to tell you what to wear next. It’s a miserable existence. Bending to the will of these mysterious forces. Except — they’re not all that mysterious. The mastermind designers who set out to put their vision into the world, waiting to see how the fashion world will receive their creations, they are the ones who craft the seasons. The ones who clothe the models that adorn the runways; the ones who clothe the mannequins that remain poised in shop windows, shop floors, display counters. They decide what’s fashionable. Setting trends, that is what it means to be ‘fashion’. Fashion does not mean ‘follower’. Great designers are not made through mimicry and impersonation, but ingenuity. To break free of the mould, you must become your own designer.

“The key rule about fashion, and possibly the most liberating, is that there are no rules”

But how? It was easy when the clothes were on the mannequin. You didn’t have to worry about shoes, trousers, shirt, jacket — that was all handled for you. Even down to the accessories. Now, you stare at a garment as mundane as a plain blue jumper and believe it to be limiting because it’s just a garment — not a readily-crafted outfit. Limiting. It is anything but! Restricting yourself to the thought of a set outfit is what is truly limiting. The doors open and horizons expand when you allow yourself to forget about outfits and think in garments. Each garment is a puzzle piece that can be twisted and turned, rearranged and reassembled, reshaped to belong in more than one puzzle. The mannequins, the models — they act as guides rather than dictators, providing input on how a garment could be styled within an outfit without necessarily positioning themselves as the definitive guide.

That blue jumper. You could pair it with a pair of cool orange trousers, drape your neck in a thick lilac scarf to protect it from the elements. You could wear a red, ankle-length skirt with bright yellow shoes peeking out from underneath. A bold flash of brilliance. That blue jumper can be bunched at the shoulders, paired with a sleeveless denim jacket. It can be cut up. It can be tailored, oversized, distressed. The possibilities are endless . You see a blue jumper and see a blue jumper where you should see a wealth of endless opportunities. Fashion is about boundless creativity; fashion is about pushing the envelope. Never stopping, only progressing. It is the canvas where we display our individuality — how can one do that while mimicking a lifeless mannequin that is only a reflection of another person’s vision?


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The key rule about fashion, and possibly the most liberating, is that there are no rules. Anything and everything is on the table. Once upon a time, it was seen as ridiculous to wear a corset over a regular outfit. The originator of the trend was ridiculed to no end on Twitter. Now? It’s a regular sight amongst fashion enthusiasts. Denim on denim was once seen as a faux pas — now, it can be found with relative ease on the runways. All this to say: whatever rules you think there are? You can break them. It is creativity that grants vision, and no-one ever became a successful creator by following the rules, right? Hit up your local charity shops. Assemble an army of garments you wouldn’t usually wear. Wear them. Experiment. Allow yourself to see yourself in ways that previously felt inaccessible to you. With every clumsy attempt, you will come closer to your true self. And it is then that you will become your own model, your own designer.

That said… maybe the shirt that mannequin is wearing is kinda cute. Just a little.