Until recently, I have been in denial about my love for fashion. Thinking about this inevitable truth, I had to reflect back to my childhood to figure out how it all began. I want to share this story with you and show you some of my favorite pieces while I’m at it.
This is the first floral maxi dress that I purchased. I think it was from a thrift store in Portland. I love pairing it with the floppy straw hat. Last spring, I wore this look a lot because it was the only dress like it that I owned. That has changed.
This is a recent purchase and one of my favorite pieces that I own. I like to pair it with different crop tops. I usually get more intricate with the pattern clash, for example a striped shirt mixed with floral. The hat reminds me of Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Women.
I have come to believe that I fell in love with dress up when I was a little girl living in South Africa. There was a time when I lived with my Ouma (grandmother in Afrikaans), and I remember her attic was filled with dresses and fur coats. To escape the reality of my life back then, I would play dress up and be wherever and whoever I wanted. I was usually a princess that was determined to save my stuffed animals from whatever danger they were in.
I get joy from making people smile. The red shirt above allowed me to make someone smile, and I made a new friend. She was so excited to tell me that my shirt reminded her of Madeline. I love the country look of these shirts. They’re like the dresses I enjoy but a “shirt version.”
After immigrating to the United States, I would wear whatever my parents could afford, and personal style wasn’t a priority. Lucky for me, my mother and I are drawn to bright colors, so it wasn’t too hard to convince her to buy me a few pieces that I loved. Once middle school hit, I didn’t want to wear anything that wasn’t Abercrombie or Hollister, however there was a slight problem. I couldn’t afford the name brands that I needed to wear to fit in with the cool kids. This is when I discovered thrift stores.
I love the dress above. If you look at the dress closely, you can see people in the yellow parts of the pattern. I didn’t notice this until after I bought it. The fanny packs are two of my favorite finds. I don’t like carrying large bags with me, so these hands free options are a necessity.
I could use my allowance to buy the clothing I wanted at affordable prices. This continued into high school, and by then, I had developed a personal style. I think everyone who cares about personal style can remember the time and place where they realized that they loved clothing.
At first, I thought it was in 8th grade. I had to reflect on why I was the only one of my friends who still played Barbies. Barbies intrigued me for so long and they still do. I would dress them in many different styles. You could style and then restyle their home, their look and even who they were.
This skirt was my sister’s when she was in elementary school. It was for a play or something along those lines. I found it in our dress up box and added it to my collection. The shirt was a left over from an ex-boyfriend. I cut it, and now it’s one of my favorite crop tops.
When it all came together for me was in high school. I was watching National Geographic. I remember there was a piece on this peculiar little bird. This bird had wings with a pattern that looked like eyeballs. It would spread its wings and jump around like mad in search of a mate. I got introspective about this bird and its feathers and self-representation. I decided that humans were like that silly bird. We choose what colors our feathers are and then do our own version of parading around to find friends and potentially a mate.
This dress is so comfortable. The long sleeves make it work for winter as well as spring.
I owned a similar sunflower dress when I was a little girl. When I found it at a thrift store, I wasn’t planning on buying anything. Nostalgia impaired my judgment, and I’m glad it did. This dress brightens my day.
I love polka dots.
To this day, I spend a few hours at least once a week in thrift stores finding my feathers. I’m at a stage in life where I find modesty to be beautiful and mysterious. I love long floral dresses because they reflect the climate and scenery that I long to return to. I’m cold a lot of the time because I live in Oregon. But maybe one day I will have the courage to move to southern California or back to South Africa. For now, I appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and stare in awe at the scenery around me. I allow my style to continue to develop and adapt to the climate that I live in.
I own gowns that I will never wear out of my house. I sleep in delicate lace even if I’m the only one who gets to see it. I swim with a mermaid tail at the pool because I want to. My wish for others is to have the courage to wear what makes them truly happy. Self-expression is vital for personal happiness. I admire those who have found the confidence to explore their own style, even if it’s just yoga pants and tennis shoes. Be comfortable in your skin. Feel beautiful inside and out, and you will make yourself and others happier. Discover what feathers you want to flaunt then fly away, and be free my friends. I believe in you.
WRITTEN BY NATASHA PITZER, @NATASHAPITZER
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HANNAH STEINKOPF-FRANK, @HSTEINKOPFFRANK