Instagram user SusieBubble — a longtime stellar example of this fashion ethos.
1) Care About What You Wear — Just Don't Worry About It
Like many of us, I have been galvanized anew by the current political and cultural climate. When it seems like everything is falling apart around us, feeling joy can be defiant. When sexism and racism and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment seem determined to squelch all the joy out of free expression, expressing ourselves freely becomes more urgent than ever. And you know who's really good at expressing themselves freely and without one iota of shame? Any given 5-year-old, that's who.
This is why I stopped waiting to cut my hair into a platinum pixie, afraid it might read as too aggressive or too unprofessional or too masculine. I no longer fret about misinterpreting the "upscale business casual" dress code on that event invite and just wear whatever feels right. (I haven't been turned away at a door yet!) I'm done obsessing over finding the downright perfect outfit for New Year's Eve, at any level of violence to my bank account, when I can more easily rediscover something I truly love already in my closet.
When getting dressed starts to feel like a hassle or a point of stress, just remember being in pre-k. Channel that thrill you felt when you went to a friend's house and opened the lid to their dress-up box for the very first time: a world of possibility, yours for the making. Clothes should be fun and exciting and freeing, not anxiety producing.
2) Throw Off Gender Conventions
As a little girl, I loved a frilly, feminine tutu moment . . . just as much as I loved wearing my dad's old Cub Scout uniform shirt, which was covered in patches and had a jaunty bandana at the neck.
I'm not saying young kids are immune to our culture's gendered approach to every goddamned thing. But they are less likely to understand the ramifications of bending those gendered rules, which means they're more likely to have fun breaking them. Be more like that and an entire wave of style opportunity will rise to meet you.
For example: I recently met up with my running coach, Blue, who was wearing an insanely cool pair of Nike track pants. "I want those," I said. "I wonder if they come in a women's version." Blue looked at me quizzically for a second. "Who cares?" he said (not in a dick-ish way, but in an actually perplexed way). Emboldened, and also kind of embarrassed at being so basic about the whole thing, I shopped both the men's and women's sections of ASOS that afternoon and uncovered at least three long-sleeved t-shirts I both had to have and never would have uncovered if I hadn't just ignored these silly and divisive categories.
3) Approach Getting Dressed as a Chance to Play Dress Up
My friend Olivia is an expert at applying this maxim. On any given day, she may be channeling a wealthy New England widow who's waiting for her cabana boy to bring her a G-and-T or a pottery teacher in Sedona who's running late to her aerobics class. And she will declare as much when you meet her for lunch. (As you can imagine, the associated outfits are fabulous.)
I'm not saying your sense of style should be put on or fake, by any means — Olivia's never is. I am saying this approach makes putting together an outfit infinitely more fun, successful, and innately childlike. For example, when I was in kindergarten, I won a contest to greet Miss Teen USA at the airport in my hometown of El Paso. I vividly remember the story in the local newspaper about my illustrious honor, which featured a photo of the teen beauty queen coasting down the street on a skateboard in high-waisted, acid-washed shorts and a pair of white leather cowboy boots, her shellacked bangs immovable in the wind. In that moment, I knew she was the f*cking coolest. Kelly Kapowski's bangs paled in comparison. Debbie Gibson could never.
Not long after, I was shopping with my mom at Mervyn's when I came across a pair of pink cowboy boots, replete with not just a leather tassel but a f*cking glitter-festooned lightning bolt on each side. In hindsight, it's obvious that my style icons drew me to them: there was that teen beauty queen, but also the cartoon rock star I idolized, Jem, and the chic women in cowboy boots and saran-wrap tight jeans who populated my mom's social circle. When I wore those powder-pink boots, I stood taller — literally, because the boots had a half-inch heel, but also because I became a character: someone mostly me, just with a little extra something.