Phase. It is a word most of us physically cringe at. The word brings back memories of middle school or high school, when we tried to dress cooler than we actually were. I am here to tell you that “the phase” is not something to fear, but to love. Sure, that time in anyone's life is embarrassing and awkward but, it has importance. The phase is us playing dress up. Instead of fairy princesses or cowboys, we are playing our idealized self. It should also be noted that a phase does not contain itself to our youth. As people we are always growing, meaning the perceptions of ourselves change too. Whether it's how you view yourself at a new life stage or changing your look to fit a new job or city.
Let me use myself as an example. I have gone through many phases in my short 23 years of life but, each has taught me something about myself. I can remember my first real phase happened when I was around twelve. It was what I call the “Hippy Dippy” phase. I wore all sorts of crazy colors, patterns and about every single piece of jewelry I could find. There is even a school photo of me with my hair wrapped that I refused to cut after my trip to Florida. At this stage of life, I was INCREDIBLY AWKWARD. I didn't know how to do my hair; I went from flat chested to a C-cup in what seemed like a matter of days, and frankly I wasn't comfortable with myself.
This is the height of my “Hippy Dippy” days. While beautifully shot, the photo screams “I WANT TO BE A WOOD NYMPH!!!”
That is what drew me to this style. Anyone I had seen or known to adopt this style just seemed so comfortable and confident in themselves. I wanted that so badly for myself. But, my 12-year old brain made the improper assumption that it was the style itself that caused this confidence not a deep understanding of self. Sadly, this took a few years to understand, and I wouldn't drop this phase until I hit the next big one at 14: “Vintage”.
The visual definition of a manic pixie dream girl.
Why, was I ever a red head?
If it was a piece of clothing that looked like it had stepped out of a film shot in cinemascope, I would buy it in a heartbeat. This phase was more logical than my last one however. At this stage of my journey, I had just begun to attend a private Christian school in Michigan with a strict dress code and I was much curvier than the average 14-year old. This style fit my body type much better and ensured that I wasn't breaking dress code. The problem once again is that I took it to the extreme. I wore intense heels and make up almost daily (neither which was probably best for me). So much so that on the first day of school I was mistaken by students and staff alike as the new substitute.
The better of my vintage days
This became my calling card in high school, but as I got older the intense upkeep became too much. This foray into the old fashioned however sparked a passion in me. That passion was history. I loved learning about the designers and people who had worn my clothes, discovering why the material, cut, or color had been chosen and how it reflected the time. I spent hours researching pieces and loved that such an innocuous little brooch could say so much. I became very good at finding discoveries and making connections to a larger picture, so good that I actually graduated college with a degree in history.
Since then, I have bounced around between phases and styles but, I always seem to fall back on my Hippy Dippy and Vintage days, just modified. I love the vintage cuts because they flatter me and a person can never go wrong with a clean-cut look. But, I don't try so hard. I prefer the relaxed sensibilities of my hippy days. I wear bright colors, lots of jewelry (but not too much...), and my natural hair all wild and free.
Style, like life, is a journey and we can't always see where things are going when we are in the moment. The best metaphor I can make for the style phase actually comes from Parks and Rec. In the episode "The Camel" the Parks and Rec department are tasked with creating a new mural for city hall (the old one is hilariously bad). Each member has their own interpretation. Gary Gergich, the resident klutz and laughing stock, presents a photo of city hall. The rest of the team finds this idea pointless and silly. In an aside however, it is revealed that it’s not just a photo, but a sweet pointillist piece and every point is a smaller photo of a citizen of Pawnee. Like Gary's mural, “The Phase” is simply a point in the grander picture of one's life and style. It may not be so great in the moment, but eventually reveals the beautiful picture of self. So, enjoy the phase because you might learn something interesting about your true self.