Flipping through old photo albums of me as a kid, I have to say that if I didn't know how I was going to turn out, I would have pegged myself as the type to be something of a diva.
Ha. Somebody enjoyed her sparkle.
As a kid, I certainly had an internally defined sense of style. Looking back now, I'm not quite sure what was going on in half those photos, but at the time, I know that at the time I had a very strong feeling for what I liked and how I wanted to put my outfits together. My mom once told me that she was jealous of other mothers because they could shop for all sorts of fun outfits for their daughters, but that I, strong-willed little brat that I was, stopped wholesale accepting her choices at about 5. So we shopped together and she pretty much gave me free reign over my outfits each morning.
I remember, once, before a family picnic in kindergarten, I had a sudden flash of inspiration to wear every single barrette that I owned. My long-suffering mother patiently clipped all 25 or 30 barrettes into my short hair, including the 3 pairs that had little bells in them so that they jingled softly when I walked. You can imagine the effect as I trotted down the halls of my school towards the picnic. I remember running into a woman, probably a mother or a teacher, who took one look at me and let out a long, drawling, "Oh MY." I was so proud that I grinned happily and continued on my way.
Of course, looking back now, I doubt that her response connoted the approval and admiration that my 5-year old self perceived at that time. Luckily, I was too pleased with my latest fashion brainwave, too oblivious to social cues, to pick up on any subtext in her comment.
The other thing I notice about these photos is how, in many ways, my overall aesthetic has not changed very much from 6 to 26, in the same way that my overall writing style has changed very little from that 20-plus page aborted novel I rediscovered, penned at the tender age of 8, on a floppy disc my dad found one day while cleaning out. I still really like mixing prints and wearing a lot of color, I still like layering, I still love accessories. Some people like statement pieces or simple lines or whatnot, but apparently I have always been a mix-and-match girl, where the fun lies more in how well garments play with each other, rather than how a single garment stands out on its own.
I think that we're all born with an innate aesthetic sense. We know what we like and what we don't like. But as we get older and become more aware of social conventions around style or art or color theory, and our world becomes so filled with fashion magazines blaring the latest trends and "it" items and "hot new looks" and "how to get the look for less," it becomes easier to ignore that voice inside us in favor of "expert" opinions. This applies to so many aspects of our lives, like how our younger selves often knew what we wanted to be when we grew up, before we learned to listen to conventional wisdom regarding careers instead of to our inner child.
Of course there are some advantages to heeding conventional wisdom, but I really do believe that guidelines are only meant to be signposts that facilitate our journey towards the person we are meant to be, rather than absolute rules that tell us what direction to travel in the first place. Maybe personal style isn't meant to be found but rather to be rediscovered. Even as it grows and changes with us, there will be an underlying theme that ties together the different periods in your life, because you are the curator, the buyer, the model, the artist. And that theme, my dears, is your personal aesthetic.