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I have a birthday tradition. It’s a weird, personal one that I haven’t shared with most people. I’m not sure when it started, but I vividly remember it on my twelfth birthday. My family was taking me out to dinner, Olive Garden that year, and my mom had gotten me this beautiful black and gold blouse. It was lace, and I paired it with a black headband. I still remember that feeling I had when I put that top on. I felt beautiful. I felt happy.

Growing up, my birthday always fell on spring break. When I turned 17, it was the first time I ever had to attend school on my birthday! I got up extra early that day to straighten my hair, put on my favorite jeans and my brand new shirt. It was a baby pink color and had intricate gold designs of elephants down the front. I walked into school like a new girl. I was confident. I was excited. I wanted everyone to be as happy as I was that day.

My tradition is having a birthday shirt.

The definition of a birthday shirt is:

A shirt that is new and worn for the first time on your birthday; a shirt bought for the intention of wearing it on your birthday

Birthday shirts make the day extra awesome

You may laugh or roll your eyes, but this simple tradition is now something I look forward to every year. I love getting excited about clothes. There is something so special about fashion. A psychological connection that humans have with clothes that I cannot explain. I have always loved my connection with it.

Being the youngest of 5 girls meant I was given a lot of hand-me-downs. When I young, I remember hating it. I did not want my older sisters’ stained jackets, out of style pants, or their torn t-shirts. I wanted the new clothes from the mall. Because in my head, in order to be fashionable, I needed name brand items off the mall racks.

Fashion is a way to express yourself

Our family shopped at the mall sometimes. Other times, we shopped at Goodwill. And other times, we “shopped” in each other’s closets. With seven kids, five of them being girls, it didn’t make sense for us to buy all of the latest fashions.  All the popular girls in my middle school were wearing Aeropostale shirts and rocking the sporty look. So, I asked my mom for those things. The next year, the “in” item was scarves. I bought dozens of scarves for my wardrobe and I wore them thin. And next came UGG boots. My mom shopped with me at a local store to get off brand shoes that looked like UGG boots, but did not have the same price tag. I just copied what everyone else was doing to the best of my ability.

High school brought a lot of change. I finally stopped wearing nice cardigans with old t-shirts (don’t ask me why I did that). I started tucking in the front part of my shirt and was called stupid. A lot. Until the next year when every model in all magazines started to do it. I stopped listening to the girls in my high school beg their dads to buy them Miss Me Jeans. And instead bought those worn jeans from Plato’s Closet that were oh-so comfy.

I learned to dress in a way that made me happy.

It finally hit me that fashion is not the clothes I wear. It is not the money I paid for my jeans. It is not changing in the bathroom at school, because some girl said your shirt was ugly.

Fashion is not something that should make you feel bad. It is not a universal “one fits all” kind of thing! Fashion is you. Without you, it is just a piece of cloth. Without you it is worth a couple of paper dollars. Without you, fashion is just clothes.

Fashion is You

But by putting you, or the models, into the clothes, we create FASHION! YOU decide what top to wear with your skirts. YOU decide if those heels are cute with those jeans. We mix, and we match, and we create styles, looks, wardrobes even!

Fashion is a universal LOVE.

We love fashion. You may not love it in the same way as Sherri Hill does. We are not all designers in that way. But you design your look. We are influenced by trends, by our environments, and by our friends. But your fashion is your own.

I love plaid!

Fashion does not have to be the million-dollar modeling industry in Paris. It is right in front of you. It is on you. It is in the choices you make at the stores. It is in the colors you wear. The walk you do when you wear your new heels for the first time. Fashion is even in that excitement to call your mom when it is time to go wedding dress shopping.

There is such a bad connotation with loving fashion. When I tell people one of my passions is fashion they sometimes laugh. I am not wealthy, and I love sweatpants more than “real” pants. Yet, I cannot explain to small minds (all bullies have small minds) why fashion is not wearing “fashionable” things. Why fashion is an idea that lives within shoppers and NOT the name on the tag.

All of the Crouch sisters LOVE Converse fashion!

So, ladies and gents, I leave you today with the reminder that you are beautiful. If you think you look good in an article of clothing, please wear it. I promise you that everyone will be looking at the smile of confidence on your face as you wear it. If you love wearing Dior, then save your money and wear it. If you love wearing your dad’s baseball cap, then wear it. Find your fashion, find your likes, and do not stress about your clothes. Because clothes are not fashion.

You are fashion.

Madison

What does your fashion look like?

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