Fashion is subjective, so why are we pretending it’s anything but?

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James Emmerman

Clara, aka tinyjewishgirl, for PAPER magazine rocking glitter, pink, and a funky hairstyle.

During my family’s semi-annual Boston trip of my freshman year, I can vividly recollect stepping through the doors of a Free People for the first time.

Perusing the indie and often campy racks, I let my eyes absorb the vivacity of it all. Through the rotating door of family members that arrived on the scene to shop alongside me, I reveled in every second, trying on each item I possibly could.

And finally—after what felt like an eternity spent within that small storefront—I found the article that would act as the centerpiece to my fresh high school wardrobe: a flaming red floral jumpsuit.

With my mother by my side, I protested, begging her to spend the probably overpriced check so that I could bring this newfound piece home. Nevertheless, she refused. Parting ways with my beloved jumpsuit, I can recall the way my aunt and sister both reassured me, reminding me that I could always ask for it for my birthday.

And, surprising no one but myself, I received it on a June day that would entirely redefine who I was to become.

Anyone that knew me during my first semester as a sophomore can attest to how frequently I donned this purchase. It became a sort of fall-back piece for me—something in my closet that would never fail me, no matter what turtleneck or accessory I paired it with.

@tinyjewishgirl on Instagram

Yet, most of all, that bright crimson fabric patterned in pink and yellow dewdrops made me feel so candidly like myself. In my jumpsuit, I had no concern for the way the world perceived me—my then too tall height became just another framed canvas on the wall, my features something to adore and take pride in.

I still possess this article of clothing—letting it find a home in my mother’s closet—yet I find I rarely reach for it when I need a little boost in confidence. In the short span of nearly two years, my fashion sense has ebbed and flowed dramatically, and it is in bittersweet humility that I say that we two have outgrown one another.

Admittedly, my grasp on the pure identity provided in those first few years of high school has faded with each day that passes. I cannot quite pinpoint how wearing rococo floral blouses and jeans every day used to make me feel so alive, yet I find that distancing from that part of myself has become more than half the battle.

All of this—like a nostalgic afterthought—echoed through my brain one night as I scrounged an outfit together for the following school day.

Browsing the indefinite pile of cliche grandma clothing that fills my closet, I finally discovered a combination of items that intrigued me: my Homecoming dress, layered in cross-stitch tights and a velvet and sheer mesh top.

She is—in her essence—precisely what I wish I were.”

Trying it on and promptly calling someone, I stared, judging myself in the tiny FaceTime reflection, questioning my victim consistently as to whether or not this amalgamation worked.

After they badgered me repeatedly that it was indeed cute, I hung up. Soon, I sat in a shallow pool of worries for the next hour as to whether or not this possible outfit was too eccentric.

That same evening, as I lay restlessly awake alongside my dreaded outfit, I was reminded of Clara—tinyjewishgirl on TikTok.

Having made a splash onto the fashion scene due to her highly subjective fit checks, Clara captivated me from the beginning. Her personal style is the epitome of eclectic, combing early 2000s pieces with works of fabric artistry that simultaneously contrast yet collide effortlessly.

@tinyjewishgirl on Instagram

Most of all, everything she puts on her body feels playful, authentic, and particular to who she is. Remaining mostly unbothered, Clara inhabits a realm of utter integrity, highlighting fashion’s abstract and often instinctive nature.

She is—in her essence—precisely what I wish I were.

Yet, after scrolling up and down both her TikTok and Instagram that night, I decided that I can be like her. It will take time and effort to quiet the voices in my head telling me I’m making too bold of choices. It will take actually wearing the dud outfits I try on late at night and experiencing the way they make me feel in the real world.

However, if I genuinely cherish the way I look, that is more than half the battle. Clara taught me that.

The subjectivity of fashion is hotly debated, a characteristic that is often the best part. Much of internet culture revolves around judging and questioning the motives of the unknown individuals we encounter, but what is most important is to keep in mind that—if they are seemingly thriving—that is all that matters.

That is why color and clothing exist—to tap into that part of our soul left entirely untouched, the same part that leaps and spins each time we find something we adore.