November 3, 2015

Smile for the Camera

Yesterday night, Essena O’Neill became the latest viral topic. O’Neill is a teenage Australian Instagram star who decided to break past her façade and quit social media. After years of obsessing over 'like's on her flawless candid shots - and feeling the pressure of making those very candid shots flawless - O'Neill finally cracked under her lack of authenticity. To her fans, she appeared to live the perfect life. She had corporate sponsorships and modelling gigs, and as far as her social media made it seem, she lived a gloriously happy life. But in reality, O'Neill was far from happy. Her life on social media was a careful construct of lies and deceit. She felt addicted and consumed. She had lost a sense of her self.

And so, O'Neill quit social media. She deleted a large portion of her online presence and edited her Instagram captions to reveal the true behind-the-scenes of her life. She could very well be jeopardizing her social media career, but there's a more fulfilling life to be gained in exchange.

I have most certainly been victim to letting the shiny veneer of Instagram get to me. I've spent more time than I would like to admit scrolling through Instagram accounts of girls who appear to have it all. Girls with enviable wardrobes, fantastic bodies, photogenic visages, incredible photography skills, glowing confidence, and of course, a seemingly glamorous life. These are the kind of girls I look at and think, she is more fashionable than me, she is more successful than me...she is better than me.

I had written last year about the moment it finally hit me how fabricated glamour and perfection really were in fashion editorials, but Instagram is a different monster to tackle. The thing with Instagram is that it is a platform for everyone. It is not an elite, industry publication, but rather a platform for the 'everyday' girl. We all know deep down that comparing ourselves to media portrayals of women is futile, but when it's a girl you know from school staring back at you with her pearly whites, expensive dress, and long lean legs, the feeling of inadequacy becomes more real. I see them in the hallway and I wonder how it is they live such a 'perfect' life, whereas I end up in my sweatpants, alone in front of my laptop, slaving over homework - day in, day out. What part of my life did I not work hard enough in to stray so far from the path of my peers?

But O'Neill is a noble reminder that things are not always what they seem. Even our peers smile for the camera and put on a face for show. The type of perfection Instagram is characterized by is not innate; no one truly lives like that. A mere collection of photos does not, and cannot, represent all the intricacies of someone's life - and so I shouldn't let Instagram fool me into thinking that it does.

Although let me admit I am not entirely pure. I, too, post photos on my Facebook page that attempt to paint my life as more stylized than it really is. Of course, a significant part of why I do so is simply wanting to share my excitement with others, but another part of me does feel the pressure to validate myself as a "fashion person". Yet hopefully, I keep it real often enough to remind all of you that I'm honestly just your average girl. I'm not a model; sometimes I pose awkwardly. I'm not a photographer; sometimes my photos are blurry. I'm not wealthy; sometimes my clothes are boring. My photos aren't professional enough to land me a sponsorship, but that's just fine. This is who I am, and while lives on Instagram do indeed appear quite pretty, I know I can find happiness on my own terms.

Edit: O'Neill has deleted her Instagram account

Image Source: Photo 1, 2

November 1, 2015

Campus Collective

Now that I've been back on university campus for two months, there are some very definitive trends that have arisen. In fact, spend just one day walking around campus, and you'll have acquired a full trend report by the end of it. This is where trends become amplified, and we sometimes spin inexorably towards a campus of carbon copies. Nonetheless, below are some trends I observed during September and early October. Entering the meat of autumn, new trends have already begun popping up (I've already seen four UGG boots on campus...why do people continue to wear boots that resemble loaves of bread?), so let's get started!

Ripped Jeans

Ripped jeans were cool when we were angsty teenagers, and now they're back for the grown up stylish set. There are two versions of this trend: boyfriend jeans with tears along the leg, or skinnies with rips across the knees. If you ask me, I prefer the former because the sight of two bare kneecaps can sometimes chop up the flow of an outfit. Plus it's not particularly flattering when one has to sit and one's bent knees cause the seemingly narrow rips to become gaping holes. But while ripped jeans generally elicit cries of confusion from people who don't understand the concept of buying ruined jeans - you know what, I get it. These aren't just any ol' rips. These rips don't resemble regular wear and tear because they are consciously created as part of the design. I call it "strategically ripped" (a phrase to which a guy friend of mine looks at me like I'm insane and cackles in dismay at the state of the world). But regardless, these rips are done just so and placed just so to make it a visual statement rather than a sign of sloppiness.

Blanket Scarves

So forget about tying a button-up shirt around your waist, the trendy thing to do this season is drape a scarf across your shoulders. Instead of a shirt flapping nonchalantly against your hip, now it's all about the dynamic movements of a scarf fluttering in your wake. I'm pretty sure this is a remnant of Burberry Fall/Winter 2014 (those blanket shawls!) finally catching on among the younger crowd. I do enjoy this trend, though. Its ease and oversized stature are really hitting the current cultural mood: cool and carefree. I can attest this trend is definitely worth a try; I felt amazing when I tried it out earlier this summer. Although, as a word of warning, if you are using a scarf as a poncho, it can sometimes be difficult to keep the scarf in place and arm movements can be limited. But hey, you only need a still shot for your Instagram anyway.


This was not a trend I had at all anticipated, but here it is, materializing before my very eyes on campus. I knew sneakers were all the rage over the summer, and I had expected to see more rubber pounding the pavement, but instead, girls are taking the comfort trend in another direction: Sperrys. In all honesty, I haven't seen Sperrys cropping up in any street style photos (or elsewhere, for that matter), so I'm guessing this is simply localized within the campus crowd. Coincidentally, just this summer, I discovered my grandmother's pair of old cognac leather loafers in the basement. I've been giving those loafers a second life, and although they are a great way to add colour and texture to an outfit, they can sometimes be too chunky and casual to do some outfits justice.

Thigh-High Socks

Admittedly I haven't seen this look happening too often on campus, but because of its complexity, it's worth a mention. The mini skirt - thigh-high socks - ankle boots combo. It's a look that can be cute, sexy and indie all at the same time, but it requires many parts of the equation to align flawlessly in order to work. Frankly, there are certain leg shapes that will pull this off better (ie. long and lean), and you have to be comfortable wearing a short skirt because you'll need to ensure you show off enough skin to achieve the look (tip: go with a romper!). Shoes can be heeled or flat, but generally look best when they hit the ankle bone or slightly above, and fit snugly around the ankle. Socks should be of thicker material and not look to be pinching your thighs. But despite these guidelines, the look can be quite hit or miss; sometimes girls look great in it, sometimes the outfit looks choppy and awkward.

Bodycon/Ribbed Dress

I have an inkling this trend was inspired by Kim Kardashian and her curve-hugging dresses, although, bodycon dresses have been around for years; what makes them so special this year? One, the fabric. The latest bodycon dresses are often done in ribbed fabric or thin material (quite unforgiving!). Two, the colour. For some reason, grey is the go-to shade. A Google Image search of simply "ribbed dress" will give you almost two entire rows of grey dresses. Perhaps people are drawn to its casual yet steely vibe, or grey just so happens to be a great neutral for pairing with other pieces. Three, the neckline. Necklines that cut in like a halter with two spaghetti straps are quite popular, and even if they don't cut in, the dress is at least sleeveless. I am personally not a fan of this neckline on myself because I don't like how my shoulders and marshmallow-soft upper arms look in it, but all the more power to girls who rock it. Last but not least, the hemline. I suppose to combat the seductiveness of va-va-voom curves, the latest bodycon dresses tend to hit at the knees or below. A surprising move to modesty, but I'd say it's a good design decision to keep this trend just the right amount of classy.

Image Source: Jeans,Scarf, Sperry, Socks, Dress