Dressing After Hours: For Beginners

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I can say with confidence that I have a defined personal style. It would be hard for me to describe it in words, as all truly personal styles are, but I can give it a try. In a sentence, my style is “A New York skater wannabe walked into Everlane and left with a love for brooding and drinking strong black coffee in dimly lit cafés.” In a few style buzzwords I guess you could describe it as “boyish, minimalist, casual.” In a color, charcoal grey, for sure. I know what I want, I like what I wear, and I feel confident with the clothing I have and how I style it. For only being 20 and being incredibly confused in almost every other aspect of my life… not bad.

That is, with my day-to-day clothes. I have no idea what to wear outside of the hours of 9-5.

I’m studying abroad in Madrid right now. And yes, I did write that sentence just so all of those reading this would know how *changed* I’m going to be after this experience, but also as context for this dilemma I’ve found myself in. While I am going to university here, the going-out experience is much difference from what I’m used to. Going out is not to frats or your friend’s dorm filled with people you already at least kind-of know. Going out is restaurants, bars, clubs, and parties in apartments with one person you know tangentially and otherwise filled with beautiful and impeccably dressed European strangers. In my first couple of weeks here, I quickly realized that my going-out clothes are disappointingly similar to what I wear on a daily basis.

To be clear, I should note that this is totally fine. Many people, especially here in Madrid, wear exactly what they wore for the duration of the day when they go to meet their friends for drinks. One of my friends here even said to me a couple nights ago, “Camille, I love that you can pull off going to a club in jeans and a t-shirt.” While I appreciated the compliment(?), it marked a need for me to grow stylistically. I really do love getting dressed. More than that, I love getting dressed up. I have so much admiration for my friends who pull out (and off) amazing looks for going out that, while distinct, fit into whatever I’ve perceived their personal style to be. I want that for myself. I just don’t know how… yet.

It’s important for us as young people starting to really experience “night-life” for the first time, to ask ourselves these kinds of questions. It’s so easy to fall into the black-skinny-jeans-and-tank-top hole when getting ready. Or, like me, you could just refuse to change at all. But those of us in search of style, who really want to develop a manner of dressing in order to feel like ourselves in whatever situation, have to stop and ask: how can I translate my point of view into my clothing? Well that’s question number 1: Style 101. We’re sophomores now, so we’ve moved on to question number 2, which is: how can I adapt this point of view to be appropriate for a variety of occasions? Specifically, night time?

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I think most glaring problem I encounter when I stare into the depths of my closet at 8pm on a Friday night is that, as I mentioned above, one of my defining style characteristics is “casual.” How can I translate casual into going out? How do I turn my wardrobe of mostly black jeans, t-shirts, and oversized sweaters into something cool, fun, and dare I say sexy for a night on the town? I know, I know, I have to go shopping. But whenever I do with the mission of finding something party-esque I pick stuff out that is identical to what I already have. Or I leave empty handed. When I’m at a store and I spot something that feels appropriate for a night at a bar or a club, my thoughts go usually along the lines of “That’s cute, but it’s for some other girl,not me.”

Of course, maybe I’m going to the wrong stores. Maybe that stuff I’m seeing on the racks really doesn’t fit my personality. But more likely, I think I just don’t know who night-time Camille is yet. I’m only 20, I can’t even drink (legally ;) ) in the US yet, so the fact that I’ve set up this expectation for myself to dress fantastically and fearlessly the first time I go to a club (legally ;) ) makes no sense. Also, do I even like going to clubs? I’ve spent a long time and a lot of money developing my day-to-day personal style up to this point. I’ve thought about what I like to wear and how I feel comfortable, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I took risks, I’ve succeeded, and I’ve failed. What I have to do now is translate that same effort into this new side of my wardrobe I’m growing. Take this little seed of tank tops and black jeans and cultivate what cool and uniquely me thing that is to come.

Camille Ramos
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