The musings of a 22-year-old on what defines fashion for her

At 19, I looked a lot like Dora the Explorer. This was largely because I’d let a friend chop off a large chunk of my hair over a sink, in an effort to save money. Also, I’d discovered boot cut jeans in the 90s and hadn’t made any other fashionable discoveries since! I wore sport shoes to match my kurtas and carried a backpack to match my sport shoes. So, like I said, I was the girl who looked like Dora the Explorer.

When the size zero fad kicked in, everyone wanted to get on board, lose weight and wear the right outfits to show off their toned bodies. I just wanted to eat potato chips. I liked French fries too, but only when there was mayonnaise to go with it because ketchup just didn’t have the calorie content to make my taste buds tingle.

My waistline has always had its own growth and expansion strategy, making the purchase of all denim products a long and tedious process. So the discovery of skinny jeans proved quite futile because I had nothing skinny to fit into them. I was out of shape and out of fashion and decidedly unconcerned.

In 2011, when The Dirty Picture hit the screens, Vidya Balan’s curves set a new trend that I became a part of without meaning to. Overnight, flab had become fabulous and I was now allowed to have my cake and eat it too, perhaps even take a piece from someone else.

When the answer to what is hot and what is not changes so often, I realised that being fashionable is not just about being part of a trend or choosing to reject one. While we struggle to fit in and stay thin, we forget the importance of standing out and fashioning a look that is unique to us.

To look too generic is to fall through the cracks and that is something that women like Usha Uthup have made evident. Big voice, big personality and big bindi with a bunch of jasmine in her hair, and draped in gorgeous Kanjeevaram silk saris, Usha Uthup has looked refreshingly unique for close to five decades now. She has looked past mainstream fashion trends and created her own distinctive style statement that has broken myths about how a jazz singer is expected to dress.

At 22, I understand that I have the choice to decide what sort of person I want to be and how to show that off to the world. My personal style, I’ve realised, is not just about what I wear and how I look, it is also about who I am. This includes deciding how seriously I take fashion trends and how much I choose to ape fashion icons. It also includes accepting that when it comes to potato chips, I am never going to be able to eat just one.