What did I learn on my dressing style journey from casual to the fashion wear?

On my second week in Cancun, I found a photo studio hiring wedding photographers. I was super excited because almost immediately, they offered me to assist one of their leading photographers on the upcoming wedding in a five-star all-inclusive resort. On the wedding day, I arrived at the resort 30 minutes prior, and the photographer, Alex, met me at the entrance. He was super friendly, explained to me a wedding day’s schedule, and we were about to walk to the wedding ceremony location when he asked me: “Do you have a more official outfit?” I was surprised by the question, but Alex looked even more surprised when I answered: “No, nobody in the studio mentioned it, and I thought since it’s a beach wedding and I will be just your assistant, I can wear a casual outfit” (which consisted of black short shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt). He explained: “The hotel has a dress code for a wedding, so everyone who works on this event should wear black pants and a white shirt.” I didn’t have time to go back home to change my outfit, so I left the hotel. I didn’t take photos on that day, but I got a clothing lesson – dress according to the event, no matter how beach-vacation style is the environment. 

Two photos to illustrate clothes I used on that day. The photo on the left – is a blue sleeveless T-shirt, and on the right photo is black short shorts.

Back then, I was in a role of a “backpacker” that arrived in Cancun with a one-way ticket, one suitcase, and a camera. And I dressed according to how I felt instead of dressing for the job I wanted. The beach ambiance dictated how to dress, and I was too distracted to focus on the official side of the wedding event. I was an experienced photographer then, so I should have thought about the dress code. But that year, big changes in my life happened so fast that I couldn’t restructure my thoughts to fit the new reality, where I was invited to be an assistant at a destination wedding.   

It takes 7 seconds to form a first impression, and how you look and dress is an active element in that process. Your hairstyle, makeup, clothes, and body movements are non-verbal clues that transmit a message about how you feel about yourself and give them a hint about your life’s values. 

I guess the message I was transmitting on the wedding day was: “I am a backpacker with a camera, just landed in Cancun and came straight to the beach.” For Alex or another random person, it would be difficult to believe that I have a Master’s degree in Art, several years of photography experience, and I take my job seriously because my dressing style is the opposite. 

My experience with a casual style in clothing.

It was fun, easy, and natural because I was going through a transitioning phase in my life when I was dressing casual style. So when you are in the mode of changing your life, casual style clothing might feel the right way because it feels comfortable wearing a t-shirt with jeans and sneakers.

I understand “hippie-casual-backpacker” style as not caring about fashion trends of pop culture and the opposite of elegance. The original hippies rebelled against the “normal” standard of appearance, employment, and lifestyle. The history behind the word hippie (in UK English, it is spelled – hippy) dates back to the 1960s and describes the movement that began in the United States and spread all over the world. The word takes its origin from – “hipster,” but the origin of the term “hip” or “hep” is uncertain.

In my life, casual clothing was linked to the moment of life when I was backpacking in Spain for a month, staying in the hostels. I was less concerned about my clothes and more about experiencing freedom in its broadest meaning: freedom of judgment, compelling to the norm, and freedom to be myself. That trip ended up in Cancun, Mexico, where I flew from Madrid with a one-way ticket, and it was like a personal revolution. I followed my desire to explore new places, cultures, and environments because I felt unhappy where I lived. 

While traveling in Spain in 2013, dressing in hippie-casual style was in congruence with how I felt.

There is a difference between traveling for fun and packing all your life in one suitcase and moving halfway around the globe to a country where you don’t even speak a language. That’s when casual clothing is helpful. I was transmitting my life from one culture to another, and though that process wasn’t casual but rather extraordinary, it felt like wearing a casual dress or a simple t-shirt with shorts was soothing for my mind. 

In Valencia (2013) when casual clothing was very helpful for me.

Although I was 100% present at every moment, that type of clothing made me feel invisible, which I think was a necessary reaction of my mind to help me deal with the tremendous pressure of staying out of my comfort zone all the time.

I changed my dressing style during 2016-2017 when I was upgrading my photography business. And that’s when I replaced my “hippie-casual-backpacker” clothes with elegant and classy. Inspired by my cultural background, my mom’s style, and tropical nature, I gathered a group of garments that I felt would work best for my new goal – to elevate my photography business. That was the first time in my life when I consciously decided to use clothing to my advantage. A famous saying: “Dress for the job you want to get,” proves that I was heading in the right direction.  

During a “Flying Dress photo session” in my studio in 2021.

Many studies have shown that a dressing style is intertwined with our emotional state and how we feel about ourselves. So, regardless of what we think about the fashion industry, clothing is a silent but visible representation of our thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. So, let’s focus on the bright side of fashion and style and use it to our advantage. Matching different items in your wardrobe and playing with accessories can become a creative adventure and turn into a charismatic narrative about your everyday life.   

 How did I develop my current dressing style?

The first person who introduced me to a classy style and showed me how to dress elegantly was my mother. Even now, in her seventies, whenever she goes out, she dresses nice and loves playing with accessories.

photo me and my mom
Me and my mom in 2017.

After I moved to Saint Petersburg to continue my studies at University, I started my half-independent life, and my dressing style changed to more extravagant, especially when going to the clubs. 

During my first unhappy marriage with a husband who physically abused me, I was into wearing black clothes most of the time. It almost felt like a symbol of my sorrow and pain. While healing after the divorce, I infused colors into my wardrobe. Since then, I have been cautious with black clothes, and I have only a few.

On my journey around Spain and my first years living in Mexico, I was into casual dressing style. So, my current personal style is a result of my experience and future aspirations. I have tried different clothing styles and changed my hair color multiple times from funky red to blond and black to finally realize that I love my natural hair and that elegant-classy style is forever mine. 

I dress nice most of the time, but there are days when I feel like wearing something casual, and that’s okay. When I am conscious of what to wear 95% of the time, it makes it easier to give myself time and enjoy a simple casual dress. One lesson I learned from my “hippie-casual-backpacker-style” moment of life is freedom and easiness wearing different clothes. 

In 2012 scientists Hajo Adam and Adam D.Galinsky published the results of their research in the Journal of Experimental Physiology and introduced the term “Enclothed cognition.” It stands for the theory that clothes have the power to impact our mood and behavior. They conducted an experiment where the group of people physically wearing a doctor’s lab coat performed better in the attention-related task than the other group that wore a painter’s coat. 

What did I learn on a personal journey in the elegant fashion wear?

Clothing is not only a piece of fabric in a dress, shirt, skirt, or pants. The time when its only function was to cover a body and protect it from cold is long gone. Now clothes serve a higher purpose – show the world your individuality, help you to achieve your goals (remember the famous phrase “dress for success”) and make you feel better about yourself. 

Here is to summarize what I learned on my journey from casual style to elegant fashion wear

  • Dressing well is an element of self-care and can boost your self-esteem 
  • Developing your dressing style is a way to show that you care about your life
  • It’s an expression of who your unique personality
  • it’s a way to visualize the direction of your life
  • It’s a form of manifesting “I want more” and “I am ready for more.”
  • It’s a lifestyle – ageless and timeless
  • By dressing nice, you show that you value yourself 
  • It’s a powerful visual way to show your individuality
  • Clothes can define the way you talk, walk and act
  • It’s a way of beautifying your life and thus an essential part of a “Fine Art Lifestyle.” 

Having your own dressing style – elegant, refined or casual and modest, glamorous or boho-chic, doesn’t mean you have to change a wardrobe every season. Instead, it means that you care about how you feel and look and dedicate time to intentionally choosing and combining your daily outfit.

Don’t be afraid to change your dressing style! Trust yourself when you feel like buying a classy red dress or a yellow jacket – go for it! This is your life, and you are the only one who knows how to live it. And remember – dressing is an opportunity to celebrate your life. 

Mexico City, January 2022, my first personal branding photo session.

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