I want to find a cute, retro bikini—one that doesn’t show too much of my stomach or my chest, because my parents have to OK it. I’ve seen some cute high-waisted ones at places like Urban Outfitters and Free People, but I can’t afford their pricing. Any advice? —Meg, 17, Indianapolis, IN
If you’re going to get a bikini, your midriff will obviously be visible, but high-waisted shorts can provide way more coverage than regular bikini briefs. In order to attain the perfect combo of a high-waisted, non-skimpy suit that also falls within your budget, your best bet might be to mix and match! This can be fun because you’ll be able to construct your ideal bikini—aka Frankenkini!
Let’s find a pair of reasonably priced high-waisted bottoms, like these polka-dotted ones that are only $19.60, or the leopard-print ones in the picture below:
Wear them with a solid black top that’s versatile enough to go with a variety of prints and colors for EXTRA mix-and-match potential. Opt for a flutter silhouette, like the one on the left, or a bralette style, like the one on the right—both of these cuts are not as cleavage-revealing as a triangle or a halter bikini might be:
I also love this off-the-shoulder crop top–style swim shirt, this longline halter bikini top, and this fringe top. If you do end up having to cover your entire tummy, try a tankini like this one, or this Old Navy jawn.
If you’d rather have an identical top and bottom than a Frankenkini, Walmart has some really cute matching sets that are $33 for both pieces. Check out this cute palm tree print! Hope all this inspires you to be the queen of the beach! —Marie
I’ve been going through a lot of mental/emotional instability thanks to changing meds and moving out, and it’s really affecting my style in a negative way (e.g., jeans and a sweatshirt every day). Trying to keep motivated right now is super hard. Any thoughts? —Lucy, 18, Ashland, OR
First off, know you are not alone. Many years ago, I made a zine about fashion and mental illness and interviewed a ton of friends about the relationship between how they felt and how they looked. Everyone wanted to talk about how quickly their sense of style fell apart when they felt like crap. When you’re over- or under-medicated, sluggish or manic, or overwhelmed or spaced out, it’s hard to remember to brush your teeth every day, let alone throw together a flawless #look. Leggings and oversized T-shirts are haute shite when you’re laying in bed crying for 16-hour stretches. Dude, we’ve all been there. I’ve certainly been there (like, this week).
While adjusting to new meds, you won’t always feel like your best self. You might not have the energy to pull an outfit together. That’s totally normal. A few weeks spent in the same faded “I Hate Mondays” crewneck can not negate your general cosmic babeliness. Try to focus what energy you have on relaxing, adjusting and achieving a state of mental and emotional stability. The #looks will return in time.
That being said, when your energy levels are up, dedicating your time to something you feel passionate about—in your case, fashion—can definitely help you feel like yourself again. Fashion is a fantastic distraction from gross feelings.
Getting dressed can be a very satisfying, grounding ritual. It’s an opportunity to go inward and focus completely on discerning your wants and needs. Taking a bath, putting on makeup, carefully selecting what you want to wear, and leaving the house feeling great about yourself can totally transform your day and make it much easier to interact with the weird world outside. Same goes for taking your time when you’re painting your nails, shaping your eyebrows, or trimming your bangs. You’re in a period of adjustment! Be gentle; take your time. Making room for yourself is especially important right now. Slow down and let yourself be inspired when you dress. Decide how you want to present yourself to the world, and move toward that—at your own pace.
One thing I love doing when I’m feeling particularly anxious is tearing apart my closet and drawers, going through everything I own, then coordinating some new outfits. “Clothes” are, like, totally a “metaphor” for “life,” you know? Things pile up so quickly and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed. Separating your clothes into piles to keep, upcycle, and/or donate definitely helps clear out some of the mental clutter that might be lingering as well. It’s a good way to engage with fashion and clothing without having to worry about actually wearing the outfits right then and there. If you can rally your pals and convince them to do a closet clean out as well, then, when you’re feeling a little better and able to re-enter the world, you could coordinate a clothing swap. Organization + socializing + free clothes = win-win-win.
Another thing to consider when you’re thinking about brains-’n’-fashion is how your clothes make you feel in a very direct physical sense. Pay attention to a garment’s texture, weight, level of warmth or protection, tightness or looseness—all of these factors can be triggering. My usual vintage dresses get shoved to the back of the closet when I’m not feeling well—I’ll be in hell if something fits even slightly too tight around the shoulders, neck, or waist. If you suffer from chronic pain, exhaustion, or fibromyalgia, stay away from restrictive garments, high heels, heavy bags, or jewelry. Flashy colors and embellishments that draw a lot of attention might not be great if you’re feeling socially anxious.
Are there specific characteristics of clothing that make you feel happier, more stable, and/or safer? If you find that soft garments are really comforting when you’re stressed out, build an outfit around a favorite sweater. Layering can be extremely soothing—almost like having a security blanket wrapped around you. Pile it all on, if that’s the case for you. You’ll feel much more motivated if you can find shortcuts that make the process easier. Being stylish and comfortable is key when you’re finding balance in your life. If you establish a few ground rules about what works for you when you’re not feeling well, then the next time this happens, you’ll have an arsenal of tricks at your disposal.
But seriously, I can’t stress this enough— don’t worry if you’re not feeling it right now. Your clothes will still be there when you get out of whatever transitory funk you’re in at the moment. If you feel so amazingly shitty that all you want to do is lay in bed, you’ve still got fashion magazines, street style websites, Netflix documentaries about historically important fashion designers, inspiration boards on Pinterest, makeup artists on Instagram…the list goes on and on. You’re still there, under all the exterior chaos. —Meredith
I have seen people rocking some badass jean jacket and vest things! I know you have a tutorial to make one, and I’d wear that all the time, but I’m extremely girly—I mostly own dresses and I have, like, no cute shorts to go with them! Is there any way I can pull off a jean jacket/vest with feminine clothing? —Elle, 15, Milwaukee, WI
Come here, pal. Let me show you something. Take a look at my closet, and, tell me, what do you see?
“Is that a quadrillion dresses of various floral motifs and seven leopard pieces that almost look the same (so why can’t you stop acquiring them)? A skirt with baby ponies on it and an oversize sweater scattered with sequin hearts? Enough lace trim to circle the moon two and a half times?”
Exactly. While my sartorial stylings lean more towards “flamboyant six-year-old with a very femme gender identity to prove” than my real identity as “young adult with an office job” would have you believe, I rely on a trusty anchor to my wardrobe. If you look a bit closer into the frilly print tornado, you will spot two very well-worn denim jackets! They are transitional enough for all seasons (at least in my milder West Coast climes), and the best part about them is that they bring most of my outfits back down to earth. Jean jackets are queen at chilling out whatever crazy combination you want to wear underneath them, be it a full paisley jumpsuit (been there) or a sheer, flowy sundress (done that). It’s my go-to look. Here are some others doing the denim thing:
Contrast is my favorite part of getting dressed, especially when some of my clothes are so over-the-top BABYGIRL they might read as costumes if they weren’t balanced out by a more conventional, unisex clothing item like a jean jacket. Denims are the perfect weight and vibe for spring, so throw one on top of whatever multiplex of florals or web of light knits and cute jewelry you may weave, yung spiderbaby, and let it chill down the girlishness in a way that will both keep you warm AND keep you cool! I’ll leave you with that terrible joke—as well as a quick reminder that there are no rules, and mix it up. —Dylan
My sister is getting married this summer and I’m one of her bridesmaids. We’re having trouble finding dresses—she wants them to be 70s bohemian–style maxi dresses. We love the dresses on Free People, but they’re just too expensive. Can you recommend some cheaper ones in this style? —Eibhlin, 17, England
Congrats to your sister on her upcoming nuptials! Gawd, thank your lucky stars that your sis is letting you all pick your own dresses instead of putting you in some nightmare taffeta puffball that makes you look like a walking piece of Funfetti cake (though I might personally be into that myself). Anyway, let’s get down to boho business. There’s no need to spend major buckaroos to look like a foxy flower child: You can definitely find a pretty ‘70s-style maxi dress that’s less than $100!
Let’s take a look at ASOS and H&M first. They have a TON of beautashia boho dresses. Plus, ASOS is great because they give you free standard shipping when you spend over $40, and free returns, so it’s not a big deal if something doesn’t work and you need to send it back. lf you look through their maxis, you’ll see some of the pricier Free People dresses on their site, but IGNORE THOSE and filter pricing from low to high. It will result in some really nice gems!
I’m not sure if your sister has a color theme in mind or if she isn’t allowing you to wear white or cream, but if those things don’t matter, here’s a pretty dress for $54, this one that’s $81, and this one that costs $87. If she’s OK with a shorter length, I love this one and this one. More more more:
WHAT TO WEAR, WHAT TO WEAR? Marie has some ideas! Find out what they are at [email protected]. Make sure to include your NAME/NICKNAME/INITIALS, AGE, and CITY with your questions, please!