How fashion shapes personal identity: Fashion students share their stories

Story and graphic by Maddi Hill

Self-identity is an important aspect of living an authentic life. Your self-identity is all the answers to the question, “Who am I?” It is your perception of yourself and how you define yourself.  

Having an established sense of self allows us to live our lives with purpose. It also helps us set up our values and goals. 

One way we show self-identity is through our clothing preferences. How we define ourselves often aligns with our sense of style. We link our style to our sense of self. Whether we dress based on creativity, gender, religion, etc., it’s all an outward reflection of who we are.  

A study conducted by Maria Piacentini and G. Mailer discovered that clothing choices made by young people are linked to their self-concept. They also found young people use clothing as a means of self-expression.  

Courtesy photo from Morgan Boosamra

Morgan Boosamra, a senior studying fashion design, uses colorful clothing, makeup, and hair to express her identity. With bright blue hair, pink and purple extensions, pink eyeliner, and a rainbow dress, Boosamra describes her style as eccentric.  

“I wake up and think, what would younger me want to wear,” said Boosamra.  

Colors empower Boosamra. Her style is bright and eccentric, so she loves to wear clothes that make her feel creative and powerful. If Boosamra is wearing muted tones or all black, it doesn’t feel like a representation of herself, and she’s having a hard day.  

As Boosamra describes it, she needs to wear clothes that make her feel empowered. When she doesn’t, she feels depressed.

Like most people, Boosamra’s self-esteem was boosted once she discovered her style.

Courtesy photo from Morgan Boosamra

Before dying her hair and wearing the rainbow, Boosamra was blonde and wore what was popular. During this time, she didn’t feel like herself.  

“I used to really appreciate the validation I got from other people,” Boosamra said. “They’d tell me ‘I love your hair, I love what you’re wearing,’ but I hated my hair, I hated what I was wearing.”  

Boosamra always felt like she could do more, that she could be more. But the approval of others was overpowering.

During COVID-19, Boosamra stayed confined to her childhood bedroom. That’s when she began exploring her creative side.  

After returning to CMU, Boosamra switched from psychology to her current major. Now, she uses her style and fashion designs to express who she is.

Being her authentic self can sometimes still be a challenge for Boosamra. People stare at and criticize her for what she wears. During these times, she reminds herself that she will never again change for anyone.  

“Some days people make me want to take my flowers off, but I always refuse to let the world make me lose my flowers,” Boosamra said. 

Courtesy photo from Emily Gonzalez

Emily Gonzalez, a sophomore majoring in fashion design, expresses herself through feminine clothing. Long printed skirts, hair ribbon, pink, platform shoes, and a little modesty make Gonzalez who she is.  

Gonzalez discovered her love for fashion as a child while watching her sister get dressed for school. Gonzalez would note the clothes her sister preferred to wear.

She envied her sister as she applied various pink makeup products to her face. As time went on, her sister let her help style her outfits.  

“That’s when my obsession started,” said Gonzalez.  

Gonzalez believes if you dress for yourself, fashion can’t negatively affect you. She explains, that forcing yourself into a box for others will only hurt your confidence and kill your self-expression.  

“Fashion can’t make your self-esteem worse,” Gonzalez said. “It helps you be more confident.”