All in a summer’s bloom

In the world of music, how do the outfits of performers and fans translate into the development of personal style?

Becky Missal brought a true rock star look to her performance that reflected her powerful voice and amplified her music’s message. (Hadyn Phillips / Daily Trojan)

Three weeks left, fellow readers! We are so close to the finish line. As the weather gets warmer, the style dial has also begun to turn up as the outfits I’m seeing are getting more and more creative with the bright California sun.

To no surprise, a lot has been happening this week in fashion. With so many exciting beginnings, it only seems fair to celebrate any and all wins: Miu Miu had one of their top customers, Qin Huilan, a 70-year-old influencer and doctor, walk its 2024 Fall/Winter show.

Serena Williams launched her own makeup line, WYN BEAUTY, which opened the conversation on women athletes in the beauty and fashion industry (especially with the historic numbers of the women’s March Madness viewership).

Bulgari announced their very first creative director of leather goods and accessories, tapping Greek jewelry designer Mary Katrantzou who has historically collaborated with the brand since 2019.

We are in an era of chain-reaction influencing, and it’s always fun to find a new obsession. Whether it is something as simple as tomatoes or niche as pollen residue, this weekend I have returned to one of the greatest influences of all: music.

It all started on Friday, seeing one of my bucket list artists, Donna Missal, at Lodge Room. I invited my friend at the last minute, and she asked me what I was wearing. I went with a simple tube top and my trusty Levi’s, and upon arriving, she told me she went with her typical concert outfit: a tank top, jeans and Dr. Martens.

After, while we waited to meet Missal, we talked about how we had concert uniforms. We wanted to be comfortable enough, but still feel loose, free and confident in ourselves.

Throughout the concert, I was in awe of Missal, and the opener, Banoffee’s, outfits. Missal wore a star-patterned halter top, a bloomed skort, fishnet stockings and folded-over cowboy boots; Banoffee opted for a tied-back long sleeve with a mini pleated skirt and brown boots. They looked amazing, like true rock stars, and it only enhanced the experience of getting to be in the front row at a concert I’ve been waiting four years to go to.

I thought about how each of these outfits differed according to their type of music. Missal’s skirt softened the look from a pure rocker-chic to a gentle pop rock, a commentary on her sweet voice, signature rasp and ability to belt like no one’s business. Banoffee, on the other hand, had a layered, dimensional outfit, which mirrored her process of layering vocal tracks and singing with her MIDI grid controller.

I thought about whether Missal was wearing an outfit or a costume. When I think of costumes, I think of big pizazz: Taylor Swift’s bejeweled leotards and ABBA’s crazy colorful matching sets (they actually only wore them as a tax deductible).

Maybe on some level I am questioning the idea of celebrity as a role and as a profession, but after meeting Missal, she displayed nothing but authenticity both on and off the stage. Still, I feel that outfits reflect the singer, their personality and the message of the music while costumes reflect the theater of the music being performed.

I thought of this again on Sunday when attending student-run record label 840 West’s Westwave Festival at Surf Haus. It was like a pre-Coachella, as people donned traditional festival attire: white flowy skirts, baby tees, scarf tops and shorts with boots.

While everyone added their own twist with their hairstyles or accessories, it seemed a lot of the base outfits were the same.

It made me think again about my friend’s sentiment on “concert uniforms.” I wonder how we, as observers, learn to dress for the occasion. Of course, dress codes often exist, whether they are set in policy in a workplace, or implied for festivals like Coachella or the “Eras” tour. A vast majority of people follow these suggestions to fit in and feel like a part of the crowd.

So, then, does our method of following others and being easily influenced only perpetuate an incorrect way of approaching style development and purchasing choices? It is okay to want to belong, to want to be a part of something — after all, humans crave acceptance and connection. But, if we try on everything we see and keep what fits us well (or what we’re told fits us well) and slap on the label of “personal style,” it hasn’t actually been curated by you.

Instead of finding what you like — trendy or not — and adding on or taking inspiration from, we have fallen into a loop of popularity and celebrity influence with the illusion of only two options in front of us: reject or accept.

What makes designers great is that they build their unique vision into the brands, just as legendary musicians recreate moments of their inspiration, whether it comes from samples of other songs or something as simple, but true, as a heartbreak.

As cheesy as it may sound, we need to adopt a “yes, and” mindset to our own styles. Especially as summer rolls around and we come across new people, interests and experiences, our wardrobe must grow with us.

Missal sang one of my favorite songs of hers, titled “Bloom.” She explained it was about stepping aside in order to let others grow and taking the initiative to leave the shadow of others, singing: “Realize I’m standing in your light, I / I don’t wanna hurt you, root you out too soon / I don’t wanna be the reason you don’t bloom.”

The harsh reality is that when we stop ourselves from trying, learning, failing and loving out of fear and anxiety, we take on these negative emotions as external personas instead of internal feelings. Being a shy person is not physically stopping me from wearing heels, but my feelings of shyness within myself are.

However, this is the same self that gave me the idea in the first place — and the same self that saw another girl wearing a similar pair that inspired me to find my own.

We are responsible for our own stylistic growth, whether it is influenced by others or not. The only way we will learn to push ourselves is to get out of our own way and find the roots that gave us our spark in the first place.

Spring has already turned to summer, I know, but that doesn’t mean that your time to grow is done. Be the reason you are who you are — and be the reason you bloom.

Hadyn Phillips is a junior writing about fashion in the 21st century, spotlighting new trends and popular controversy. Her column, “That’s Fashion, Sweetie,” runs every Wednesday.

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