On a recent episode of Style Network’s “How Do I Look?” entitled “Mistress of Darkness,” a stubborn punk-rock-meets-goth chick claimed her dark personal style reflected her personality. To challenge Melody’s claim, the show host, Jeannie, did an experiment. She set up a divider in a coffee shop and had random strangers sit on one side while the fang-wearing contestant sat on the other. Neither one could see the other. The two then conversed about their interests and hobbies. They joked, laughed, even flirted with one another. Her snarl suddenly transformed into a girlish smile. Her body language completely changed.

Next, five distinctly styled mannequins were placed before them: one in a power suit, another in a loose top and jeans, the third in a flowy, colorful dress and another in a blouse and pencil skirt. The fifth was dressed in pieces from Melody’s very own goth-inspired wardrobe—a t-shirt with a skull design and a spiky leather choker. Each stranger was asked to pick the outfit they thought best reflected Melody’s personality. No one picked the skull ensemble. Finally, the divider was removed and everyone had the same reaction. Complete and utter shock. No one suspected the bright red bangs, choppy, asymmetrical haircut, dark lips and piercings. Check out the clip here!

While Melody’s thought her rocker edge was a PART of her personality, there were so many more layers to who she was: a professional, a friend, a flirt. And so much more to what she loved: museums, opera, and poetry.  I used to feel like Melody did at the beginning of the episode: Wear whatever the heck you want, be it chains and leather or pearls and cashmere. Who cares what everyone else thinks? People shouldn’t judge you based on your appearance. How shallow?!

But the truth is, the first thing people see is your appearance. We assess people based on how they look. While we shouldn’t treat people differently based on their attire, we cannot deny that the choices we make about our personal style are exactly that. Personal.

Whether you opt for slouchy tees over tailored button-ups or a motorcycle jacket over a peacoat, it’s worth asking yourself which side of your multifaceted self are you broadcasting to the world. Is it varied or one-dimensional? Maybe it’s your laid back, come-what-may persona. Perhaps it’s your inner vixen who has a soft spot for leopard print. Or maybe it’s that shy girl who has always been insecure about her curves. It might even be all three! Whoever or whatever it is, it should be deliberate and authentic.

What does your personal style say about you? Is it saying all that you want it to?

-Audra E. Lord

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