don’t let anyone tell you you “can’t” wear something

This was supposed to be a post on “the best outfits to wear for New Year’s Eve,” but that felt shallow. Not that I don’t love a good outfit roundup, but I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about something more.

Something like women’s fashion choices. How they affect our perceptions of ourselves and society’s perception of us. Get ready to embrace your fabulousness. So pour yourself a glass of wine and let’s get into it…

I watched my cousin sketch beautiful figures, tried to emulate her style, read fashion magazines, wanted to be a College Fashion contributor with all my might (even though I was barely in high school)…but all the while, I never could figure out why I never felt comfortable in any of my clothes. And I rarely felt comfortable in my own skin.


To clarify, I spent nearly 10 years of my life as a competitive swimmer. I felt at home in the water, felt at home in the skintight suits we wore to practice every day. I even felt at home in the baggy drag suits we wore to practice when we were training for a big meet.

Because in the water, I didn’t have my mother to tell me that I looked like a sausage in too-tight clothing or like a homeless person or a tent in too-loose clothing or like a circus freak in too bright clothing.

I could walk onto the pool deck in any suit I wanted and feel like a million bucks.

It’s taken me a long, long time to find out how to be comfortable in my own skin. Through bouts with disordered eating and body image issues, I still felt most confident when I was moving. Active. Pushing my body.

I still sometimes put on a pair of pants and hate the way they feel. I still sometimes mourn over the fact that if I wear certain shirts, I’ll look like a tent instead of like a boho princess.

But most of the time, I’ve given up caring what other people think. I put on pants that fit me like a glove, put on a shirt that shows my shoulders and my arms, put on a dress with a plunging neckline, and it just feels right.

Not because the clothes make me prettier, but because when you feel comfortable in what you wear, your confidence shows.

And don’t let anyone tell you that you “can’t” wear something.

Wearing something that shows cleavage doesn’t mean you’re “asking for it” or “looking for attention” or “trying to get some.” Wearing only a sports bra in a workout class doesn’t mean you’re trying to show off your abs. Hiking without a shirt on doesn’t mean you’re being scandalous. Wearing something that’s oversized doesn’t mean you’re trying to hide.

Never be afraid to workout in just your sports bra. Even if no one else is. Even if you don’t have a 6-pack. Even if you think other people will stare.

The same goes with makeup. I used to play with metallic shadows, with mascara, with colored liner… not always the best choices, but I loved the freedom to create who I wanted to be. It was like art.

I admired the same cousin and some of my friends for being makeup masters, for perfecting winged liner, for being bold enough to wear red lipstick. At the same time I searched for clothes that made me feel like I was comfortable, I searched for makeup that made me feel like me.

When people said that “girls shouldn’t wear too much makeup” or when boys said that “certain types of makeup made a girl look less attractive,” I ignored them. I was a fan of natural looks on myself, but I appreciate the crazy, out-there, gorgeous makeup that Michelle Phan, my biggest inspiration growing up, and others were creating.

Now, I do my eyebrows, lips, and use a natural powder for my face, and that’s about it. I think that makeup, like fashion, is a form of expression and serves to enhance your naturally fabulous self.

So whether that’s in no pants and no makeup, in a bikini with messy hair, in a lacy dress with a full face of makeup, in sweaty workout clothes… let’s make a promise.

Promise to donate or throw away anything that doesn’t bring you joy. Invest in pieces that you’ll wear over and over again because you love them. Don’t be afraid to try that new style or that new color.

Ignore what other people say or think. Wear what you want, how you want.

Live bold. Live free. Live happy. Live fabulously. Happy New Year!

Originally published at on December 27, 2017.



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Nancy Chen

author, fitness instructor & email marketer. I get weirdly enthusiastic about productivity ideas & human psychology.