January 09, 2018
This essay was written as part of an empowerment campaign, “Wear Yourself In,” led by eco-luxe skin care company Kari Gran. In response to the beauty industry pushing an impossible idea of flawless youth for years, the campaign encourages women to be kind to themselves, and their skin, as they reflect on beauty, aging, wisdom, and self-acceptance.
Mellicia is the founder of Poplin Style Direction, which provides hassle-free styling for women based on budget, body type & personal style to give clients a renewed sense of self that reflects who they are in a way that makes them shine.
My childhood could easily have been the inspiration for a Lifetime movie.
From ages three to sixteen, I lived with my mother and her boyfriend. He was terrifying. He spoke lies as if they were the truth. He singled you out and humiliated you. He became abusive to everyone but my mother and seemed to exert ultimate control. No one could, or would, stand up against him and win.
Fortunately, the abuse ended when I hit junior high. Even so, I found myself especially fixated on finding ways to avoid his gaze. Clothes, it turned out, were the answer. Nothing was revealing. Most choices were shapeless.
While I worked tirelessly to avoid sexual attention at home, I wanted, like any teenager, to be noticed at school and out in the world. Living with two textbook narcissists fueled my need to be seen more than ever. I joined Student Government and any club I could find to have “legitimate” time away from home.
Ultimately, I discovered my voice in my style. I became known for my vintage pieces, my knee-high socks and my brightly-colored tights. I dyed my hair. I wanted to fight and be seen and this became my way to do it.
When I entered adulthood I figured the way to make my mark was through nonprofit work. Despite my best efforts, I never actually felt like I was helping anyone and often found myself frustrated and unfulfilled. I needed something more. Then, mid-career, I rediscovered the voice I had silently continued to nurture all along — the voice that just so happened to be loudest when I was wearing an outfit that I loved. Clothes, once again, were the answer — a pathway to my authentic voice and the story I wanted to tell the world.
And now that’s what I do for others.
As a personal stylist, my job is to help women be seen. It’s not about teaching them how to succumb to the expectations of the patriarchy. On the contrary, it’s about being in control of how people see you. It’s about saying something without talking, and having the confidence and courage to bravely do what you want, when you want. It’s a lesson I work to share with my clients, and something I continue to learn again and again.
There’s power in being seen. In our authentic voices being heard. And that’s something we all need a little more of. Especially as women. Especially these days.