I don't know about you, but I really like clothes.
Growing up, fashion was such an intimidating concept for me because—just like many Pinays—I didn't know what to make of the trends. In college I wore denim shorts, my varsity jacket, and running shoes (minsan tsinelas!) to school. I lugged around a giant duffel bag every day for training because I was an athlete. I was all about comfort, never about style.
But a huge part of me wanted to be more stylish, I think. I just didn't have the means to keep up with the trends. I also didn't know how to shop for myself.
I also had many body insecurities, and just didn't think I was pretty because I also had a face full of zits. Adolescence, yuck!
Everything changed when I got into publishing in 2011. I started as an editorial assistant for the now-defunct OK! Philippines, a Hollywood magazine. A huge part of my job entailed stalking gossip and celebrity websites to source photos and stories. And the more I stalked celebs, the more I realized I wanted to dress up like them. I just didn't know how.
In 2012, I applied as an editorial assistant for Cosmo.ph, and that's when I started being more aware of what and how I wanted to look. I went to work with Cosmo's Editorial Director Myrza Sison, Fashion Director Donna Cuna-Pita, and Fashion Editor Happy Lopez. Nakaka-pressure sila ah!
I also saw the Preview girls and the Stylebible.ph girls every day. These girls lived and breathed fashion and it was intimidating to be working in the same floor as them. The first time I saw Preview's EIC Pauline Juan in the bathroom, I awkwardly gaped at her for five minutes because na-starstruck ako.
One time, I bumped into her again in the hallway and she said hi. Tumingin pa ako sa likod kasi hindi naman ako sure na ako yung kausap niya. "Ako? Ako talaga? Sure ka?"
I think more than the pretty clothes, I admired these women for their confidence and class. It was the way they walked with their heels and the way they carried their LBDs and LWDs that really struck me. One time I asked Donna, "Uy, ang ganda ng dress mo! Saan galing yan?" She laughed, "Girl, ano ka ba, sa department store lang 'to!"
One thing I learned from that conversation? Your clothes don't have to be expensive to look expensive.
So I started reading more fashion websites like Who What Wear. I made a Pinterest account and stalked runway and street style trends. I followed people like Olivia Palermo, Kendall Jenner, and Kate Middleton. While I didn't have an idea of how I wanted to look, these people did.
I was constantly mixing and matching. Lahat ng trends pinatulan ko: Cropped tops, midi skirts, leather skirts, skinny jeans, wide-leggend trousers, stilettos, neon—madami pa! I failed most of the time. I cringe every time I see old Cosmo #FashionFriday posts on Instagram now. My little experiment paid off when I was promoted to be the website's Official Fashion Girl (lol, my title was actually Associate Fashion and Beauty Editor) in 2013.
It was also then that I broke up with a longterm boyfriend. There were many reasons why I did it, but the fact that he was controlling my clothing choices when I was in the fashion industry didn't help. My crop tops and short shorts were too "slutty" for him. And my mini skirts were malaswa.
You can say I picked my career over him, but this is something Cosmo taught me: No one has the right to tell you how to dress up. Because everything is completely up to you.
If there's one thing I learned about fashion over the years, it's this: Your personal style is the best, most direct way you can express yourself. Wear whatever you feel like wearing, because you look good in them, because you feel confident. Because it makes YOU feel good about yourself.
And when you feel good about yourself—whether you're wearing six-inch stilettos or a pair of white sneakers—you really do feel like can run the world.
Cosmo girls, I hope you realize that style is never something that is shallow. And you should never let anyone make you feel that it is. There is no such thing as, "Oh, I can't wear that." Kasi madaming nadadaan sa confidence and class. Also, kapal ng mukha.
Sometimes, kuba ka lang kaya pangit 'yung outfit mo. Be nice and smile at everyone. At mag-red lipstick ka madalas. Nakakaganda talaga 'yun.
I hope you wear the highest of heels in 2016. Because no Cosmo girl deserves to feel small and insignificant.
Sandra Pineda is Cosmo.ph's Assistant Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter.