Fashion Freed Me

Maria Atallah
Mar 22 · 4 min read

Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary?

We all know these makeover shows (yes, even the revered Queer Eye) where some fashion consultant or personal stylist tries to “fix” someone’s wardrobe. Even in films, some bullied, shy girl will take off her glasses and wear a mini skirt and become the hottest thing in LA. This idea that anyone can be beautiful, given the right styling, is actually positive, but it’s so badly executed and explained.

Me rocking this outfit in Odéon.

I’m going to take my own story for example. Growing up, I was that bullied girl with the nerdy glasses, bad skin, and no self-confidence. My mother’s mental health issues made it hard for her to care for me, so I care to school dirty, with greasy hair, smelly clothes, and disgusting fingernails. I didn’t even step foot into a clothing store until I was 10 years old. All my clothes were hand-me-downs from my cousins, who all loved Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. I had a long ponytail that made me look like a badly-brushed hold. You get the picture: I hated my appearance, and I had no idea what style was, or what kind of clothes I even liked.

The breakthrough came when I started browsing the internet at 13. This is going to sound really ridiculous, but I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Grace, and I realized, “Oh my God, they’re so confident, and they wear crazy outfits, and they’re celebrated!” This show was my revelation. I watched it over Christmas break, and when I came back to high school, my friends asked if I had gotten “self-confidence shots.”

No, I had just realized that I had the power to be who I wanted to become.

Instagram and films helped, gave an allure to adopt and an idea of what was expected of me. I delved into Vogue and online forums, desperate to rid myself of my “ugliness” as if I was trying to cure a disease. I did everything they told me to: I bought the trendy H&M clothes, got bigger glasses, a skincare routine. But none of that helped, because it was not what I actually liked. I was a living figuring, who had ventured outside its store and was selling garments out in the streets of Beirut.

The first time I realized I could actually be free and decide what I wanted to wear was when I got a Tumblr. I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but the community there truly encouraged me to go out there and try everything. Find clothes I liked, and try them on. Even if I though it wouldn’t look good on me. Wear “unusual” clothes out in public. It’ll be hard at first, the stares and double takes, as you figure it out. But eventually, you’ll get compliments. People will come up to you, asking where you bought a specific item.

Don’t be afraid to be who you are.

So that’s exactly what I did. I experimented. I dared to go to high school wearing clothing I was confortable in, and I actually did not get harassed for it. My confidence, my self-love, my style identity, all of that started building up bit by bit. When I left Lebanon to study in Canada, I decided on an entire new start: I chopped off my hair into a bob, got rid of most of my clothes, invested in contact lenses. I went to thrift stores, finding unique pieces. When I could afford it, I even bought incredible accessories that truly showcased my taste. Over years of experimenting and researching, I had finally figured out my style identity: “Marie Antoinette going to a Sex Pistols concert” is the best way I can describe it. It’s like Jeremy Scott having an affair with Napoleon. Extravagant, but still very classic and artistic — I have an art history degree, after all.

Nowadays, I get stopped in the street almost every single day. People ask me where I bought my shoes, or my dress, or even the name of my perfume. I don’t say that to brag, although it does feel very validating. It just is the proof that if I did it, so can you. Nobody is “ugly.” Find your style. Experiment. I went through so many phases of clothes and skincare regiments and haircuts before I was finally satisfied. I am even an editorial intern at Vogue Paris, now. Nothing is impossible, and one day you will love yourself. I just know it.

Wear crazy things!

I can’t fully afford the style I want yet, but it’s okay. Thrift stores, vintage stores, depop, there are so many good opportunities out there to find quality pieces for cheaper prices. And remember: you could be wearing a potato sack, but if you’re confident, you’re gonna sell it.

𝘉𝘰𝘥𝘺, 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥 & 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵

Maria Atallah

Written by

Lebanese writer living in a tiny studio in Paris with my cat. IG: @lepelicanrouge

Know Thyself, Heal Thyself

𝘈𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘷𝘶𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 & 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴.

Maria Atallah

Written by

Lebanese writer living in a tiny studio in Paris with my cat. IG: @lepelicanrouge

Know Thyself, Heal Thyself

𝘈𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘷𝘶𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 & 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store