Of many idioms in the English language, ‘to be comfortable in one’s own skin’ is one of my favorites because it seems to me to express a certain kind of ideal: to be confident enough to be placed anywhere with anyone, exist without the limits of comfort zones. I’m not sure if anyone lives a life like that — maybe Jonathan Goldsmith does —and I certainly try to stay within the boundaries of my comfort zones. Routines are key to this feat; go to the same coffee shop, sit at the same spot, order the same drink; make, of small things in one’s daily life, rituals and repeat them. Or, visit the same shops, wear the same clothes in blacks and whites, and always button the button-up shirt all the way up.
In many ways, we are bound by what we’ve become comfortable with. And it’s difficult to ever really confront them since we’re also bound by the mechanisms of our daily lives and since not all of us can have an Eat, Pray, Love soul searching cruise down the inner-self time off from it. So at Novella, we thought that changing outfits, getting into something you’re not really used to, is a good and simple way to break free from our routines.
Trading Places is our way of trying to see ourselves outside of our usual selves. That our team’s outfits range from flowy flower patterned blouses, classic oxford button downs, and head to toe black to embroidered band denim jackets, sheer polka dot dresses, and short-sleeve jumpsuits make this prison break more exciting. For our first installment, Chris, our fashion editor, and I partnered up to kick each other out of our respective comfort zones.
Hoon: The Metalica tank top was beyond comfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything that so coyly covered and uncovered my nipples every time I lifted my arms. The breeze, since it was a hot day, was nice and cool and I adjusted well to life at this temperature. Next, I put on the denim shorts. My left foot got caught in one of the artfully ripped areas and for a second it seemed as though it might rip entirely and leave me with no choice but to lead a criminal life of damaging, and absolutely refusing to pay for, H&M shorts. Once on, the shorts let in a lot of air and was not as tight as I had originally anticipated or as Chris had warned, which was a relief. Then I put on the hoodie, which was cut in a way that the front ends of it veered away from my body. This, also, was a new sensation. It was possibly the most daring outerwear I’ve ever worn. I think that had I been wearing my usual pair of long black pants, I might not have felt too out of place in this outfit Chris picked out for me. Something about the ripped denim, as absurd as it is, was entirely contrary to the way I picture myself.
Chris: Although this may seem like a simple white shirt and casual navy blue pants, this was so far out of my comfort zone that it’s almost haunting to see these pictures as I write this. I’ve never been the type of person to opt for what others would consider “appropriate” and “tame” clothing. My personal style, has above all else, remained extremely casual and undeniably very me. So the thought of myself (sorry Hoon) moving over to the dark side of “grown up” dressing was really a step away from anything I would ever do in my personal life. There is one thing that I think I really enjoy about this outfit; the pants. Now I can undoubtedly do without the white button up shirt, but the pants are truly something I could see myself wearing and making my own. Not only were they extremely comfortable, moving with my body rather than against it, they came with andextremely handy and unexpected draw string waist, which would allow me to tighten and loosen my pants as the occasion calls for. Congratulations Hoon, you’ve made me realize that Uniqlo has comfy pants. I hope you’re proud of yourself.
Hoon: You can’t really see it in the photo but the ripped areas of this particular pair of jeans from Zara are curiously patched with various patterns, the most disconcerting of them all the two leopard prints. The jeans were tight but wearable, which seemed to me to be cruel in that they’re meant to be exactly that: tight and just a snippet short of being unbearable. I fumbled for a while to get them off and, to be honest, I don’t think Chris would really wear this particular pair himself. Chris and I both liked the green, white, and yellow shirt with daisies on them. It has splashes of brightness but was toned down by the dark green, which would make it, were I to go down that route, the gateway shirt to more colourful shirts. The light oversized denim jacket though you can’t see it in this photo, had roses embroidered in the back. But aside from the oversized aspect, once I put it on, I realized that it isn’t too far from something I’d venture to try on by myself if the mood were to strike.
Chris: Here’s the thing. Hoon is one of the lucky few on this beautiful blue planet that can pull off the studious Ivy League valedictorian look and not make it look like the constricting uniform of the ruling patriarchy. I, on the other hand, manage to make this J.Crew ensemble look like a failed attempt at making an aggressive Yale Skull & Bones look approachable and friendly. There’s something about this navy cardigan and grey-slack-dress shirt combo that that looks menacing. It looks predatory. Like a republican who’s smelled the blood of a lower middle class citizen and is looking for nothing less than to pounce on his unsuspecting victim and rid them of their life force through heavy taxation and a higher cost of living. But if I do look to the bright side, the one thing I may consider wearing out of all three items would have to be the cardigan, just as long as I can have it oversized and riddled with holes and tears.
Hoon: The exercise was fun. I noticed how the uneasiness I felt while Chris picked out the outfits would soon disappear and seem disproportionate in retrospect. Goes to show that I egregiously associate certain aspects of myself with the types of clothes I choose to wear. Though I am still pretty certain that I’d not wear the ripped denim of my own accord, I might very well go back to that H&M for that tank top.
Chris: I think my favourite part of this little activity was watching Hoon’s eyes widen and face shoot white as I went through rack after rack, pulling out options of what I was willing to put him in. In retrospect, I did manage to learn something interesting about how two different people view each other and how we should accept everyone for what makes them different and unique. Props goes to Hoon though. Our outing has inspired me to buy both outfits that I put Hoon in.