How To Take Fashion Risks While Staying True To Yourself — It Ain't Always Easy Being Brave

"Fashion risks." If you enjoy even occasionally looking through fashion magazines, you're probably familiar with the term. There's always a lot of controversy around making bold fashion choices and no shortage of criticism for those who do as much (just watch an episode of Fashion Police if you don't believe me).

It makes my skin crawl that people — but especially women — are criticized and judged constantly over what they wear. If you reveal too much skin, you're a slut. If you don't show enough skin, you're matronly. If you wear too many patterns, you're kooky. If you pile on accessories, you're desperate. The constant critiques never end and I have a sneaking suspicion that it's because a woman's value is still [often] placed on how she looks.

The bottom line is that you should wear whatever you want to, whenever you want to. Fashion rules are made to be broken and there's really no wrong way to dress. But I also understand having an interest in the fashion world and wanting to try out trends or experiment with new looks. It can be difficult to find a balance, since what you want to wear versus what you are being told to wear versus what's available to you in retail are all often very different conversations. I do think it's possible to strike somewhat of an equilibrium between these three, though, especially if you are experimental and treat your clothing like art.

If you're like me and want to figure out how you can take fashion risks while still staying true to your own style and not breaking the bank, then read on.

1. Shop Your Closet

When you're on a budget but want to get the latest trendy jacket or pair of jeans, the best thing you can do is go shopping in your closet! If you're like me with your heaping dressers, tubs, and laundry baskets, you probably have pieces you've forgotten you even own. If you don't have the cash to go and buy a new outfit (or are not even sure if you would want to invest in it), shop in your closet! Even if you do have the cash, I would suggest doing this first to make sure you don't already own a similar ensemble to what you're looking for or don't have a piece you can DIY to your preference.

If your wardrobe is a disorganized mess, first go through and clean it out! You'll probably find a few treasures just by doing that! Figure out what you have that you can rework or bring back to rock the trend. For example, if you want to try color blocking, find some items in bold statement colors that you can pair together, or pieces that mix two or more colors. If you don't have anything that works for what you're wanting, see if you can DIY it to make it on trend. Wanting to rock studs? Take a basic tank top or denim jacket and add rivets yourself! Love lace? Sew it onto a plain t-shirt or pencil skirt. Are you into the high-waisted shorts look? Take a pair of moms jeans and cut off the legs!

2. Be Selective

Not all risks are for all people — and that's okay. If you're not into peplums or gladiator sandals, that's perfectly fine! Don't try to convince yourself to wear something just because a fashion magazine says it's on trend. If you don't like how something looks, don't wear it!

I have been guilty of doing this before and thinking I was hot shit because I wore as many trends as possible, as often as possible. Three years ago, neon was hugely "in" and I was seeing it wherever I went! One day at the mall, I saw a pair of orange neon leggings on clearance and bought them — even though I hate orange! Seriously, I never wear the color! They ended up going to Goodwill with the tags still on — and I certainly learned my lesson!

I'm hoping you won't have to learn yours the hard way like I did, which is why you should be selective about the trends you wear. Don't be a fashion slave! Only wear things that you like and think look good on you!

3. Make It Work For You

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Rocking a fashion risk doesn't have to be literal: You don't have to wear something the way designers or fashion editors present the look to you. Do it your way!

You often see styles showcased on the runway in extreme ways, since they are meant to evoke drama and target the press — in some ways, fashion remains a popularity contest, wouldn't you say? No one wants to report on a show that's a snooze fest. I've seen a lot of military looks lately and oftentimes designers will dress models in full chain mail and headgear, but you can tone it down with a trench coat, combat boots, or just by rocking army green.

Also make sure to be weather appropriate: I have been caught so many times in the cold, cursing myself for not wearing a jacket! I hate to cover my outfit with an ugly coat, but I usually hate being cold even more. I also love to wear layers and many times in the summer, I'll be really hot and regret wearing more than just a tank top. Your body will thank you for dressing for the weather — take this as a PSA!

4. Set Your Own Trends

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There's nothing better than ignoring all of the fashion plates and setting the trend yourself! I love the feeling of wearing a completely new look that I haven't seen rocked elsewhere. There's nothing more thrilling than influencing the style of those around you!

The only way you can set your own trends, however, is if you create them: You can't rely on designers or magazines to tell you what's in and what's out. This requires a lot more than going to a store and buying the latest style of sweater — you have to be willing to think outside of the box! Go to thrift stores, shop vintage, buy unexpected pieces, dig through sample sales, and even create your own clothes.

I love to shop around for unexpected pieces and will often do this instead of just buying the first thing that catches my eye. I search for pieces that I've never seen on anyone else and style them in unexpected ways.

5. Ignore All Of The Rules

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Down with the system? If you want to take fashion risks, you need to throw out all of the rules. Those silly ideas that you shouldn't wear white after labor day, mix prints, or pair black and navy in the same outfit are all absurd — fashion is subjective! Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is an oppressive force that you need to rise above.

I used to try to follow every tip and guide that I would read on fashion blogs and in Harper's Bazaar. It was not only exhausting but quite frustrating, since I felt like I was being forced into a cage. When I decided to do fashion my way instead, I dressed better. I felt better. And I was taking more risks without even trying!

If you're stuck in following the guidelines of others, try ignoring all of that noise and wearing what you want. See how you feel and notice the difference in how you carry yourself. It's remarkable how liberating it can be to do style your way.

The most important part of wearing risky fashion is doing it for yourself. When it comes to your outfit, you should love every stitch of clothing that you're wearing. Once you get that part down, the confidence will just ooze from your core.

Images: Getty; Giphy