How The Fashion Industry Killed My Confidence

How The Fashion Industry Killed My Confidence

When I got into the fashion industry - on the 90s- people didn't know what the job "stylist" was. I'd always have to explain that I shop for a living which made it sound cool and glamorous - which it was sometimes. But mostly I just suffered severe blows to my self confidence. Here's how working in this industry messed with my self esteem, and how I got my confidence back. I think you'll be surprised at what I share!

I got into the fashion industry in the 90s. It was before the job “stylist” was out there. A real behind the scenes position before #bts was a thing. I didn’t see other stylists on instagram, and think I want to do that! There was no instagram. And I didn’t know any stylists.

Back in the 90s - when I got into the fashion industry - people didn't know what the job "stylist" was. I'd always have to explain that I shop for a living which made it sound cool and glamorous - which it was sometimes. But mostly I just suffered severe blows to my self confidence. Here's how working in this industry messed with my self esteem, and how I got my confidence back. I think you'll be surprised at what I share!

I knew photographers who worked with stylists. They made the introductions that gave me my first assisting jobs.

Styling shoots intrigued me. It seemed like a fun career that would provide creative freedom— which it did.

Also, it killed my confidence.

Click play to watch the video where I share how working in the fashion industry did a number on my self esteem.

And read on for the full story.

The Fashion Industry For The UnFashionable

Most girls who got into fashion were obsessed with the clothes. Not me. My outfits weren’t inspired by the latest trends, or of-the-moment designers. I wore what I wanted based on how I wanted to feel. My style was my creative self expression.

When my boss – a high end fashion stylist – asked about my favorite designer, I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know the designers let alone have a favorite.

This shocked her. The fact that I wasn’t fixated on Gucci’s Fall collection (the velvet hip huggers!) was incomprehensible. Or Prada’s 70s inspired color palette. She said I should tell people Helmet Lang. (This was her favorite—it was the mid nineties.)


I felt shame. WHO WAS I to be working with these high end showrooms ? I didn’t care about the fashion. Does this make me ill equipped to do the job? I doubted my abilities.

Styling For The Supermarket

I didn’t do high fashion when I started styling my own shoots. I worked for mainstream women’s magazines. These were often the ones you’d see standing in line at the grocery store checkout like Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, Prevention, First for Women and Working Mother.
 

I styled this cover in 2004.

I styled shopping trend stories like 7 Leather Jackets You’ll Still Want to Wear in 7 Years, in my early career. This involved borrowing a lot of clothes!



The way it works is that the brands loan the clothes to the magazines in exchange for publicity. The PR people, or whoever worked in the showroom was the gatekeeper. Borrowing clothes was a struggle. Especially, if you’re not styling for Vogue, Bazaar, or some cool magazine they wanted to be associated with like Paper.


To be clear, I wasn’t calling high end showrooms for these clothes. I was pitching mall stores. They rarely called me back (this was pre-email), but when they did… they’d say the publication wasn’t a good fit. It was too low budget, mass market or…cheap.


This happened often and it was hard to not take personally. I already believed that I wasn’t the right fit.

From The Nosebleeds


New York Fashion Week wasn’t always the spectacle outside the shows. If you had to wait to get inside, there wasn’t the entertainment or “streetstyle” that you’d see these days. I didn’t enjoy going inside.

One time at Nicole Miller I waited forever. They escorted everyone inside, overlooking me completely!


The lights went down and the show started. Then I was ushered to my seat. It was about 5 feet from the entrance where I was waiting—not good! The shows always confirmed my outsider status. I literally sat outside the arena.

Back in the 90s - when I got into the fashion industry - people didn't know what the job "stylist" was. I'd always have to explain that I shop for a living which made it sound cool and glamorous - which it was sometimes. But mostly I just suffered severe blows to my self confidence. Here's how working in this industry messed with my self esteem, and how I got my confidence back. I think you'll be surprised at what I share!

Fashion As Creative Expression

It took years for me to stop questioning my place in the fashion world.


I enrolled in yoga teacher training after 9/11 (when the industry tanked). By committing to myself, showing up regularly and seeing progress—I rebuilt my self esteem. Of course, the self awareness, mindfulness and yoga philosophies helped, but it was the practice itself— and getting good at something (completely unrelated to my career) that restored the trust in myself which is a key component of self confidence.


Plus yoga is about expressing yourself. This reminded me WHY I got into the fashion industry. It was always about the creative self expression. Figuring out how to show people who I am using clothing and accessories. And HAVING FUN!


Yoga taught me how to do handstands!

The Fashionable Boxes

The fashion industry is notorious for making people feel bad. It tells women they’re doing it wrong, or they are wrong if they don’t fit into one of its fashionable boxes.


I didn’t fit into the fashionable boxes.



While the fashionable boxes look different when working in the industry, the feeling of not belonging is the same.


I never thought I’d share this. But it seemed important since I speak to many women who believe they don’t fit into the fashionable boxes. They regard people with great style as part of an off-limits club.


Guess what?!? You don’t have to be a part of their club! Create your own club with your own rules, and make your personal style a practice that’s based on your true beauty and full expression. Commit to it, and you will get good at it!

Remember, fashion is a tool for self expression. If you love the art of design, amazing! Have fun with it. Don’t let other people tell you how to look whether they’re in the fashion industry or not. You get decide. And the more confident you become (in any arena of your life), the happier you’ll feel. Happiness is ALWAYS IN style.

If the thought of committing to your personal style feels daunting b/c you don’t know what to buy, where to shop or what looks good… let’s talk! Book a complimentary call and we’ll discuss what’s going on with your style, and how to get your closet filled with confidence inspiring outfits so you show people who you are, and how good you can look. Click here to book a call.




Elysha Lenkin
Elysha Lenkin helps women express themselves through fashion so they look current, feel confident and stay true to themselves. For over 20 years, she's worked on commercial shoots styling women in all shapes, ages and sizes including Carrie Underwood, Tina Fey and Serena Williams. Now her focus is to make fashion fun and approachable for real women so they show up feeling like superstars in their lives.

7 Comments

  1. GGW says:

    Elysha,
    I have continually been on the search to connect with self-wisdom, self-expression and self-confidence. Self-acceptance of who I am, how I dress and how I look carries a vibe that is “contagious” to women and girls in my life. It is a WIN WIN WIN for all. Your story and video most definitely pays it forward as a generous gift to women and girls. Thank you!
    GGW

  2. Terre says:

    Yay yoga! Good for so many things!

  3. Yay Yoga!! Thanks, Terre.

  4. Hi GGW! Thanks for watching and I appreciate your comment💜

  5. Sue says:

    One of my favourite stories as a child was, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. I am nearly always reminded of it when I see fashion shows on tv, flip through glamour magazines, or walk past so-called top designer stores. I prefer clothes that flatter, stand the test of time, and don’t break the bank!

  6. Sue, thanks for reminding me of this story. I see how relevant it can be when looking at the fashion industry today.

  7. Cathy Ogi says:

    I like it when I see something that helps us use the clothes we already have. I have plenty–don’t need the articles telling me to buy more. I like something that reiterates that I live in the real world, just need something that looks good, comfortable, using creativity sometimes, too. I think you are a good fit! People that LIVE for Gucci–I think their goals in life aren’t the same as mine-and I am not jealous.

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