The Joy Of Being An Outsider

When I started Wear the Shift, I was an outsider to fashion design, a complete amateur. I had never drafted a pattern or even sewn a real garment in my life. But starting the company from Knowledge Level 0 was a conscious choice on my part, because I wanted to approach this problem of "how do we make clothes" from a new angle.

And it worked. Since I didn't have any experience, I just tried stuff. With each iteration, I thought deeply about what worked and what didn't, and I was able to cycle through ideas very quickly until I hit upon an algorithm that created the fit I wanted.

Of course I ran into stumbling blocks. Of course I will continually refine what I'm doing based on customer feedback and continual learning -- I am finally taking patternmaking lessons!

But my process of experimenting and thinking and experimenting some more led me to a unique way of creating sewing patterns, one based on the reality of an individual person's body rather than a list of commercial standards. I'm not sure I'd have been able to do that if I'd started off by going through design school and learning all about The Way Things Are Done.

I think about this in terms of the way I look, too. I'm cute enough, sure, but I've never been the kind of girl you'll see walking a runway -- I'm a beauty outsider. And while that sometimes made me a little sad when I was a kid, I see now how it's given me enormous freedom. I will never look like a movie star, so why not just try to look like what I think is cute?

Even as Wear the Shift grows into a bigger company with a wider impact, I never want to lose my outsider status. I never want to fix my crooked teeth, or starve myself to get skinny, or worry about whether the way I dress is "fashionable" or not. I want to look like myself, experiment with wild abandon, and retain every drop of my freedom.

We tend to think of being an outsider as somehow being less than. But I see it differently. Being on the margin gives you a unique perspective on the status quo and makes you less beholden to it. Which means you can more easily change it.