AU Style Diaries: Finding style at the thrift store

AU student Tasneem Osman shares her style evolution from her hijab to her mom’s closet

Hi, my name is Tasneem (Tass-neeme), and the first thing you probably notice about me is my hijab. In the third grade, I decided I wanted to wear the hijab. I was nine years old, and the idea of not having to keep up with my hair seemed very appealing to me. I wanted to start wearing the hijab for all the wrong reasons; I didn't really know how to take care of my hair, and I was young and unable to embrace my Black identity, so I chose the hijab as a cop-out.

When I first started wearing the hijab, my parents were the ones who picked out what I wore. I wore whatever was handed down to me from my sister and cousins and whatever my parents bought for me but, no matter what, I always made sure my hijab matched my outfit. If I chose to wear a blouse with flowers on it, then I would wear a bright orange hijab to complement those flowers. Did it look good? Definitely not. I dressed like this all throughout elementary school and middle school, but then I got to high school. I discovered the thrift store, and it was honestly the best thing to ever happen to me, in terms of being a woman who wears the hijab. I perceived myself in a way that felt new and exciting. I realized that I was paying the same price for better-quality, better-looking and more sustainable clothing. Learning how to effectively thrift was something that took all four years of high school. During the time that I started thrifting, I also got into makeup; grayish BB cream, clumpy mascara lashes, kohl liner and pencil-thin, plucked brows were my go-to. Thankfully, both of those things evolved.

The evolution of my style is still changing. I can't really describe what I like or what my preferences are because every time I thrift, I always buy something I don’t expect to. Going thrifting in New York was something that was really eye-opening to me, and it changed the way I shop for clothes. In Northern Virginia (where I live), thrift stores are organized by gender, by the style of clothes, by size, by price. In New York, everything was placed in large bins, and you have to pick through multiple bins at the same time as everyone else. I was pretty overwhelmed because I was used to picking through every single item on a rack before moving to the next rack and was able to do so while taking my time and thinking through my selections. I didn't know where to start, but I knew I had to consider that the clothes at the New York thrift store were $1 a pound, and I very much was, and am, a broke college student. 

My close friend, Erik Lam, said to me, “If you see something with potential, just get it.” That's exactly what I did then and what I do now. Instead of trying to perceive how I would wear something, if I see something that is visually appealing to me in the slightest way, I'm going to grab it. It might stay in my closet for weeks, and I may have to thrift for complementary pieces before I figure out how I can style it, but eventually, it happens. 

These past few months, I started shopping in my mom's closet, for free. Honestly, my mom was a lowkey fashion icon, and photos of how she styled herself when she was in her 20s-30s regularly inspire me. Thankfully, Mama is somewhat of a hoarder, and I can go through photo albums and ask her for pieces she's worn and style them myself. As a Muslim woman wearing the hijab, one of my biggest insecurities was my femininity because I dressed modestly. Eventually, I found that femininity is more than just looking and being perceived in a certain way. Looking back, I'm eternally grateful for my developed love for styling. It's genuinely something that brings me a lot of joy, and the fact that there's still so much out there to learn, to take inspiration from, to flip and to trial-and-error is really a blissful feeling to me.

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