BYUH students and an alumna share how fashion influences who they are
Jenna Call, Precious Donato and Nakiya Russell said they see personal style and fashion as a means of self-expression and confidence. They all emphasized the importance of feeling comfortable and true to oneself in one’s clothing, regardless of societal standards or trends. They encouraged others to embrace their uniqueness and to be fearless in experimenting with their fashion choices as a way to communicate their personalities and values to the world.
Jenna Call, a senior majoring in marine biology from Washington, said, “As someone who has never fit the ideal body type, I think finding your fashion should be about finding whatever makes you feel beautiful and confident.” She expressed she has never been skinny and felt she needed to lose weight before she could look and feel pretty in her clothes. Call said when she started finding her style and finally having clothes that made her feel pretty, it was a big breakthrough for her.
“Everyone deserves to feel pretty, sexy and confident,” said Call. “Your personal style must be true to you,” she explained. “Developing style is a way to put roots into who you are. It takes some soul searching. For me, being with nature is my happy comfort place, and it’s the reason I want to become a scientist,” said Call.
Call described the Earth and nature’s connections to creating life. The way it breathes and changes with the seasons, the resilience and strength with which it digs its roots and the acceptance of death are all powerful things she relates to fashion and finds a place within.
“Someone searching for their own style should put in some work to root themselves into what they like, what they are drawn to, where their comfort is and where they see themselves fitting in the world. If your style is going to be an extension of you, you must know yourself,” said Call.
She said growing up in Seattle allowed her to meet a lot of different people, and people are not afraid to style up. Call said she started finding her own fashion style in high school, where she had the desire to be more feminine. “I like connecting to nature and styling up in florals and earthy tones. Being a marine biology major plays into that study of life and it is beautiful with all the plants and animals,” said Call.
She said wearing dresses and corsets feels normal in Washington, but coming to Hawaii has been different, as people wear casual beach clothes, which are more simplistic and made her feel out of place because she got a lot of stares. Despite the stares she got, Call said she has also gotten lots of compliments on her style.
She said she even makes her own jewelry, explaining, “I started making jewelry when I was in middle school by playing around with beads and wire. I like using silver metal and earth tones beads and charms that are shaped like leaves and flowers.”
Call said she has always felt different from people when it comes to her sense of fashion and style. “I feel very individualistic, where I try to make what I feel on the inside match the outside. It makes me feel extravagant and connected to the earth,” said Call. She recalled the feeling of being different and not fitting in is comfortable and feels like her.
Call encouraged others to be eccentric and not to be afraid to style up. She said, “Go outside of your comfort zone. Pinterest is really helpful because you can curate things that are really cool like staple pieces. Even if your style is minimal, sleek and professional, just try it out.”
She said nature helps her understand her fashion. “Being an eternal being where my spirit has existed for so long and has a life and personality, I’m trying to find ways to express the way that I feel about myself in a way that I can communicate with others.”
Call said fashion doesn’t have to be scary because there’s no right or wrong way to do it. “I’m never scared to wear something that’s different from everyone else because it’s a representation of me and that is the first step in communicating who you are,” said Call.
Empowerment through clothing
Precious Donato, a senior from the Philippines majoring in biology, said, “You wear the clothes and don’t let the clothes wear you.” She said there is no need to copy others, but being aware of your personality is more important because it will show up more than what you’re actually wearing.
Donato described herself as bubbly and shy, with low self-esteem, but said wearing the right clothes gives her confidence and helps her overcome her social awkwardness. “If I feel happy, I’ll wear bright colors and dresses. Other than that, I try to express my personality through my clothes,” said Donato.
She expressed her day-to-day basis for styling depends on her personality for the day. “On days where I feel I’m going to be professional, I’d wear slacks with button-up shirts, and if I feel edgy, I’ll wear black. It also depends on what activities I have for the day,” she said. She said most of her days are spent doing lab work, so she tries to incorporate wearing long sleeves, pants and close-toed shoes.
Donato noted she likes jewelry and matching it with her clothes. She said her desire to be unique and memorable to people motivates her to dress well. Even though she is busy with her senior year, she said experimenting with putting different patterns together allows her to continue exploring her style and branching out to express her personality.
Harmony of faith and fashion
Nakiya Russell, a BYUH alumna from Arizona, said her lifelong love of fashion reflects her evolving relationship with spirituality and self-expression by emphasizing the fact one can be modest and fashionable at the same time.
Russell said she leads two separate fashion lives due to her dual roles in the corporate world and her personal time. In her professional environment, she said she prioritizes a polished and professional appearance, especially when interacting with various individuals, including church members and leaders.
However, during her personal time, she said she embraces a mix of streetwear and classy styles, enjoying the creative process of combining different elements. She said she adopts a strategic approach to her outfits, often starting with one central item and building her look around it.
Russell said investing time in her appearance sets a positive tone for her day and is essential for her overall well-being. “I feel my fashion is an expression of my personality. The things I choose to wear and how I choose to present myself are reflections of my relationship with God and my respect for him,” said Russell. Reflecting on her high school experience and personal growth, Russell described the common teenage phase of wanting to fit in and follow trends and how her understanding of spirituality has shifted her perspective.
“Building my testimony was one of the bigger things I could have done to help me understand my true style,” said Russell. She highlighted how it is easy to seek validation through appearance, but as she has deepened her connection with God, she has learned to prioritize what makes her feel genuinely comfortable and reflects her values rather than seeking approval from others.
During the moments when she felt out of place, Russell said self-awareness and understanding one’s body and preferences to navigate situations effectively are important. She said it’s challenging but essential not to overly concern oneself with others’ opinions, as everyone experiences moments of nervousness and insecurity.
She said her desire to style other people has elevated her desire to explore different fashion styles. “Wearing what feels good and comfortable should be a priority,” said Russell. She emphasized one could follow the standards and be fashionable at the same time. She said, “There’s never just one or the other. You can do both. You can have it all. You can be modest. You can have your fashion, look amazing and feel good at the same time. So, don’t settle for less and find that happy medium.”