Monday, April 18, 2016

Wearing Liz Lisa in public & self-confidence with (Japanese) fashion

I wasn't sure if this post was necessary. I know several people who have already written about the topic and they've given some great advice. But I guess I have my own opinion and point of view (which doesn't necessarily disagree with anyone else's but is different in its own way), and I realized I do have something I wanted to say about this topic. I will addressing issues specific to Liz Lisa since I get asked about it the most personally, but many of these "tips" can definitely be applied to alternative or Japanese fashion as a whole.
I will be offering insight into the way I personally react to certain situations based on past questions and maybe a little just general advice? However, what works for me will not necessarily work for everyone and I would implore you to try different things and see what feels best for you. It's not a one size fits all mold and I don't even react the same way all of the time. There's no right or wrong way to do it. I'm not saying you should be doing what I'm doing, but I'm just trying to share what works for me and attempt to address repeat concerns or excuses that I’ve seen.

"I wish I could dress like that but no one dresses like that here and people think it's weird!"
I think one of the misconceptions I see most often is that it's common to wear Liz Lisa.  Okay, let me tell you, it's weird where I live too.
In fact, in most places, especially outside East Asia (which lbr is, like, most of the world), people WILL look at you for a little while longer because you're wearing something different. That's just how it is. Because, guess what? what you're wearing is a little different. But here's the thing - THAT'S OKAY! Like honestly, even in East Asia people might still look at you weird. I feel like some people have this warped view of Japan that makes them think that everyone is walking around in alternative fashion over there! That's really not the case. If you see what people are wearing in the background of some of my trip photos, it's not full of people in lolita or visual kei or agejo or anything like that. It's full of relatively "normal" clothing. I don't really like to use the word normal in this context but I think you get what I mean. It's like, clothes that don't stand out or grab attention because it's so incredibly average. Jfashion brands are not particularly special in Japan because people will usually have some element of awareness of it but during my 7 day trip, I could probably count the number of other girls (or I guess people since let's not eliminate just based on gender) I saw wearing Liz Lisa (a major outfit item like an OP, coat or skirt from the last 3 years) on one hand, even if I count Ebony lol. If you're counting having a Liz Lisa accessory like a purse, necklace, hair clip etc, that number increases slightly but still isn't anywhere near half or a majority. It really depends where you are and when you’re going out. I’m not saying that Liz Lisa is not worn by people in Japan because that’s far from true, but just on a scale of things, gyaru or alternative fashion is not worn by the majority of people even in Japan, and depending on your location, you may not see anyone with obvious or intentional fashion choices and you will stick out if you do. (This is, of course, different in some specific areas like Shibuya, Harajuku, Namba, etc where fashion is more of a focus.) People may not stare at you as much but that may, in fact, be a cultural thing. And of course, it really depends who you are and what the situation is because there may be more than one thing at play. 
What I’m trying to get at is that what you’re wearing (or what you want to wear) is different. Period. That’s it. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are. 

“But I see lots of people [on the internet] doing it [therefore, it must be popular].”
I think sometimes people get a warped view of what is actually “popular” based on their selective dashboards or newsfeeds. Here’s the thing - You often cater those to yourself so you see what you want to see and don’t usually see what you’re not interested in. You might see lots of different people on the internet wearing Jfashion/alt fashion, but you’re probably somewhat intentionally seeking that out by selectively choosing whom you follow and/or are possibly being part of that community. It’d be a lot different if you were interested in American/western fashion and mostly just followed blogs related to that. If you follow a bunch of Jfashion/“Asian fashion" bloggers, you’re going to see a lot of that kind of fashion and that’s going to make it seem like it’s really popular and that people are wearing it all the time, everywhere. The reality is that these people are likely from all different parts of the world, and while some will have their local comms and lots of friends they can meet in person, many others will not and they seek the internet as well to share their fashion because they don’t have any IRL/local support but online they do. I feel like I fall into the latter category.
I don’t personally have any really good friends IRL who I go out with and we twin or dress up and talk about Liz Lisa, etc. (Whether this is my own fault for not reaching out to anyone or not, let’s just leave that on the side for now lol.) I strongly rely on social media to share and get feedback or inspiration and I try to give back when I can. But when I’m going out of the house and wearing Liz Lisa, I will not see anyone else who is dressed like me. I know there are other people on Oahu who own Liz Lisa and are interested in the fashion, but I just have personally never seen them or have been able to discuss it with them (besides Rei who I wouldn’t have even met if she didn’t take the initiative to reach out to me). The island isn’t even that big, but I have somehow never managed to randomly bump into someone also wearing Liz Lisa. There is also a well-established Lolita fashion comm here but I think I’ve seen maybe 5 people total IRL (not just in pictures) wearing lolita in Hawaii in my life. So when it comes to “no one else dresses like this here”, there’s two components to this – 1. there may, in fact, be others out there who dress in your same fashion style but you just never see them and 2. it’s still okay to wear what you want even if there isn’t anyone else doing it.
Okay but there are some social obstacles, so how to go about it?

"People stare/look at me."
Liz Lisa clothes are not too similar to a lot of other clothes, especially outside of East Asia, and that’s one of the things that’s so great about it. Because they are so different, many people are not used to seeing them and they likely want to “stare” to figure it out. I feel like this is especially true for some of Liz Lisa’s beautiful prints!
But honestly, the way I see it, this happens regardless of what you are wearing. Sometimes you could be wearing something super ugly and you'll get stares. Sometimes you could be wearing something super fabulous and get stares. Sometimes you could be wearing jeans and a tshirt and you'll get stares. This isn't something that you (as yourself) can do anything about. We simply can't control what other people do. The best thing you can do on your own is “manage” your reaction (on the outside at least) to that whether it's passive, a little more aggressive or no reaction. There's no right answer.
On the “aggressive” or action-taking side: When I catch someone intently staring at me (not just like a glance to make sure they don’t walk into me wtf), I find that when I catch their gaze and put on a smile or say hi, I’ll get a lot of smiles back! And sometimes people will even take that as an opportunity to deliver a compliment or ask a simple question about the clothes. Honestly, I feel like a decent number of women and children really like the clothes and are staring just because they think it’s nice to look at. Those who don’t return the smile and quickly avert their gaze? Well now they’re embarrassed because they got caught being rude as hell. This helps remind them that you’re a person too and not an object and that you have feelings as well. Looking back at them helps remind them of that. If it’s obvious that someone is just gawking (like you can hear them making lewd or inappropriate comments), I’ll probably throw in an eyebrow raise + frown (like really? Are you really that obnoxious?) or some kind of stink eye but those are usually far and few between.
On the “passive”/no reaction side: I’ll probably just keep looking straight in front of me at where I’m going and focus on walking, try to maintain some sort of neutral or slightly positive facial expression and not falling down or tripping. Or I might look to the side if there’s anything there and start window shopping to avoid any kind of “confrontation” and pretend that I’m completely content just being who I am lol. I’m not always in the mood to challenge people tbh. And I don’t really feel like I’m on the “losing” side of anything because sometimes I just don’t want to defend my fashion choices with overly fierce confidence lol. I think really what I get in my head is a way to portray that I'm not embarrassed to be who I am or wear what I'm wearing and that others cannot make me feel bad about it because I feel so neutral or care so little about their reaction.
Again, these are not things I do to keep people from looking at me. There’s no way to way to avoid that that I’ve been able to find. These are more like coping mechanisms depending on my mood, where I am and what I’m wearing. There are certainly many other ways to address staring but these are two basic ones that I typically utilize without thinking too much. Regardless of how rude other people may be, you’re doing the best you can and rocking what you’ve got, and that’s already fantastic. It also doesn’t help to assume that all stares are bad when in fact many of them might just be due to curiosity or in admiration. Keep this in mind!

"People make comments about what I'm wearing." (you're overdressed, why are you wearing that? etc)
I’ve definitely had people ask me why I’m wearing what I’m wearing or ask where I’m going because of how I’m dressed. These questions are mostly annoying but I know that sometimes it’s just someone trying to make conversation who doesn’t have any malicious intentions at all. But of course, there are people who are rude as well and just lack tact.
My reaction to someone engaging me about what I’m wearing will depend on who is saying these things to me and what the situation is + what kind of mood I’m in.
Complete stranger that I’ll never see again who is likely just curious and doesn’t realize why the question might be rude: I’ll probably just paste on a smile and simply just explain to them that this is what I wanted to wear and I like it. And more often than not, that’s the truth, is it not? Why else would I be wearing it?
Acquaintance with mutual friends/acquaintances that I will see again without a doubt or students/peers (when I was a student): I might take the time to explain my fashion choices and my interest in particular styles and brands. But I rarely go into full detail unless it seems like someone actually has a shared interest. I usually like to keep it short and to-the-point. Sometimes I also just flat out lie and make up a reason I'm wearing something if I don’t feel like explaining myself and feel like that will end the conversation the quickest. However, what I would ideally like to avoid is similar questions in the future, every single time I wear an outfit of similar "dressiness", so that doesn't always work.
Family members, friends, people who know me well and who I know well: I usually don’t bother with the over polite stuff and the people who fall into this category usually don’t comment on what I’m wearing because they have to accept me anyway regardless of how I’m dressed lol. But if someone does make a comment and it’s a little on the rude side but in a joking way, I’ll usually make a joke back. If I were to get a “why are you wearing that?” type of comment, I’ll probably say something like “why not??” or “why, want to trade?” especially if it’s a male family member or friend or something along those lines, trying not to take it too seriously. If they’re actually trying to give me a critique (like they honestly think there’s something wrong with what I’m wearing), I’ll probably listen and depending on what the criticism is, I’ll make changes but usually not. These are the only people I’d be willing to actually deal with comments from. Thankfully none of my family or friends are really outwardly malicious to me intentionally and I don’t usually have to hear comments from them about my outfits unless it’s a compliment.
Someone in a position of authority (over me or someone I know, for example a supervisor, teacher, etc) that I don’t know on a personal or friendly level: First and foremost, someone like your teacher shouldn’t be commenting on what you’re wearing unless it has to do with an infraction of school policy, especially if these comments make you feel uncomfortable and you’ve voiced that. This is doubly true if you are a minor. If this happens to you often, be sure to tell an authority figure (like a counselor, other teacher or your parents) that you can trust what is going on.  If it continues to be a problem, be sure to keep a written record of the comments (the date it happened, what was said, etc) and take it with you to someone in the administration. This can also be the case for certain situations between supervisors and subordinates if it turns into sexual harassment depending on the language being used and how often it’s brought up when not in relation to company policy or employee conduct. But if it’s not either of those situations and they’re just trying to make conversation but are a bit awkward or don’t know that their comments about what I’m wearing are unwelcome, it’s usually best and easiest to be polite unless you already have a friendly relationship with them. In these cases, I’ll sometimes make up some excuse about just grabbing whatever was at the front of my closet or going out to dinner after or something because I just want to have a quick explanation. Other times, I may just politely explain that this is the kind of clothes I like to wear and ask if there’s something wrong with it (usually it is not even remotely a problem so I already know the answer but want to make them feel just a little uncomfortable for asking but not in an overt way so they don’t do it again). In general (when it’s not harassment), it’s best to keep the conversation light and cordial just because of the power they have over you.  
Someone regardless of relation who is clearly just trying to be a prick: If I just have no patience that day and someone asks me why I’m “so dressed up”, I’ll usually look at them directly in the eye with a completely serious face and just say “I’m not”. Usually the way I say this doesn’t really leave too much room for further discussion and shuts them up, but if they do try to justify their comment in some way, I usually ask them why they think that or say “what’s it to you?” and they really don’t typically have a good reason tbh.
On the first day of an internship I was just starting, literally within about 15 minutes of walking through the door, a male coworker asked me "Oh, going to prom?" I had no idea what this meant at first since I didn't have a corsage or a date in formal wear and I wasn't wearing a prom dress. I was wearing a hi-lo black dress with blue hearts on it paired with sensible black pumps which overall could possibly be even deemed casual. I was caught off-guard so much that I didn't know what to say except, "No." Lmao. I mean, it's the first day of my new job and I didn't want to come off as someone without a sense of humor but 1. I didn't even know if it was a joke at all, and 2. Was that even remotely funny and how was I expected to respond to it? Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches, but I felt really self-conscious about what I was wearing for the rest of the day after that and I don't even think it was all that weird of an outfit.
I’ll accept comments about what I’m wearing if I agree that what I’m wearing is inappropriate but there is a specific reason I’m dressed that way. Otherwise, clearly, I'm wearing something "out of the ordinary" because I like it, and I think I look cute. Duh. What else am I supposed to say?

"I feel self-conscious."
There's no secret way to get rid of this! I am self-conscious all the time but it doesn't always have to do with what I'm wearing (it usually has to do with eating) - although occasionally it does.
There are items I feel totally amazing in or think are outrageously cute but just don't want to wear in public because I don't want to deal with people's reactions. Like I said earlier, I know they are unavoidable and not something I can help, so I usually don’t go out in anything I would deem a little more out-of-the-ordinary unless I really feel confident enough to do it. However, I would say that it does get easier the more you do it and being able to employ whatever coping mechanisms you find. I know that confidence does not just magically manifest overnight!
One thing that really helps me feel a little less self-conscious when I’m out and about in Liz Lisa is having a really good idea of what I look like before I go anywhere. By this I basically mean that I’m looking exactly as I want to look and I like it. If I’m unsure about anything, I’ll look in the mirror from a variety of angles and fix and adjust and make sure that everything is as it should be. I do not leave until I feel 110% about the way I look. (Or if there’s a problem area, that I’m at least already aware of it and can make adjustments as necessary.) That way, when I’m walking around and people are having any sort of reaction (positive or negative), I won’t care because I know that I look exactly as I intended. And I’m not going to give two fluffs as to whether they like it or agree or not. I like it. That’s what matters. And I know I look good ;P It sounds kind of silly and maybe even a little conceited to write it out like this, but it’s honest. There are times when I won’t care what I look like, but when I do and when I’m wearing something I know may garner attention, I want to look as good as I can. I do whatever I can to make that happen before I leave the house and then keep that in mind as I walk around.
If you’re new to dressing in himekaji/alt fashion/Liz Lisa and really nervous about how it will be perceived by strangers in public, a decent way to ease yourself into it might be to go out with your friends first. One of the things that helps me feel less self-conscious in public is having someone with me – my mom, my bf, a friend, whoever. That way, I just don’t feel “alone” and there’s someone else there who can distract me from whatever nonsense or rudeness is going on around me by just talking or interacting or just basic human things lol. I think on some level I think that having someone else with me also validates to other people that “I have friends or people who tolerate me and I’m not a hopeless loser who dresses weird”. This is probably not true but I know that I unconsciously think that sometimes.
Of course, that doesn’t help me when I’m alone. I can’t always be attached at the hip to someone whenever I want to wear Liz Lisa. There are many times when I’m just out shopping by myself or killing time or whatever or I’m even just walking somewhere to meet my friend lol.
If you’re alone and feeling a bit nervous, if it helps, you can imagine that I’m walking with you. In fact, I’m sure that many of us from all different parts of the world would gladly walk beside you in confidence while you’re wearing Liz Lisa – or really, whatever you’re wearing.

“Only Asians/skinny people can pull it off."
BS. You can miss me with this one. This excuse has never been directed at me personally but I’ve seen it floating around on comments on social media. The idea that only Asians can feasibly wear or “pull off” girly or cute fashion/wearing Liz Lisa is, frankly, ridiculous and not true. Asian should also not be synonymous with skinny. Asian people come in all different shapes and sizes and their body type is not indicative of race. But really, the point is that you don’t need to be a size 0 to wear Liz Lisa – in public or not. Sure, freesize is not the most inclusive of sizing options but that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t wear Liz Lisa if you’re not a XS/S. And you certainly don’t have to be Asian. I’m not sure what else I have to say about this. It just….It’s not fffing true. DO NOT USE THIS AS AN EXCUSE. It can be incredibly insulting. I can understand any of the other excuses on some level, but not this one.
[To be fair, if you don’t fit freesize at all (some freesize items don’t even fit me well), then yes, I understand that to be a general complaint about Japanese brands and their sizing conventions, but to say that only skinny people can “pull it off” is not valid.]

Anyway, what I want to say is throughout this entire post is that even though it might be hard, you should wear what you feel confident in. The more you wear things for yourself, the easier it gets. Your closet full of Liz Lisa really needs to shine! High school can be a horrible place so maybe the rude comments are inevitable (*even though they shouldn’t be*). It helps if your friends can support you too. My friends didn’t always like what I was wearing, but I don’t think they were ever too embarrassed to sit by me :)
There’s no correct way to handle these situations, so please do what you feel comfortable with, but I hope that you continue to keep rocking your own style and know that many of us who wear Liz Lisa stand with and support you.
I know it’s not always that simple though. Believe me, I do. I would suggest maybe trying a few different things and see what you feel comfortable with and what works best for you.

Truthfully I recycled some stuff from past asks, but only because I really like how I wrote it the first time and it’s still what I think! (Sometimes you can’t think of a way to write it any better lol.) Sorry this post was a bit of a text wall.
I may have come down with “tough love” and a bit too much straightforwardness in this post, but at some point I have to stop dancing around and trying to make everything seem magical. I understand that some people may have severe social anxiety or certain illnesses that they cannot simply "just get over" and this post may not be for you and you are not who I am trying to address. This post may not be helpful if you require professional or medical assistance. But for others who just need a little fluffing or confidence boost or to know that you are not alone, I hope it might be insightful in some way.
Feedback, comments or other advice are welcome!
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/p/contact.html

16 comments:

  1. LOL I definitely wear Liz Lisa everyday in Tokyo but I am lucky if I see ONE OTHER GIRL wearing anything; it feels so rare! Everything you said was so spot on. I've been earring alternative fashion since middle school and have been through so much BS because of the things I wear. All your advice is good, and I also find listening to music to be an amazing escape from the harsh reality of other people's judgements.

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    1. Glad that my few observations as a tourist weren't too off base! I'm also in a similar situation to you where I learned kind of early on so I figure, may as well try and pass some stuff on haha. I would hate for anyone to be discouraged by such meaningless BS!

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    2. I've lived here for 6 years and 4-5 years ago I saw dozens of girls wearing Liz Lisa every day, just like I saw lolitas almost every day. Now I see zero lolitas, even in Harajuku, and I see Liz Lisa only when I go to visual kei lives or very very rarely in Shinjuku. Japan has fallen to the "casual" aka lazy and boring trend, like the rest of the world. Let's hope it's a phase.

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  2. When I was visiting Japan, the only time I really saw gyaru or people who were dressed up in gyaru style was during Halloween and when I spotted a BD member in 109 Men's buying shoes with some gyaru-o dude. I rarely saw Liz Lisa (which made me sad honestly since I think it's so lovely), but I definitely saw more of the "everyday" (as opposed to normal, like you said). Alternative fashions stick out, but again, they're not called alternative if they are the majority.
    As for people giving looks, I've learned to ignore it! However, I do live in an area where alternative fashions are not out of the blue. But there are people who will be rude no matter what, no matter where :/
    めっちゃめっちゃ可愛い

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    1. Yup, everyone deals with this kind of issue in a different way and I'm glad you were able to find what works for you!

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  3. Lmao, I'm always over dressed but oh well. I think as long as you're happy with what you're wearing then that's ultimately the most important thing.

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    1. I hope everyone will have the confidence to do this!

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  4. You are right, even in Japan, unless you go to places like Harajuku, I find most people still wear rather neutral/normal kind of outfits.

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    1. Haha yes, I think sometimes some people might have a screwed view of Japan. I'm sure they might be a little surprised if they visit themselves.

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  5. Thank you for this. Even though it's a commonly discussed topic, it makes me feel good to see someone whose fashion sense I identify with and admire so much talk about it. I buy hundreds of dollars worth of Liz Lisa and similar brands but I can never bring myself to actually wear it anywhere outside my own room. It seriously feels the worst to see my beautiful OPs and not have the confidence to wear them out -- instead putting on jeans, a tee, jacket, and old sneakers. I'm hoping that this year I can gain the confidence to wear them!!!

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    1. Good luck to you! For most of us, it really isn't just as easy as snapping your fingers and just instantly not caring (I envy the people who have the innate ability to do that), but I do feel like it gets easier with time. Hope for the best for you!

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  6. I, too, get all kinds of reactions to me wearing Liz Lisa (or other less conservative and often Asian fashion choices).
    Even though I do live and work in a bigger European city, it is very uncommon here to wear Japanese fashion. Even some other more commonly known things like hats or overly boho styles or even some street styles are not often seen around here. Basically everything that's not business attire or jeans and t-shirt will most likely stand out. Let's face it, himekaji is so special, it will -definitely- stand out, no matter where you go. It even stands out in Tokyo.

    The funny thing is, I dress like I feel and what I love to look at and like on me. My wardrobe ranges from street to boho to festival to edgy to himekaji to fairy kei to even some lolita-ish pieces. I have no 'just-this' wardrobe. Never will have.
    I actually don't even -want- to stand out! You can see me in jeans or a shift dress just as likely as you can see me in himekaji or Korean street fashion. there's just as much black and white in my closet as there is pink and floral. ^^
    I don't know about you folks, but I pretty much just wear what I am drawn to aesthetically.

    To tell you a little secret: I'd much prefer if my taste wouldn't draw so much attention, but oftentimes, it does. I realize bit by bit that this is to be expected, whether I intended for it or not. I am learning to accept this, but slowly.

    Some reactions to my style choices have been negative, some positive. Depending on my own mood, situation and 'bravery' state at the moment I received feedback, wanted or unwanted, or was confronted with those reactions, I react differently. But with every incident of a person- especially strangers who I don't know what to expect from yet- telling me what they think or asking me something about my clothes and accessoires, I get a little bit more used to default answers. Don't get me wrong, as I said, if someone negative catches me off guard, I might still be lost or embarassed or insecure on how to react back to them.

    The most positive reactions were probably other interested people asking where one can get such clothing or little girls staring whispering to their mothers that "she looks like a princess". Even some guys have been gentlemen commenting on "such a pretty dress" or "lovely outfit" or "this suits you".

    My least favourite reactions would be other girls laughing at me to overcome their own insecurity like "look at HER, I'd NEVER go out in public like that HAHAHAH" or lewd comments and wolf whistles from men. I'd gladly live without having to endure that! Depending on my mood, I might react in a way that shuts them up, but often, I'll just ignore them and try to remove myself from the situation as quickly as possible. >_< Call me a coward, but I am not always self confident or fit enough to fight mean idiots. Or sometimes, I just can't be bothered to care, hehe.
    It is also important to remember that, no matter how pissed you might sometimes be at snide remarks or weird reactions, most of the times, people are just unsure themselves and might not even realize they're rude in the first place.

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    1. "If you’re alone and feeling a bit nervous, if it helps, you can imagine that I’m walking with you. In fact, I’m sure that many of us from all different parts of the world would gladly walk beside you in confidence while you’re wearing Liz Lisa – or really, whatever you’re wearing."

      This is such a beautiful message. Thank you for this blog article, Emi, I think it is very important and uplifting. <3


      I hope I could help with my insight of what my everyday life in Liz Lisa can look like on some days. I think Emi did a wonderful job at giving advice here, many answers to weird reactions she gives here are good ideas to remember!

      And yes: I, too, would gladly walk beside each and everyone of you in my Liz Lisa and other 'unusual' fashion in spirit, as support.

      Remember: Wear what you want, you will look beautiful in it if you feel good in it! Wear what brings a smile to your face, always. But learn to expect and accept strong reactions to unusual attire. It's just normal, it -is- going to happen. People react all sorts of ways to the unknown.
      Never do we have to accept rudeness or insults, though. No matter how much it tickles others, they have no right to invade our privacy or damage our self esteem.

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    2. Thank you for sharing your story as well!

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  7. Thanks for sharing your story and tips.

    I too, was nervous and self conscious when I first started wearing Liz Lisa. I was in a similar situation when people asked why I was "dressed up."
    I really love your straight forward response when someone asked why you're "dress up." I use those too before, and it works.

    What really built my confidence was that my boyfriend and close friends would tell me how cute I looked in Liz Lisa, and how they love the prints. Even my former classmates back in school and current coworkers likes the way I dress, they find it weird when I'm not wearing pink. lol

    Although I haven't worn LL in awhile, I'd still rock LL with confidence. At the end of the day wear what makes you happy. :)

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    1. Yes, having support from your friends and family can be so important!

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