Fashion as Personal Power

It’s been scientifically proven, by Harvard researchers and others, how we view ourselves is directly tied to our feelings of personal power (or lack thereof). Also, how we present ourselves on the outside can drastically change others’ perception of how powerful we are (or aren’t). 

When I was a kid in middle school, I loved clothes. I loved everything about them. The way they looked hanging in my closet, the way they allowed me to express my creativity, the smell of something brand new, the way they made me FEEL. But it was a love/hate relationship, because at that age, I was also bullied. And when I’d go to school wearing new clothes, sometimes the other girls would be downright mean about whatever I happened to have on. When you’re an adult, it’s easy to brush off the comments as those of kids who don’t know what they’re saying, who don’t think before they speak. But when you’re a kid, you start to develop lots of insecurities. And you stop wanting to wear new clothes. 

In high school, although still racked with the insecurities of every other 17-year-old girl, I had a breakthrough. I attended modeling classes weekly at a school in Omaha, Nebraska, and suddenly I was surrounded by other girls (and guys) who loved fashion as much as I did. No one was shy about putting together killer looks for our Saturday workshops. We’d comb through the editorial pages of Vogue magazine and try to come up with replications on our own (keeping in mind there was no online shopping – and we were in Nebraska). And I started to piece together how fashion and outward appearances could change the way other people perceived you in a positive way; not just the negative reactions I’d been used to. 

At 18, I signed a multi-year contract with Elite Model Management, an international agency that represented Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Iman, and many others. But those insecurities crept back in. Elite wanted me to skip college and instead move to Miami or Los Angeles where I would spend my days going on casting calls for shoots, working with photographers, and continuing to build up my portfolio of work. But at 18, I wasn’t ready to venture that far outside of my comfort zone. 

I was told – “You need to do this right now. Because by the time you turn 27, you’ll be too old.” 

So, I did work regionally for a few years, while going to school at Briar Cliff, and then scrapped modeling altogether. I let cultural pressures dictate what I did, and when I did it. I let people in my life tell me to stop daydreaming and focus on reality (Who was I to think I could actually be a model?). And I spent the next several years of my life buying into the concept that I was too old to wear “this”, too young to do “that”. If I’m a wife, I behave like “this”. If I’m a mom, I’m supposed to do “this”. If you get a divorce, better get yourself prepped to do “this”. Oh, you just turned 40? Now “this” is what you’re supposed to act like.

And while my life has turned out pretty great, and I don’t have any regrets for the choices I’ve made, I’ve finally realized that taking limitations off of yourself and making decisions that feel right to you, regardless of what society says, is a much more fulfilling path. 

So, here we are. 

At age 45, I am still perusing the back pages of Vogue, picking up on the trends for the month, and figuring out how to incorporate the latest looks into my everyday wardrobe. I’ve started modeling again, and am a huge fan of the development of age-inclusivity in the world of fashion and advertising (apparently life does NOT end when you turn 27). And thankfully, the industry seems to have permanently recognized the beauty of humans who are all sizes, all body types, all ethnicities, and all cultures. It’s a great time to play with fashion and curate your own individual style. 

And that’s exactly what this newly-created column will focus on. In each issue, we’ll have a couple of objectives:

  1. Work with an individual in Siouxland who wants help addressing their own particular style challenges, and 
  2. Explore the area’s retail scene to prove once and for all that style exists everywhere

Everyone has perception issues with their body, their look, their style. Everyone. And it’s very easy to let that perception become your reality. But our focus is on taking back your personal power. Relaxing. Having fun. Removing limits that are holding you back from expressing yourself in your most authentic way. 

Fashion is way more cathartic than people give it credit for. When you feel amazing about the way you look, it changes your internal thought process. It’s about time we stop apologizing for wearing whatever makes us feel fantastic. Whether it’s the perfect pair of jeans, or an awesome new dress, or a concert t-shirt from 1997. Wear it. Way more people are going to recognize that glow and think you look amazing than will criticize you for your style choices. And you’re always at your most powerful when you feel like your authentic self. 

Have a style challenge? Email Erika at with a short description (include a selfie if you’d like!) and you could appear in an upcoming issue!

Erika Hansen is a lifelong Siouxland resident. Curious about exploring the connection between outward appearances and inner power, Erika is passionate about making fashion fun, and fostering a spirit of inclusion with no limits. You can find more of Erika’s love of style on Instagram @kings.from.ash.

Photo Credit, Britton Hacke Photography

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