My Style Journey: Patricia Kihoro
I must say that prior to being asked to write this, I had never really put much consideration into what constitutes my style. However, after a couple of months of mulling over it, one thing I am pretty sure about is that my style has never been governed by what is deemed fashionable. Not for the longest time. It was more circumstantial more than anything. I remember when I was much younger, before puberty took a toll on my self esteem, what I wore was dictated mostly by how comfortable I was and how well it was able to withstand my tomboy lifestyle. That meant that biker shorts, t-shirts and sneakers would be worn both when racing with boys on bicycles and scaling roofs in the neighbourhood, as well as to church on Sundays, despite my mother’s protests. This was also because any venture outside the house meant either bruised legs or ripped clothes.
I preferred to endure the bruises rather than explain to my mother what activities had led to more tears in my clothes, and her insistence on once in a while putting me in get ups that she thought were cute would leave me sulking for hours on end. On special occasions like weddings and Christmas however, my mother would whip out beautiful dresses that my father, with his great taste and vast travels, would buy for me, but unfortunately could only be worn once because no sartorial brilliance, whatsoever, would prevent me from climbing a tree, or rolling around in muddy puddles, no matter how lovely the garments. I was quite the handful to be honest, and I do recall there always being old newspapers in the car with which to line the car seats, as on some days out I would be as filthy as a stray dog by the end of the day. It’s unfortunate though because looking back now, I would have loved to have kept some of those dresses for any of my future kids. They were lovely and timeless.
Fast forward to my teenage years when adolescence pulled a number on me. I gained a ton of weight and went from lean, toned pre-teen limbs to cellulite, thunder thighs and having to wear bras larger than my mother’s. I became horribly self-conscious, and my style choices then became about hiding my thighs, arms and bulging love handles. My wardrobe, which had earlier been full of short shorts, mini-skirts and crop tops, or ‘tumbo cuts’ as we called them, was now mostly denim trousers, cargo pants, maxi skirts and t-shirts. At some point I was sharing shirts and jeans with my father, who is 25 years older than I am. This tomboy, ‘boyfriend’ look, which was actually not too bad, for me was more to hide my perceived flaws than to follow a trend, and deep down, I felt horrible that my father’s clothes could fit me. On the day of the Y2K crossover, I remember crying after my mother tried to convince me to wear a cute cropped top to the New Years Eve party, when all I could think was that my midriff was too large. After high school, I began to gradually lose weight, and this brought with it quite a few compliments. My confidence began to build up again and I started to be more comfortable in my own skin. While I don’t remember necessarily becoming thin, I did need smaller clothes and my ‘boyfriend’ look began to soften and become more feminine with cute tops and a pair of heels here and there.
I’m not really sure about what happened between then and now though, aside from taking part in a small singing competition for a reality show here and starring in a couple of TV series and films there, but my style options have since expanded a whole lot. My choices are now driven by what catches my eye, and what makes me feel good. All I know is that I am now a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and with my very volatile weight gain and loss, it’s important that I feel great whatever my size. For some reason my body size changes with the seasons and with a single bite of a burger; earlier this year I was a size 6/8 and now I’m a size 10/12; so my wardrobe consists of staples that are versatile at whatever my shape and size is. (Most of them will still be versatile enough to wear through out any pregnancies I may carry in the future. Gasp.)
I tend to favour basic tailored pieces, which I splurge on, and then dress those up with items and accessories that I pick up at many different places, on my travels and at flea markets. I love strong prints, especially African prints from all over the continent, as well as bold colours, and I am not afraid to command attention wherever I am. Also, based on what my mood is, I can go from an all black outfit, to a full on, boldly coloured, mixed print get up, and still feel equally excited by both. I am also at a place in my life that is a far cry from where I was when I struggled with my weight in high school. I’m not embarrassed by a love handle peeking out once in a while, and this has to do more with my consciously making the effort to love every bit of my body. Looking back, I think I can safely say that finding peace with who I am and what I look like has had a great impact on how diverse my style choices have become. I am not afraid to try something new, and at the same time will not take offence if someone critiques a choice I make, if it’s honest and without malice. My style evolution has been synonymous with the growth of my confidence and self esteem, and I am happy to say that the word ‘versatile’ can now be used to describe me. I feel comfortable in jeans and converses, heels and short dresses as well as maxi skirts and head wraps. Depending on the day, you may find me performing on stage in any of those ensembles. That being said, I am still very excited to see how my style shall continue to evolve in the years to come. As long as my confidence radiates in whatever it is I am wearing, I feel stylish, sexy and most of all, happy.
Images by Victor Peace
Make up by Fauziya Awale