10/31/2012 12:55 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2012


"Who are you wearing?" It is a question that is often asked in the world of fashion. If you spend the money on a designer label, you typically want people to know. I am certainly guilty of this crime. I'm sorry, but if I spent $1,000 or more on a purse, I want it to be recognized. When I was younger, and had not yet developed my own fashion voice, I was even more "branded."

One who is "branded" tends to stamp his/her body parts with brand names. For instance, take those who choose to call their butt "Juicy" or their breasts "Abercrombie & Fitch." I can't even count the number of times I went out at night with a giant "True Religion" label on my butt. I would save and save my babysitting money for a chance to brand myself with a label. It gave me a title. In high school I was "The girl with the True Religion jeans," and just like that, I was at least a "somebody." It did not matter whether or not I was simply buying my way to the top; my fashion was on the map.

To me, this is a fashion cop-out. When I had to spend my money on other more important aspects of life, such as a college education, I could no longer afford the costs of my branding habits. When I reached semi-adulthood, "Abercrombie" was not cool anymore. The must-have brands became Marc Jacobs and Chanel. The prices went up as my clothing budget began to decrease. Suddenly, I could not hide behind brands anymore. I had to use my own name to get recognized and develop my own fashion personality. I went from being "branded" to a die-hard thrifter.

Thrift store shopping is often a grueling task. You will have to go through a million bright red, handmade, itchy sweaters with the most random details glue-gunned onto the mystery material before finding a gem. But, once you find it, it is worth all the work. You have to use your imagination. Old polyester shirts with neckties are abundant at thrift stores. Although they seem a little old lady like at first, paired with skinny jeans and a funky-colored cardigan, they become very modern. The same can be said of cable-knit sweaters, men's dress vests and even old-fashioned pumps. It is all about how you make these un-named items into something that is truly unique. Your personality should be able to shine through the outfit.

Although I still hope to own that Chanel quilted bag someday (sigh), I find that too many brand names can leave your real, artistic side in the dust. Don't be identified by "who" you are wearing, but for where you go and what you do with that outfit.