By middle school, I had decided I wanted to go to Parsons School of Design in New York City, and I was dressing like it, too. I wore lots of black leather, chunky heels, headbands (undoubtedly inspired by the original Gossip Girl), and oversized, slouchy totes instead of backpacks. I would look up Miu Miu runway images and cover my binders in them, taking the more whimsical elements from the collections and trying to bring them into my own wardrobe. I definitely couldn’t afford the dragonfly shoes I lusted over from the brand’s spring 2008 collection, but my mom helped me find alternatives for cheap. To counteract my days at school, where I was endlessly bullied for looking different (people notice when you’re not dressed like them; I got asked almost every day, “Why are you so dressed up?”), fashion became my escape. My mother and I would drive into the next town over to read fashion magazines inside Barnes & Noble and window-shop. We would spend hours at Target and TJ Maxx — the only places in the area to look for clothes that were decently affordable and fashion-forward — poring over different pieces, holding them up to see how they’d look on us, and suggesting styles for each other that we normally wouldn’t gravitate to.