Editor's Choice

The Outsider Advantage: Because You Don't Need to Fit in to Win

Jasmine Gonzalez

June 20, 2024


Fashion designer and entrepreneur Ciera Rogers inspires anyone who has felt underestimated to tap into their innate talents and personal experiences to create their unique path to success.

The Outsider Advantage: Because You Don't Need to Fit in to Win by Ciera Rogers, Portfolio

Fashion, admittedly, isn't something I’ve ever had much interest in—my style icons are the cartoon characters who get to wear one signature outfit in every situation, every episode, which would honestly be my dream come true. Part of my disinterest stems from the fact that finding clothes to fit my body has always felt impossible. Mainstream fashion still holds a (quite literally) narrow view of what women’s bodies should look like. I’m often too short and curvy to wear even the most basic clothing items directly off the rack, and when I finally do find something that fits, I'm usually too drained to care about being creative with my outfits because of how much energy I’ve spent just trying to find something to make it through the day. 

I’d never considered this seemingly trivial struggle to find something to wear as a metaphor for something greater until I read The Outsider Advantage by fashion designer and entrepreneur Ciera Rogers. The book is a story about clothing, but it is also an argument—from someone who has lived it—that finding what we need to survive and thrive won't always come to us from the same prescriptive sources or the same well-trodden paths. We can try spending our energy forcing ourselves to fit a single mold, or we can use that same energy to find what is already within us to create a life that is truly meaningful to each of us. What society often considers limitations can, in fact, be harnessed into the very strengths that fuel us to stand out and succeed. The book serves as an exploration of the items in Rogers’ metaphorical closet: the life experiences, the relationships, and the natural talents that she could cut up and stitch back together into something entirely new. 

Rogers created her womenswear line, Babes, to not only accommodate but celebrate the women whose bodies aren’t catered to by conventional fashion brands. But it was also, ultimately, a lifeline she created for herself. Despite having a college degree and an intuitive knack for marketing, Rogers found herself rejected from job after job because she had, out of necessity, opted to work multiple part-time gigs during her college days rather than take on unpaid internships. Interviewers, Rogers realized, were looking for an extremely specific checklist of qualifications rather than considering the transferable skills and traits she could offer from her lived experiences. The doors that should have opened for her remained decidedly shut. 

I followed the steps, graduated with a perfect grade point average, and it amounted to nothing more for me than dead-end jobs and no time (or energy) left to build anything sustaining. I did all the firstborn things and yet this American dream I’d been promised was ever elusive.  

With ten dollars to her name and an ultimatum from her roommate to start paying her fair share of rent, Rogers knew she could no longer wait for the right opportunity to come her way—she had to forge a path to survival for herself. Pulling together her lifelong talents for thrifting and altering clothes, styling unique outfits, and marketing, she uploaded a picture of herself to Instagram with a simple caption: “body-con suit, sixty dollars.” And the risk paid off—a follower offered to buy the outfit, setting Rogers on the path towards her ultimate success as a designer whose works would one day be worn and elevated by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé.  

In some alternate universe, perhaps there’s a version of Ciera Rogers who decided to keep her head down and keep running up against the same walls. Maybe she would have finally found the job she wanted in a public relations firm or marketing department. But in that version of the story, we miss out on her creativity as a style icon, as a fashion designer, and now, as a writer. How many other creatives are out there whose talents we’re bereft of because they’re stuck trying to grind it out to achieve a narrow version of success? I sincerely hope The Outsider Advantage reaches them and inspires them to forge their own ways forward.  

It’s easy to feel hopeless and to risk giving up when we can’t find what we want through conventional methods, whether it’s a simple pair of blue jeans hemmed to the right length or something grander like the achievement of the so-called American Dream, but through her book, Rogers offers hope to those whom society has routinely underestimated. She never claims that her path was easy—and she actively encourages readers to face fear and discomfort along the way—but she does prove that achieving the unconventional is not only possible but worth it. 


About Jasmine Gonzalez

Jasmine Gonzalez has been a part of the Porchlight marketing and editorial team since 2022. The youngest daughter of a high school history teacher and a local business leader, one of her earliest memories involves toddling over to the living room bookshelf and reading aloud all of the titles on the book spines. She’s been voraciously reading and writing in English and Spanish ever since. Outside of work, you can find her cooking intricate recipes, playing video games on vintage consoles, and fulfilling her role as the very cool aunt that gives books and Rolling Stones vinyls as gifts. Yes, she would like to befriend your dog.

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