Picture the scene: it’s the year 1997, and a three year old Chloe is bopping around in her baby bedroom to the classic that is Spice Up Your Life. On the wall is this iconic poster, and though it’s yet to come, Spice World the film is soon to fill my world both with delight, and with nightmares (the scene where the villain climbs out of the toilet made me terrified of flushing the toilet for YEARS (okay I’m still scared)).
If you’re a noughties baby, I’ll hazard a guess that you were massively influenced by the loud, rebellious and independent hurricane that was The Spice Girls too. Formed in 1994, the girl band consisted of Victoria Adams (who we all now love and worship as VB), Mel B, Mel C, Gerri Halliwell and Emma Bunton, each of whom were catapulted to stratospheric super-stardom both as part of the band and within their own right. But why am I telling you this, right? You know exactly who The Spice Girls are, as well as their alter egos as Posh Spice, Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Ginger Spice and Baby Spice.
Posh Spice was my favourite. Maybe it was the precise black bob, the resting bitch face or the super ~ fashion ~ aura she radiated that made me idolise her from early on, but whatever it was, I would fight anyone to the death who thought they were going to play Posh in living-room-girl-band, rather than me. Funnily enough, I also had a major crush on early David Beckham; curtains seemed to have been a real theme for me as a child because I also couldn’t get enough of Ben from A1, but that’s a story for a different day.
The Spice Girls were marketed as the ultimate GRL POWER band, and whilst they were in some senses problematic, they undeniably played in a huge part in bringing feminism back into the mainstream and opening it up to an entirely new generation of young minds. Maybe that’s why I’ve always asked any guy I’ve ever dated if they’re a feminist within the first few hours of 'casual drinks'. Maybe that’s also why I’ve never faltered from the belief that you can be dressed head to toe in a skin-tight velour leopard print catsuit, and still not be ‘asking for it’.
Shirt - ASOS White
Earrings - ASOS
Jeans - Topshop
Shoes - Zara
Sunglasses - Ray-Ban*
Bag - Smith & Canova*
As much as they may have planted the seed of girl power in my mind, there is something The Spice Girls specifically taught me not to do, and that was the typecast myself.
We see it all the time, even now. Modern glossies are awful for it, and most of our favourite online shopping destinations resort to these tactics as a quick and easy way of shipping trend items.
Typecasting. Are you the sporty one? The glam one? The grunge one? The minimalist one? Hands up if you’ve partaken in one of these shoddy online quizzes before, or seen one trend item split up between four different ‘types’ in a double page spread to show just how easily a rock chick can work a plain t-shirt as well as a preppy girl (tip - you just put it on).
These quizzes are a nightmare for me, because I never fit into any of the proposed categories. There never seems to be any fluidity; you’re either wearing a mesh tulle skirt, cropped leather jacket and deep berry lip for emo chic, or you dripping in sequins and desperately trying to drag yourself along on 6 inch heels as the glam girl.
Well, newsflash (God, the sassy 13 year old American girl in my loves saying that), I can’t concentrate my taste in clothes down to one singular label. Mostly because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing and I spend most of my life blindly feeling my way through jumpers and jeans that I have to cut 6 inches off of, but also because what I wear is not wholly indicative of who I am as a person. And I think in assigning these labels - or accepting them ourselves - we run the risk of boxing ourselves in and not dipping our toes into waters unknown.
Fashion, for me, is an outward manifestation of how I feel on any given day. How I feel on any given day almost certainly will change the next, and again the day after that. I know a lot of you guys are a similar age to me, and in truth, we don’t know who the fuck we are or what the fuck we're doing. So why bother even trying to define ourselves and shape our wardrobe in one particular direction, when we could instead be using fashion as a means of exploration and self-discovery?
Very fluffy, I know, but hear me out. Up until very recently, I avoided midi/maxi dresses like the plague. I just wasn’t a ‘dress’ girl, instead preferring more masculine blazers and cropped trousers. That’s still very much the case, but in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and one day, deciding to be more Boho Spice than Suity Spice, I got to experiment with my own interpretation of my identity and put a new attitude on for the day. If I was so concerned with fulfilling my ‘type’, would I have done that?
We like labelling the world around us because it makes it easier to understand; this is what ‘x’ is, this is what ‘x’ isn’t, and this is how ‘x’ should work. We do it with everything from gender to sexuality to fashion to body shape, and it’s part of our natural human instinct to not be absolutely petrified of everything from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep.
But that doesn’t mean we get off scot-free - we should constantly be challenging ourselves, questioning whether said label is useful (like ‘gluten-free’ or ’50% off sale’, obv), or whether it’s limiting (like gender, sexuality, or personality labels). This filters down even to the frivolity of dressing, because when what we wear is able to impact on how we feel, then it’s really so much more than just a t-shirt.
To quote Shakespeare (you all knew what you were getting yourselves in for when you started reading the blog of an English Lit grad): “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players”. So let’s just fucking play.