AD. This is a collaboration with Selfridges.
A few months back I experienced a bit of a wardrobe epiphany. There I was, standing in front of my dual rails, invariably late for wherever I was heading because I’d invariably overestimated how quickly I could get ready, and I couldn’t pick a thing. “I just want something which makes me feel good,” I thought, wading through the conveyor of plain tees and jeans.
I used to have these two rails organised - knitwear, blazers and longer length items on top, and everything else below - but the order has since been lost (it’s a task for my Christmas break) and their bellies are buckling under the weight of one too many items. Yet still - STILL - I feel like I have nothing to wear.
The way I choose my clothes has always been the same: opt for simple, staple items which can be styled and restyled repeatedly, and which won’t fall foul of trends jumping in and out of popularity. By this logic I’d be able to get the most wear out of my clothes and the most bang for my buck. I also wouldn’t succumb to buyer’s remorse, that recognisable grip of regret which tells us we should have held on to our cash.
On paper this works. The idea echo those first buds of minimalism which have led many to totally detox their belongings and restart more streamlined, and that in itself is an approach which merits recognition given the urgency with which we must become more sustainable. We’re talking about t-shirts and jeans and it’s starting to get deep, right? But these are the kinds of things I consider when deciding what to buy or what to wear, and that has influenced how relatively, urm, plain everything is.
There’s nothing wrong with plain, of course - I’m typing this now in black jeans and a black blazer - but plain doesn’t always spark joy (come thru Marie Kondo). And I realised as I stood before my rails that day, sifting and searching and swapping and sampling, that nothing was exciting me. There were a few pieces I loved but largely, I didn’t look forward to wearing any of it. It was just functional, practical, and ‘staple’.
You know the math lady meme? The one with the woman who is well and truly perplexed by a series of dots she simply cannot connect? That was me trying to figure out why I’d been hellbent on buying ‘simple’ when I didn’t even enjoy it that much. Sure, for those days when I don’t need to dress up (which is most days, given that I work alone and from home), I like being able to lean in, grab a cotton/denim pairing and go, but any time I want to feel a little more special? I’m stumped.
“Okay,” I’m thinking, “but the individuals whose style inspires me - they dress simply, right? I must like it?” As Dwight Schrute would say: incorrect. When I took to Instagram for a quick scroll through my favourites, I found most of them were much more experimental with their style. It wasn’t necessarily to do with colour, either, which my monochromatic brain tends to panic at the sight of - rather it was more to do with the mixing of lengths, textures, patterns, shapes, and seemingly enjoying the process of doing so. Of being able to try on a new feeling each day, and not always having to be the serious-black-blazer-girl.
Because that’s certainly played a part - what other people see when they look at me. I’m coming up for 26 now but being 4’11, there are still times when I’m spoken to as if I’m a pre-pubescent child. It’s infuriating, as you can imagine, and makes me actively try and construct an image opposing that. Funnily enough, that image doesn’t often include anything which sparks joy in me.
I don’t want to keep taking it so seriously though. I like the idea that one day when I die, someone will being standing in front of my wardrobe and it will tell the story of a buffet of lived characters. Of the different phases of my life, the various big moments and the hints at an era. I don’t want it to just be a series of crew-neck t-shirts in shades of grey to black with a medley of gnarled-up jeans for back-up. I don’t want to limit my own expression in that way.
“But you’re wearing all black in this outfit??? Have you hit your head?” Valid question, to which I’d answer that this particular conversation isn’t about the tailored two-piece. It’s about the knee high boots.
Let’s rewind for a hot second. When I was trying to choose which pair of boots would work best for this~ moment ~, I was torn. On the one hand a pair of designer boots like this is an investment piece and as such, I’d want to achieve as much wear as possible out of them. Opting for the more sensible option would also be the most sustainable, because I’d be less likely I’d be to wake up one day and ask ‘wtf was I thinking?’. So that’s what I did. I chose a pair which were relatively similar in style but exponentially more bougie than some boots I already owned, and I left it at that.
Except I didn’t leave it at that. I couldn’t stop thinking about this pair of mock-croc Jimmy Choo boots. They were heeled, knee high, glamorous - everything I never go for. I knew they’d be reserved for special situations only and they were definitely not the most sensible option, but the more I thought about them, the more panicked I became that I’d never be able to wear them, these dream boots that I’d never known to be my dream boots.
I did a total 180 and ignored my own advice, choosing the boots which sparked joy in me rather than those that perpetuated the ideas I had about my own style. And it was worth it. So worth it. “Feeling like a hundred bucks” is not a phrase I often use when it comes to describing my own dressing but it’s deserved on this occasion; I was strutting around the Hoxton Southwark where we took these photos, legs stretching on for days as I played the part of woman-who-wears-Jimmy-Choo-boots. I felt powerful.
So this is my pledge to myself for 2020. In future, I will not limit my clothes to that which I think suits me. I will not automatically write something off if it doesn’t fall within the parameters of my ‘serious’ style. I will allow myself more freedom to experiment and explore. I will stop letting other people’s perceptions of who I am, how clever I am, how serious I am and how accomplished I am to taint the clothing which I may otherwise enjoy. I will wear things which spark joy in me and which I enjoy wearing, rather than those which I feel comfortable and quiet in.
And finally, I will be more thoughtful with the clothes that I collect, both in terms of sustainability and in terms of my own pleasure. Life is too short and the planet too precious to waste on just ‘okay’.