There was a time, not that long ago, when I’d have put little more thought into my fashion choices, of a morning, than weather dependant, if I was going to wear tights or not.
Although I’ve always been interested in fashion, to an extent, I’d be the first to admit I didn’t have a bloody clue what I was doing.
There are a whole load of photos that keep popping up in my Facebook memories (WHY?!) from a particularly unfortunate period of 2008 that saw me wear nothing but a white denim skirt, blue polar necked shirt, with thick black tights, tall brown Ugg boots and a mint green thick cardigan my mum bought me from Ralph Lauren in Bisecter Village in 2006.
(By my logic, if something cost more than £20 – it had to be good).
Suffice to say, fashion has never come naturally to me.
And that’s for a whole host of reasons: laziness, cost, but fundamentally, if I’m honest, my shortcomings were down to a total lack of confidence, not just in my decision making and my choices, but in my body.
My desperate attempts at fashion always felt a bit like trying to decorate a cake that I’d massively overcooked.
A nice gesture, but a bit futile at this point you know?!
I wore flares a lot of as a teenager; not because they were particularly in at the time but because my mum wouldn’t buy me a pair of skinny jeans like I desperately wanted. I had a lot of denim skirts, they were in, and then went through a long love affair with leggings… one that I only ended after the popularity of the digital camera brought with it the realisation that leggings were, for the most part, totally see-through.
I wasn’t fashionable. Not by any stretch of the imagination was I fashionable.
But that was absolutely not for a lack of trying.
Granted the flares were less than ideal and slightly out of my control, but the denim skirts? The leggings? That time I went to my first high school party in a floaty white knee length skirt with the tie-dye top and the elastic gold belt DONE UP UNDER MY BOOBS OVER THE TOP OF THE TIE-DYE TOP with the £9.99 New Look heels that I couldn’t walk in with my back combed hair and the blue glittery eyeshadow that clashed spectacularly with my green eyes and the shiny lipgloss that in turn did nothing whatsoever to detract from the teal braces I had convinced myself were a good idea???
I thought I looked good. I really really thought I looked good.
I wasn’t just throwing my shit together and hoping for the best. I wasn’t one of these teenagers that didn’t care.
I was trying. And I was absolutely failing.
At some point in my mid-teens my confidence began to waver. Perhaps it was thanks to the fact that Facebook was snowballing into something so massive that before I knew it was totally unable to escape the evidence of outfits gone by.
I’d stand in front of the mirror before I went out, dressed, I thought, quite well and would realise the next day, as the photos were uploaded by the dozen, that I’d actually looked like I had squished my soft body into a colourful sausage casing.
I was doing nothing to flatter my curvaceous body, so unlike the ironing-board bodies of my friends, instead thinking if I wore the same uniform I would finally blend in. Every photo uploaded felt like a fresh blow; you’re nothing like them, you never will be.
I was only a size 12 and I had been made to feel like fashion was not there for me.
The late noughties was the body-con era and that was never going to be heaven for a girl who’s worst nightmare was getting out her bare, cellulite covered legs but who couldn’t wear a pair of tights without ripping at least three holes in them.
I began to hide the body that I was incapable of falling in love with; although mum had finally succumb to allowing me to wear skinny jeans, I was shrouding the top half in the baggiest jumpers I could and my feet in the clumpiest boots (having worked out that the bigger my feet looked, the smaller my legs did in comparison).
I had big enough (read: enormous) boobs that I worked out were a good distraction technique when it came to party outfits. I’m not proud of my priories at that time, but they were fairly boy-orientated. The equation was simple: boys like boobs, if outfits show boobs, men will like outfits.
I lived like this for a few years (give or take a boob flash – although they did remain my party piece when it came to dress shopping; if the cleavage is good enough, no one will notice the fabric stretched so tightly across a midriff I was hating more with every passing day).
Finally, the body-con era ended, at around the same time I started earning enough of my own money to allow me to at least try to follow one in every three of the fashion trends I noticed.
I had a maxi skirt in 2013 that I thought was pretty cool (sadly, I didn’t know what I was meant to be wearing with it, but that didn’t stop me – nor did the fact I’d forget to pick it up every time I tried to go upstairs and nearly broke my nose a million times), I had some leather shorts that I thought were pretty cool and a blouse with some sexy netting down the back.
I also had the same pair of skinny jeans in four colours (pink, purple, blue and white striped and green), a whole array of ugly fluffy cropped jumpers and a horrible plastic looking blue leather jacket.
I thought, for the most part, that I looked pretty cool and maybe I did, but looking back I’m wondering how the hell that was possible. The clothes, for the most part, were terrible.
In recent months, I have found myself able to follow fashion trends in a way that I never did before.
Of course I am riddled with privilege; now a size 10, completely average height and enough money to blow £30 at ASOS every now and then, and that does make it infinitely easier.
My sister wrote last year about the struggles of shopping as a plus size girl if you’d like to read that – although I would like her to rewrite that for me one day as she too has started to really own her fashion sense and space in new ways recently.
Thanks to Instagram and the community I am now a part of I knew, faster than the fourteen year old me would ever have been able to work out before the trend had already died a death, that animal print was in. That it was OK to tuck jumpers into a midi-skirt. That your jeans no longer needed to cut off the circulation to your calves. That you can wear a headband without looking like Blair Waldorf. That cardigans weren’t just the uniform of 97 year old bingo players.
I’ve also grown the confidence to try these things.
Although the midi-skirt is the enemy of most IBS sufferers and I will always be too short to make a flared-trouser look anything other than ridiculous, I’m open to accepting that not everything I wear need be flattering, equally, you don’t need to bare all to look great.
What I of course mean by that is fashion, when done properly, means you don’t need to get your boobs out as a distraction technique.
I talk as if I’m a guru of some kind. As if I frequent as a freelancer in the style mags. As if I’m exhausted and blister-riddeled after a week of running round the city for London fashion week.
I am not a guru. I would sooner be hired for a think piece on astro-physics than I would for one exploring the merits of the trench-coat, and the hours that could have been spent flitting round London in an homage to Ab-Fab, were spent instead paying tribute to my favourite gals from the sofa, eyes glued firmly to the telly.
No, I don’t think my funeral will be lined with scores of women all in the latest designer wears as Marc Jacob himself reads the eulogy. I don’t think anyone has ever had ever scrolled through my Instagram feed in the hope of seeking out some fashion #inspo. I would be genuinely surprised if anyone ever actually used the word ‘fashionable’ as a way of describing me.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learnt about fashion, and it doesn’t mean I’m bad at it either.
Because of course, fashion, and my relationship with it, is entirely personal.
All I ever really wanted from my wardrobe was to feel comfortable and embraced by it. I wanted to feel like it was on my side and able to make me a version of myself that I was proud of.
As I have grown up I have become the person I truthfully always hoped I would turn into. Sure, I still have stomach rolls that my teenage fantasies din’t bargain for, and my hair doesn’t look like Blake Lively’s yet, but in most other areas, it’s better than even my wishful thinking could have hoped.
When you love yourself, the rest will follow… or something cheesy like that.
I know this applies to relationships, and I’m starting to think it might just apply to fashion too…