After Me Made May gave me a better insight into my wardrobe and wearing habits, I’ve decided to work through the Colette Wardrobe Architect series, to try and define my style a little further.
The first week focusses on who we are and where we come from as individuals, and points out the sometimes overlooked message that just because you like something doesn’t mean you need to own it.
How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallise? Have they changed over the years, and why?
I’ve always been interested in fashion, but we lived in the middle of a wood when I was a child, and we didn’t have very much money. This meant my opportunities to dress up in different styles were often limited to the dressing up box. I was always interested in fashion as an idea, though – I sent a letter to the queen when I was about 7 with some ideas for dresses she could have made. I never saw her wearing the octopus dress to any public events, but I got a nice letter from a lady in waiting. When my friend found out, he also wrote her a letter including a picture he’d drawn of Windsor Palace catching fire.
As a teenager, I was a total indie girl. Casually, I’d wear baggy jeans with tight t-shirts and a lot of eyeliner. I’d say that from the age of 11 my tastes veered towards 70s style, and this would make up a lot of my more formal wear. Sadly the charity shops of Crawley didn’t have that much to offer other than discarded tracksuits and 80s horrors, but the styles were quite fashionable at the time so I could usually find what I wanted on the high street. I also raided my mum’s wardrobe on occasion.
When I was about 16, I started going out with an idiot who doesn’t deserve any time or space on my blog, and my sense of style really took a downturn along with my mood. I dressed frumpily and I felt frumpy. Since then, I’d say that you can easily tell my mood by how much effort I’ve put into my outfit – I think the two feed off each other. If I’m happy, I dress in a fun way, and if I dress in a fun way, I feel happier. For example, I didn’t sleep very well last night, so today I am wearing yesterday’s clothes. However, I liked yesterday’s outfit, so I’m cheering up as the day goes on.
I think my style has now evolved into something fairly retro, but with a broader range than just the 70s. In a way, I’m reluctant to pin it down, but I suppose quite simple body fitting 20th century fashions, sometimes with a preppy edge, would cover it.
How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?
I try to be environmentally friendly and not waste things. If there’s something I own and I don’t want it anymore, I’ll try and find a new home for it. In terms of buying things for my house, I’m much more drawn to vintage items, and I’m trying to continue that philosophy into the clothing I buy. Where’s the fun of going into a shop and seeing everything laid out and easy for you to find. I think I’d rather rummage through the stands to unearth a mystery at my local British Heart Foundation, thanks!
How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?
In one way I was lucky to grow up in the south east of England. I was free to wear what I wanted, although I wasn’t free from the judgement that comes with wearing what you want in a small conservative town.
My teenage style icons were the Manic Street Preachers and Kenickie. I liked their charity shop/glitter/army surplus vibe. They looked like they had fun getting dressed.
I’d say the experience of living abroad has had the biggest effect in recent years on the way I dress. It introduced me to people from different cultures who dressed in a very different way to me. It also led me to care a lot less about what other people thought of the outfits I liked.
How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?
When I was younger, I didn’t have many friends who were into the same kind of music and style as me, and that led me to tone down the way I looked a bit. They didn’t seem to have any such problems, and didn’t tone down the Adidas trackie bottoms with the poppers, more’s the pity.
Now, I’m probably less influenced by people around me. I’ll wear things that make me happy, and dress for occasions rather than people. If one of my friends is wearing something I like, I might make a note to think about how that style can work for me, but generally I do my own thing. I trust Ben to give me an honest opinion of how I look in outfits. He has a better eye for colour than me, and, since he likes my style in the first place, he’s good at helping me to pull an outfit together.
How do your day to day activities influence your choices?
If I’m working in an office, I have to be fairly smart. I’d say I go for a slightly preppy look. At home, I have a tendency to slob out, which I absolutely hate! That is something I would really like to work on.
I have some problems with my feet, which make wearing a lot of styles of shoe impossible. Therefore, I try and plan outfits around the shoes I have which I know I can wear – this is probably one of the reasons I dress like a slob!
Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?
I’m quite lucky to live in Brighton. The weather is rarely extreme. It can be quite windy, which causes concern with some skirts, and it rains a lot, but that’s what umbrellas are for.
In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?
I’m struggling to phrase this answer, because I don’t want to sound unhappy with my body. There are things I’m aware of when choosing an outfit, but I try and work with what I have, rather than feeling negative about it. The two major things are my figure (hourglass – it’s tricky to get a top to fit at my waist and over my boobs), and my long body and short legs (tops are too short and trousers are too long).
I like the rolled up trouser leg look, so that’s not really an issue for me, and I think that wearing skirts and dresses makes me appear more in proportion. One thing I’d like to focus on is finding tops which fit me well, in both length and shape.
I need to define my waist in the clothes that I wear. If I don’t, then it looks like I don’t have a waist.