I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve walked into an event and been 100% confident that I was wearing the right thing. It was my wedding day so I wore my wedding dress and I stand by that decision.
But the rest of the time, well, I’ve tried. Sometimes I’ve loved my top or my jeans or my ability to fit a vest top underneath anything in case of a draft. And other times, at best I’ve been unsure and at worst I’ve felt like a mess.
It’s only recently that I’ve acknowledged how much our self-esteem can be affected by how we feel about what we wear. I started listening to Dawn O’Porter’s podcast Get It On and it’s made me reassess my approach to clothes.
If you’re not familiar, the podcast is a series of half hour chats between Dawn and guests about how they dress. She’s interviewed lots of excellent people, including Dawn French, Fay Ripley, Chris O’Dowd and Jason Segel. The conversation is always fun – and often really funny – and all about what motivates each person when it comes to getting dressed, what they like and how they feel about clothes.
It really makes you appreciate the world of thoughts and feelings that everybody has about their appearance. I thought other people just fell out of bed and into the perfect outfit but GUESS WHAT it’s a process for everyone. It’s made me much happier about my wardrobe, and reminded me that clothes and deciding how you want to look should be fun.
As ever, a discovery that’s made me feel better is now on here for you to try should you wish to, along with it a list of rules I’m now living by when it comes to my clothes.
1: Remember who’s in charge
Oh hi, that’s you. The odd uniform, dress code, and unavoidable fancy dress party aside, most of the time it’s us who gets to call the shots about what we wear – not magazines, not adverts, and not some social media update about a fashion week with a hashtag you can’t decipher. It’s all up to us and the only rule we should follow is that we should feel good in what we put on. You can even wear red and pink together now and nobody will bat an eyelid, so go nuts.
2: Reserve the right to change your mind
Find me a person who can say they have never regretted an outfit and I will give you the LIAR. I’m from the pedal pusher, skirt-trouser, and Spice Girls-inspired platform trainer era, so if you want to chat about fashion faux-pas just walk this way. But it doesn’t matter, a risk or two won’t do you any harm. You’ve got to go with what you want and what feels right at the time. And worst case scenario, the laughs you’ll have with your children and grandchildren when you look back on photos of your hot pink cropped trousers will be priceless (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).
3: Repeat after me: Bodies change and that’s OK
My hips have expanded loads in the last couple of years – they might as well just write CREATING SPACE IN CASE OF CHILD on my body in stretch marks and be done with it. And other things have changed too – my weight, my skin, my hair – because that’s what it is to be a person who is ageing at the traditional rate. Some things that used to fit no longer do, and other things that used to look wrong now look better. It’s just the way it goes, and as long as we’re happy with our bodies and our health, we just need to roll with how our wardrobe options change with time.
4: Have a regular clear-out
Shopping for clothes used to be my favourite activity; now I prefer having a clear-out and taking a load down to the charity shop. The rule is: if it no longer makes you feel good, it goes. It sounds brutal but it works. And I don’t mean that you then have to replace everything that’s gone, but that you focus more on the items that do bring you joy, vary what you wear them with, and generally build a happier relationship with your wardrobe. Or that when you do buy something new, you do so better informed about the criteria an item needs to meet in order to secure a place on your rail.
5: It’s OK that other people will wear different things
You can waste a lifetime walking into parties, restaurants and offices and feeling like you’re wearing the wrong thing because it’s different from what other people have on. But there’s no right and wrong way to dress. Unless you’ve accidentally shown up without anything on, or you’ve chosen to wear your wedding dress to someone else’s nuptials (I dreamt that I did this and may never recover), you haven’t got it wrong. It’s OK to have your own personality and tastes, and to make your own assessment about how many layers are appropriate for the current climate. Other people’s clothes should reflect what they like and what suits them, they shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for you.