My friend Laura is the master (mistress?) of calling us out on the lies we tell ourselves and the unnecessary rules we create that stop us reaching our goals and feeling great. We sabotage ourselves because we fear what will happen if we really do live our dreams. We back ourselves into the corner of the safe zones that stop us doing what we want to do. We believe our own stories – tales where people might laugh at us, we might look stupid, we could fail? Some of these are as likely as encountering a tiger at the bus stop, others might just happen. So we live our lives being 75% of who we are, with 25% tucked up safe at home never to see the light of day.
What do clothes mean to you?
Now this is quite a philosophical start to a post about fashion. If you believe that clothes exist to keep you warm or cool, dry, safe or covered to a degree that society finds acceptable then this post isn’t going to appeal to you. But if clothes mean more to you – appearing professional at work, getting dressed up to attend a wedding, packing different clothes for a holiday than you would wear at home, buying a new outfit for a night out, dry-cleaning suits, appreciating how a garment fits and creates a silhouette for your body then you might just be interested in shaking things up a bit.
My love of fashion
I love clothes. I follow trends even though I don’t always adopt them. I appreciate fashion design. I look at Vogue.com for the fashion show coverage. I enjoy shopping for new clothes. I understand this is not the case for everyone, but I think most of us feel better when we feel we have made an effort and we are confident with how we appear. Sometimes I don’t feel at all confident. I worry I might ‘get it wrong’ if I’m going somewhere new. I don’t always feel happy with how I look. I have days where I don’t want to wear anything I own. I know this is all completely standard and many of my friends do the same. It’s sad that don’t express my love of clothes and fashion because of some fables I have told myself, anxieties I have picked up from other women or bad experiences that have made me protect myself a little bit more. I think it’s time to stop. It’s time to challenge some of these ‘rules’.
1. It looks too much
Too much for whom? Are you worried you might feel TOO fabulous? I once bought a full, bright pink sequin skirt. I loved that skirt. I don’t think it had any place in a wardrobe of a student – lectures, student union, pub, dodgy nightclubs… but I still wore it and loved it. What is the garment that you covet? A silk smoking jacket? A velvet bustier? A leopard print jumpsuit. If it makes you feels good and brings joy to your heart… then that’s all that matters. If the imagination of others can’t stretch as far as yours – that’s not for you to worry about.
I’m quite a conservative dresser. I follow what we think of as conventions for things like weddings and dinners. I follow dress code requests where they are in place to be polite to my hosts. But there is still so much freedom around that. We could all explore that a bit more.
2. I don’t have anywhere to wear it
We have all looked at some lovely formal clothes and adored them. You imagine how great the dress, jacket or suit would look at a cocktail party, a dinner dance or maybe even a gala ball. You don’t think you’ll have an event to wear it too – ever. Or maybe you have bought something fancy for one event and don’t think you will get a chance to wear it again. I say, make an event! Host a black tie dinner party, head out for cocktails with your friends, go on a date with you other half. Create the dream event you want to wear it too. And if you can’t think of something… give me a shout and we’ll do it together.
3. I might be over-dressed
Do not let the limiting beliefs of others stop you enjoying yourself. It’s true that some tribes have a uniform. My friend and I once met a bunch of girls in the pub who were all wearing jeans, a black top and a leather jacket. When I went to trade shows the ladies wore printed tops, white linen trousers and low wedges. If this doesn’t suit you, if you’ve just bought something new and you can’t wait to wear it – go ahead! You’ll feel confident. You’ll be happy with your new purchase and you’ll not get lost in the camouflage of everyone else.
4. I’ve already worn that
This one cracks me up. I’m sure it’s got worse since every event has been catalogued on Facebook like a low-rent Hello magazine. You find a dress you love (I know I talk about dresses a lot but I do love dresses, I’m a feminine dresser. Apply as for your favourite clothes). It looks great on you. It matches lots of other things you wear. You feel amazing wearing it. But because you were once tagged in Facebook in a wedding three months ago you can’t be possibly seen in it again? Who do you think is studying your outfits? Are you like to be singled out by the Loose Women? Or, have you went off something and you’re using that as an excuse? Give it to the charity shop and don’t feel guilty about it again.
5. I’m too fat/thin/tall/short
My favourite. You will only ever look like you. You can only be the best version of yourself. So get that idea out of your head. Change the language. That jacket is not good enough for me. I could do better than that dress. The skirt will seriously have to up its game to have a chance of coming home with me. The clothes earn you, not the other way around.
6. It’s ‘too good’ for work
I am contracted to spend 37 hours per week at work. I also spend time in my work clothes before and after work. Most of the new people I meet in life at the moment are at work. There are only two days per week when I don’t go to work. Yet I ‘save my good things’ for the weekend. I work in an office. I don’t need specialist safety wear or a uniform. I’m not going to get messy I don’t want to spend eight hours per day, five days a week in clothes that I don’t like. I want to feel enthusiastic about getting dressed in the morning.
Challenge your language again. When you say ‘too good for work’ you are saying that what you do is not worthy of feeling good about yourself. I think you will enjoy work more if you are happy with what you are wearing, look forward to what you eat for your lunch and enjoy what you do in the evenings. We use negative language about work which seeps into our attitude. I don’t want to save all my favourite things for the minority of days.
Over to you?
I would love to know what rules you adhere to when dressing? I have followed plenty. Some of my friends will be quite shocked to read this. They would have once taken me for a bit of a fashion authoritarian. Since I turned 30 I have been challenging lots of my beliefs and opinions and it’s a frightening and liberating thing to do. It comes with the quiet confidence that no one knows me better than me. The people I love will support me. The people that don’t, don’t matter. It’s something I have to work on every day and it’s a gift I want for everyone.