My Life in Fashion, Part 2

(The masochistic among you will find Part 1 of this story here.)

When we left our heroine, she was floundering in the stormy sea of “grunge”, wearing Doc Marten boots and a selection of baggy, unflattering clothes, and totally failing to see the irony of “rebelling” against the uniform of one group by adopting the uniform of another. Because she really was THAT stupid. She was also apparently referring to herself in the 3rd person, so she’ll stop that now.

Before we continue the sorry tale of my life in fashion, I did actually manage to unearth another image from my Sullen Teenager era:

…and then the wind changed, and Amber’s face stayed that way forever

Oh, shut up – YOU’D frown too if you were wearing a brown floral PLAYSUIT. Ahem.

(Also pictured: Ted. Who had apparently been drinking again.)

Anyway, when I went to university, I packed all of the aforementioned “grunge” gear (not the playsuit, though. I wasn’t quite THAT bad.), even although, somewhere deep down, I was never really comfortable with that look, possibly because I’m 5’3″, and maxi skirts make me look like a midget starring in a costume drama. I thought that was the kind of thing people would wear at university, though. I imagined we’d all sit around in smoky cafes all day, listening to The Smiths, reading Sylvia Plath and talking about how no one understood us. And actually, I DID do all of those things at university: I just did them on my own, in my bedroom, because everyone else was too busy partying.

The DM boots and grungy clothes, however, lasted one day exactly. Because what I realised when I arrived at university was that this was a place where you could wear whatever the hell you wanted to wear, and be anyone you wanted to be. And I quickly discovered that what I REALLY wanted to wear was very short skirts and very high heels:

I also apparently wanted to always wear sunglasses indoors:

We were now in the era of the Spice Girls. God, but it was a terrible time, fashion-wise. Unfortunately, when it came to “being anyone you wanted to be”, my best friend Stephanie and I discovered that we mostly wanted to be the girl group Shampoo, who had one hit in the 90s and then sunk without a trace:

At least it explains the sunglasses, hmm?

(When I wasn’t dressed like a member of a girl group, though, I still frequently wore those hideous jeans. If time travel becomes possible in my lifetime, I’m going back to burn those jeans, I swear.)

It was at this time that my obsession with clothes began. Not so much with fashion, I must add. Other than my “I must have exactly the same pair of expensive trainers as every single other person in my class” phase, as a 12-year-old, I’ve never really been interested in following trends, or wearing things just because they’re “in fashion”. In fact, every time I read one of those articles in Vogue that are all, “Are you worried about how to wear the new harem pant trend?” steam starts coming out of my ears. Actually, The Fashion Policeis basically a reaction to that whole “This is fashionable and is made by a DESIGNER so we must all wear and love it, until next season, when we all must hate it,” idea that prevails in the world of fashion. I’ve never really understood that, and so although I’m fascinated by fashion, I have never “followed” it in the sense of thinking “Oh, this is fashionable, I must buy it!” I buy clothes because I like them, and if they happen to be in fashion at the time, well, it’s probably an accident.

This “buying clothes” thing, though: it all started at university. I was working weekends at the Phone Farm at the time, and got paid every Friday, at which point I would head straight for Topshop, or wherever, and spend all of my money on clothes, leaving just enough to buy food for the next week. Or sometimes not enough, to be completely honest. I’d still go out with my friends, but while they all got happily drunk, my ability to nurse the same drink all night became legendary. People probably thought I was just mean, but actually, I’d already spent all my money on clothes and shoes. I was an idiot.

Then I left university, and entered the fashion wilderness. I started my first job as a reporter, and I was also still working weekends at the Phone Farm, because I was greedy and wanted to buy everything, whether I needed it or not . The result of working seven days a week, though, was that I was forced to wear “business attire” all the time. I basically worked non-stop for about three years, and by the end of that time I had no casual clothes AT ALL: not even a single pair of high-waisted jeans. I KNOW!

Terry and I watched a video of one of our holidays from that time recently, and you can tell from that how deeply lost in this fashion wilderness I was, because I’m wearing things like pencil skirts (from a suit) and t-shirts, like a poor little lost lamb who has totally lost her ability to dress herself. Which I had. For a couple of years I barely shopped AT ALL: I was always at work when the shops were open, and I didn’t do much shopping online either, because if the clothes didn’t fit (Which was almost ALL the time), or I didn’t like them, it meant spending my lunch-hour standing in a queue at the post office to return them, and I just couldn’t be bothered.

But! It got better! And then it got WORSE!

I got a new job. I left the phone farm. I had a bit of extra money, and I also suddenly had FREE TIME, in which to wear things other than suits. Gradually, I started to feel my way back to the land of the stylish, (I say “back”: clearly I was a foreigner in the Land of the Stylish, and I didn’t speak even ONE WORD of the language.) and to re-stock my wardrobe – a process I very much enjoyed.

And then Terry got ill. He had to give up his job. And, just to make life super-difficult for ourselves, we decided the best thing we could do was start a business. We had no money at all, and faced with the choice between selling the house and selling some of the expensive clothes I had managed to amass in a fairly short time, obviously the house clothes had to go. I sold almost everything that had any value at all on eBay. Then I sold some stuff with no value at all. We managed to keep the house, but by then the closet was bare – literally – and I had adopted my then-uniform of skinny jeans and tank tops, which I wore almost exclusively for MONTHS, out of sheer laziness. (Note: not the SAME jeans and tank top. That would be gross.)

Which brings us more or less up to date.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to actually wear all of the clothes I buy, rather than just falling back on the jeans/tank look all the time. Although I like to shop, I also like to feel like I’m getting value for money from the things I buy, and so these days I try not to let things hang unworn in the closet for months when I could be wearing them and enjoying them. By doing this, I’ve discovered that I have very firm ideas about what I like and don’t like: and while I can’t claim to be any more stylish than I was in any of the photos above, one of the things I know for sure is that THIS girl would hardly know me:

Or maybe she would. Because sometimes I think I’m secretly still three years old, with a grubby face and maybe a bathing cap and a pair of wellies. Or I’m ten, and the only girl in school with a bright green coat and matching beret. Sometimes I’m sixteen, and no one will ever, ever understand me, or I’m 21 and feeling like the right pair of heels will let me conquer the world.

You can tell a lot about someone from what they choose to wear. But you can’t tell everything.

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books by Amber Eve
  • You're much braver than i am putting your life in 'fashion' out there for the world – then again i one did daisy dukes and knee boots with red tights in my village when i was about 13
    .-= LizSara´s last blog ..Blog posts are forming in my head =-.

    March 11, 2010
    • LizSara – I did Daisy Duke cut-offs with cream wool tights and a cream cable knit sweater. And denim plimsolls. Enough said.
      .-= Caroline´s last blog ..Blame =-.

      March 11, 2010
  • Very cool story 🙂 And nice pics!! How was your birthday? I hope you had a great time 🙂 I had no idea the postcard around half the world would be so quick! And thanks for the comment (you too, Terry!), I thought it would bring a smile to your face just as it brought a smile to mine 😉 Best wishes from NZ!
    .-= Nina´s last blog ..For the meantime =-.

    March 11, 2010
  • I meant to say yesterday: bright green coat and matching beret – clearly Emma Pilsbury's wardrobe was based on your early stylings!

    Oh god, I too went through the Shampoo phase. And the grunge phase – I had a full-length blue checked button through dress I used to wear under an ENORMOUS black oversized crochet jumper with a knotted shoelace tied around my neck… And the black knee boots I barely take off through winter? Are proper Spice Girls platforms. They are now a decade old, bless their cracked and broken soles, and really due for retirement.

    Also, two comments I failed to leave on shoeperwoman. I love the purple dress. And I tried on that H&M cardi, but it didn't suit me. 🙁 (Looks amazing on you though!)
    .-= Caroline´s last blog ..Blame =-.

    March 11, 2010
  • You are so lovely! Sorry, out of control gushing is now well and truly under control!

    Anyway, this has been really quite fascinating. I think I was very similar to you when I was younger, except I hit my late teenage years, got depressed AND discovered fashion. So then shoes were like my Prozac! Once I sorted all that out what I really discovered was that I loved clothes, and was fascinated by the fashion industry, but didn't understand why everyone followed it. Trends were great to give me access to new clothes if I liked them, but generally I just wear whatever I want irrespective of whether "pastels are in", or "having arms is out".

    Thanks for the insight, makes me feel a little more normal! x
    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..Loneliness =-.

    March 11, 2010
  • That was hilarious!

    It's really hard to picture the sullen teenage version of you although, strangely, it 'fits'.

    March 11, 2010
  • Rock Hyrax


    You clearly have a sensible attitude towards fashion: you have your own style, are glad when current trends fit in with it and buy very little when they don't. (Actually that's inspired a FormSpring question…) Whenever I've found myself reading Vogue (normally in a waiting room) my favourite part has been the problem page: why would it even cross someone's mind to write to a magazine asking what outfit should go with a particular handbag? 😉

    March 11, 2010
    • Andrea


      This is exactly why I conitnue to visit your sites. Not only are they interesting and cleverly written, I can actually afford some of the stuff you feature.

      March 11, 2010
  • Sonya


    Wow. You get major points for putting this up here for the world to see. I'm a teen, and yeah, there's the pressure to be just like everyone else (which I have already let the entire school know that I'm not interested in). I just don't care what people think, and they've learned by now to leave me alone (mostly).

    Seriously. Major, MAJOR points goes out to you. Thanks for being an inspiration.

    March 12, 2010
  • Cookie


    Oh that was such a pleasure to read 🙂

    And it is a comfort to know that I am not the only one with multiple ages inside (sometimes, I buy something for my 6-year old self, sometimes for the 16-year old too, and include it in my wardrobe 😉 )

    March 13, 2010
  • Holly


    What a fascinating entry. Thanks so much for sharing. I found myself nodding an awful lot, and it's nice to know that a fashionista such as yourself also goes through rough patches – I was thinking back the other day to my first year at university, where I didn't have £10 to rub together and had managed to put on two stone after discovering the delights of Foods My Parents Didn't Allow. Possibly my lowest moment was being asked by a bunch of construction workers in flourescent yellow tabbards whether I'd got dressed in the dark. (Actually, I had, it being winter – IIRC, I was wearing a maxi skirt, DMs, and a pink fleece hoody with ears – nice!). I now mostly work from home (tank tops? check. Jeans? check. The same two cashmere jumpers on rotation? check) and I find myself feeling a bit fashion-clueless – I know what I *want* to dress in, I just never find the occasion. (Also, I can't walk in heels for more than about a hundred yards, which probably doesn't help). So I hope you don't mind me asking: what kicked you out of it? How do you practice what you preach? (so to speak).

    March 14, 2010
      • Holly


        Thank you, some good ideas there! I will have to crack out some of the unloved dresses in my wardrobe, I think 🙂

        March 15, 2010
  • I've loved these posts! Really made me introspective about my own fashion history (err…if you can call it that :-P).

    I'd like to think that nowadays I'm dressing the way that my 6-year-old self would've wanted grownup self to do 🙂
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Flip side – sneak peek =-.

    March 18, 2010
  • Sandy


    That striped dress looks amazing on you, as does the green dress. Green is a great color for redheads.

    I am very much in to clothes, but I wasn't for the first 17 or so years of my life. I always wore hoodies, cargo pants, and sneakers. I basically dressed like a dude. I was overweight when I was in middle school, and although I lost the weight, I just couldn't shake the feeling that I looked bad.

    I finally came to my senses around my senior year of high school. I started volunteering in an upscale thrift store, and there I discovered that I had a talent for making cute outfits for mannequins out of the random hodgepodge of stuff we received. Now that I am in college, I try to dress cute every day, even though I am constantly surrounded by people who look like they just rolled out of bed after last night's drinking binge.

    April 10, 2010
  • Spaniard


    God created the gingers to make me suffer by her beauty. Such a pretty girl! The pic with the green dress is fantaboulous, like an irish goddess.

    November 4, 2012
  • I like a few similar things that you do and it’s cool to see someone who looks so different to me style similar things. It’s a great feeling to discover your style

    June 12, 2014