My wardrobe is full of clothes, but I have absolutely nothing to wear
Nothing to wear? Come sit next to me…
Over the course of the last five years or so, I’ve been on a dedicated mission to purge, declutter, and rebuild my wardrobe.
I got rid of everything that didn’t fit, or that I didn’t feel good in. I got rid of everything I hadn’t worn in years, or suspected I’d never wear again. I stopped shopping for my fantasy life, and started buying only the clothes I knew I’d be able to wear to a soft play coffee date, a trip to the play park, or any of the other toddler-centric activities my life revolves around these days.
I even bought sweatpants.
I mean, SWEATPANTS. Seriously.
As a result of all of this industry, however, I can now announce that my wardrobe is transformed. TRANSFORMED.
Yes, instead of a vast collection of beautiful clothes that I never, ever had the opportunity to wear, I am now the proud owner of a much smaller collection of really quite mediocre clothes that I wear AAAALLL the damn time, but never actually WANT to wear, on account of the fact that it all looks pretty horrific on me, to be honest.
Not quite the ending you were expecting from that little story, is it?
The fact is, this particular narrative is supposed to turn out differently: or so all of the fashion articles I’ve read and even some of the ones I’ve written – would encourage us to believe, anyway.
You see, after the closet clear-out, and the careful style analysis, and the re-purchasing of classic items that can be worn for every occasion, I was supposed to be a brand new woman. I was supposed to emerge, like a butterfly from its chrysalis, with a new appreciation for what I like, what suits me, and what I should be wearing.
Instead, I no longer have a single outfit that I feel excited to wear, and not one that actually looks good on me.
I… feel a bit cheated, to be perfectly honest.
But how did this happen, I wonder? How did it all go so wrong? Well, let’s see:
I got pregnant.
Then I had the baby.
My lifestyle completely changed as a result of this.
So did my body.
I got older.
Then there was a pandemic, and my lifestyle changed even MORE.
I gained a few pounds,
I got EVEN OLDER, OMG, SERIOUSLY.
And now, here I am, five years later, emerging blinking into the sunlight of a world that’s completely different from the one I last felt truly “myself” in. Styles have completely changed in the space of those five years, but particularly in the last two, when things like skinny jeans and heels – both of which I’d worn as part of my uniform – have been almost completely replaced by looser, much more casual styles.
And I have absolutely no idea how to dress for it.
In my mind, it’s 2015: I’m six years younger, childfree, and I feel like skinnies + stilettos is a look that will never get old. Instead, though, it’s 2021, we’re still slowly emerging from a pandemic, and when I took Max to soft play a couple of weeks ago, all the other mums were in joggers and leggings, while I sat there looking like I could be one of THEIR mums in my unfashionably skinny jeans (They’re actually girlfriend jeans, but they still somehow manage to look skinny on me. It’s like my body somehow takes things that are “fashionable” and renders them instantly frumpy, instead. It’s a real talent.) and “classic” loafers.
It’s not that I don’t know what I like – or, indeed, what suits me. Hell, it’s not even that those two things are radically different from each other, because they’re not.
I know I look best in tailored, slightly formal styles; that anything “‘oversized” will basically swamp me, and that mom jeans are not my friend, no matter how hard I try to suck up to them. I know that I’m 5’4″ but with the legs of someone who’s only 5’1″, and that heels are the only thing that make those proportions look vaguely “normal”- as opposed to flats, which just make me look like I’ve been badly Photoshopped.
I KNOW how to dress to flatter my figure, in other words – and, yes, I am old enough to still want to do that, even though I know it’s desperately uncool now to want to wear clothes that are flattering, and that suit you, as opposed to ones that are “edgy” and which clearly convey the message that you are too cool to care what anyone thinks.
But I DO care: and, as I say, my problem isn’t that I don’t know what suits me any more.
No, my problem is that the clothes I like, and know suit me, are no longer even remotely appropriate for the lifestyle I find myself living.
And, in this particular situation, absolutely none of the fashion tips I know so well actually work.
“Buy timeless classics, that will last forever!” doesn’t work, because nothing lasts forever (Anyyyyone can seeeeeeeee…), and even the so-called “classics” can start to look dated or just plain wrong if the circumstances you bought them in change. Like if there’s a pandemic, say. Or your body shape changes. Or you get older, and realise that something that looked “classic” on your a decade ago just looks ageing on you now.
(Yes, I know I’m not supposed to care about that either, but I don’t honesty believe that most people are just too cool to care if something makes them look 20 years older than they really are. I just don’t.)
“Choose quality over quantity,” doesn’t work, because it assumes that everyone can afford to spend £200, say, on a single pair of jeans, and ignores the fact that, while we’re busy saving up for all of those high-quality “basics”, we still need to get dressed every day. It would take me YEARS to build up a wardrobe of high-quality clothes – and, by the time I was done, it would all be starting to look dated again, anyway.
Hell, even, “Buy only the items that make you feel fantastic,” – which used to be a particular favourite of mine – doesn’t actually work, because sometimes NOTHING makes you feel “fantastic”: but you still need clothes, right?
The fashion “rules” don’t work: which shouldn’t actually matter, really, because, as I was saying: my problem isn’t that I need to “find” my style. I KNOW my style. No, my problem is that I need to find myself an entirely NEW style: because the one I had, and that worked for me for years, is no longer even remotely appropriate for the person I am today.
Heels make my legs look 100X better than flats. I always feel amazing in them. (And yes, I can walk in them, thanks: don’t even get me started on the way no one can ever use the word “heels” without adding the word “tottering” to it. I can assure you I do not “totter” in my heels). But I’m not going to wear them for a walk in the muddy forest, to chase my toddler around the play park, or to soft play, am I?
“If you love it, you should wear it,” everyone tells you, cheerfully pretending they wouldn’t in any way judge someone doing the nursery run in a cocktail dress, or taking the bins out in Louboutins.
But, of course they would.
And that’s why so much of the fashion “advice” we’re used to seeing just doesn’t work: because it makes the bold – and totally incorrect – assumption that social norms just don’t exist : or that, if they do, everyone has the necessary amount of confidence to be able to cheerfully subvert those norms and not care what anyone has to say about it.
What’s more, a lot of the fashion advice I’ve seen – particularly on forums, etc, where people are all trying to bolster each other’s confidence at any expense – seeks to convince you that people will deeply admire your decision to wear dungarees to someone’s wedding, instinctively understanding that you’ve done it because you LOVE them, and you’re too cool to follow da rulz.
Which, again, is bullshit, no?
Essentially, I’ve reached a stage where I literally CAN’T wear the things I love, and feel good in: because they wouldn’t just be impractical in a way that would make me stand out a bit – they’d be impractical in a way that would make me feel utterly ridiculous, and probably physically uncomfortable, too.
You can’t really feel good about yourself when you’re cringing with embarrassment, after all, or having to pull your stilettos out of the mud in the local park, and I’ve always believed that, no matter how aesthetically “good” something looks, context still matters: so, you could be wearing the most beautiful ballgown in the world, but if you’re wearing it to the supermarket, say, well, you’ll still look like a bit of a tit, really, won’t you?
So, I know what I like, and I know what likes me… but, instead, I’ve been having to spend my money and fill my wardrobe with the things I DON’T like, and that DON’T flatter me, purely because, well, I have to wear SOMETHING, don’t I?
I would, however, quite like that situation to change: to reach a point where I FINALLY have the wardrobe of my dreams, filled with beautiful AND practical clothes, that I actually feel good in for once. How am I going to actually achieve this miracle, though? That, my friends, is another post for another day: in the meantime, though, if you’ve been going through a similar kind of style rut (And I know a lot of people have been lately, thanks to the pandemic, combined with this strange, unflattering shift in fashion which has made mom jeans unaccountably popular…), I’d love to hear how you’ve been dealing with it, so please feel free to drop me a comment: I need all the help I can get!