Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My life in dresses

I've been meaning to sit down and write this for a while, but as you all know, I have been short on time. As ever, I've been inspired to get moving by my favourite bloggers. Amber wrote two fantastic posts about the role of fashion in her life, and Caroline has written about her relationship with vintage fashion.

I don't hold much truck with 'fashion', as in the art of fashion. I'm not really interested in the drama and the art of the catwalk, and I'm even less interested in seeing impossibly tall and thin women jumping (always jumping) in these dramatic 'pieces' in magazine photo shoots. I'm not criticising it, or anything, it's just not what I'm interested in.

What I'd like to write about is my relationship with clothes. For those of you who don't know me, I almost always wear dresses. I only own one pair of jeans and two pairs of trousers, and I rarely wear them. I'm not anti-trousers, and the fact that I wear dresses is not some mad 'What-would-Audrey-do-how-to-be-elegant' manifesto either, it's just how I like to dress.

When I was a wee slip of a teenager and undergraduate, I pretty much lived in jeans. My friend Clarabelle had these amazing vintage bell-bottomed jeans that had belonged to her mum in the 70s. I pinched them (poor Clarabelle) and wore them so much they began to feel like part of me. I wore them to go shopping, to go out dancing, everything. I had one dress, which incidentally also came from Clarabelle. I liked it a lot, but I thought it was too sexy and grown up for me, so I never felt comfortable wearing it. I wore it very rarely. As I've said, I was only a wee slip of a thing in those days and it wasn't until I went to university that I started to physically mature. Alas, I didn't grow any taller but I did put on some weight, mainly around my chest (and also around my tummy). I stopped feeling comfortable in my clothes, because they all seemed to make my body look all lumpy and stumpy and wrong.

I had a few years of feeling uncomfortable in my clothes, and wishing that I was taller and thinner and had smaller breasts and nicer hair and all the rest of it, until I was nearing the end of my teacher training course. I bought a frock from Laura Lees at Topshop one summery, giddy Friday afternoon and wore it out that night. My boyfriend at the time liked it, but I don't think he liked the attention it got. I wasn't sure I did either, but I loved the way it made me feel good about the bits of my body I'd always felt self-conscious about. It also drew my attention to things I'd never noticed, like my narrow shoulders and my slim legs.

The Laura Lees for Topshop dress that started me off on my addiction

I didn't rush out and buy a wardrobe full of dresses after this, but I did start to make a conscious effort to add them to my repertoire. I quickly decided not to keep my dresses for 'best' or just for going out, but to find ways to wear the clothes I liked all the time, because I enjoyed feeling good about my body.

I'm not saying I'll never wear trousers again, but in the past few years I've discovered that my personal sense of style is dressy. It's feminine, and quirky, and maybe even a bit flamboyant, but I'm dressing to suit my taste. I dress to look good, and to feel good about myself, and I have fun with my clothes. It's why there are so many "Squee!! Check out all of the dresses I bought!" posts around here. I've had a bit of a journey with it. I recognise that mainly wearing dresses may seem a little bit limiting, but I have been gradually pushing myself out in different directions. I've colour-coded my wardrobe to make an effort to buy frocks in a range of colours. I have dresses in a range of shapes, from wiggle-dresses, princessy pleated skirts, shift dresses, tunics and even maxi dresses - which are a challenge for Lilliputians like me. I'm mixing my accessories, and this autumn past I started experimenting with coloured tights.

Maybe I am closing myself off and limiting myself when I look at something like harem pants or double denim and decide that they're not for me. It's certainly why I find fashion magazines so uninspiring. I'm okay with that, though. It's not important to me to be 'fashion forward' or 'edgy' or anything like that. Rather, I'm happy to wear clothes that allow me to express my personality and taste, and that I look like myself in. This is why I'm very excited about Basse Mode, the magazine for real women. My style isn't fixed, and I am inspired by the women around me, by how they dress and how they make their style work for them. I'll be excited and inspired by the women in Basse Mode, especially if they wear dresses!