Recently I read an excellent article by Emma Forrest in British Vogue where as she was returning to Britain post-divorce, she was unpacking her wardrobe and reflecting on her life in clothing – where she bought what, what she wore this to, who she had sex with in this dress.
It got me thinking: as a fashion writer, and someone who puts so much emphasis and intention into clothing, why haven’t I done this before? So I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’ve got plenty a memory to go with my clothes, especially considering many of my black-tie dresses I wear once (so as not to be an outfit repeater).
Why do I have such an affinity to clothing? Growing up I was painfully shy (hard to dream about for those who know me now) and was quite happy to be the wallflower. As I graduated into my teens, my shyness transformed into low self-esteem, never quite confident enough to believe that I was pretty, funny, or a “cool” person. Expressing myself through clothing design helped me come out of my shell, and by people complimenting me on what I wore (I won the Fashionista award at my school prom, although god knows why when I reflect on the outfits I wore. It was the early 2010s, give me a break) I began to understand that by expressing myself and what I liked, that maybe I was cool and interesting and funny and worth paying attention to. All of a sudden, I liked people looking at me because of what I wore. Once too afraid to speak out in a group of people, I became the girl who enjoyed commanding attention in a room – something I still enjoy to this day. And it was thanks to clothing.
So here are some of the pieces that made me who I am today (although thankfully, the beanie has disintegrated in a rubbish pile somewhere).
Zimmermann A/W 2018 Look 21
When I first laid eyes on this dress, the only vibe I got was the damsel in distress in old Western films, but it was in my favourite fabric – silk – so I went to try it anyway. You can’t wear a bra with it, but I like it better that way, for the silk feels like a heavy drape over my figure, and I think it makes me more sexy. Not because you can see that I’m not wearing a bra, but because I know I’m not, and feel like I’m in one of those Renaissance paintings where I’m lying on a chaise long with fabric draped just so. I’ve never worn it, because I’m always waiting for the right occasion. I think I’ll wear it to a wedding one day, where I’ll hopefully meet the love of my life. I consider this my Million Dollar Dress, because whenever I wear it (or try it on at home), I feel powerful, invincible even; I’ve never felt in command of attention more. When I finally wear this dress out of my house, onlookers will lay waste at my feet. That is the feeling you should look for when shopping for a dress – and I promise you, you won’t find that at Boohoo.com.
During Harry Styles hottest era (all of them were hot, but this was when Harry Hysteria was at its peak) I decided that the best way to get a famous person-who-lives-far-away-from-me-and-has-no-connection-with-me-whatsoever’s attention was to replicate his dressing and listen to Cage The Elephant on repeat. Similarly, Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble music video had just dropped, further solidifying my belief that dressing like an indie rock love character was the way to go. Harry Styles wore a sloppy beanie on his perfectly curled head so I wore a sloppy beanie on my messily curled head. Topshop loved this trend too, and consequently released replicas of these beanies in all colours and sizes, which I then travelled to Oxford Circus to buy every single colour. And then wore them. Every day. My mother laughed at me every time I wore them because I looked like an unwashed hooligan, so I would take it off right before I met her, and then as soon as I was around the corner and out of sight, back on would the beanie go. Funnily enough – and this may or may not be connected – when I travelled through airports wearing my beloved beanie, I got stopped, frisked, and tested for drugs every time. Thank god it stretched so much it became virtually unwearable. We live and we learn.
Marc Jacobs A/W 2016
If you’re into fashion in the slightest, you’ll have seen these shoes. Originally released in 2016 and worn by Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga, and more recently Cardi B and Olivia Rodrigo, the lore of these insurmountable heels will never die. As soon as I saw them on the runway at the tender age of 21 I knew I had to have them, so I hightailed my plus-size butt down to Mount Street to pour all my savings into this investment pair (and investment they are! People will pay big money for the original A/W 2016 collection, even though Marc Jacob’s Angels released a simple black and tie dye version earlier this year after a mass pleading). Once I got there, and tried on these now-iconic boots, I came to the disastrous revelation that I couldn’t fit my plus-size calves into them – devastating. Although I was originally after the lilac or periwinkle-coloured ones (seeing as the psychedelic version designed by Julie Verhoeven was like 8K over budget) they told me that they would indeed send them back to the factory and get them cut down to ankle boots for me. Not wanting to invest over £2000 worth of student savings into a pair of boots that I would have to lob half of them off, I settled for a black croc-embossed pair of ankle boots. Fear not, they are still 8 inches (20 centimetres!) high, but they are sadly the ugly duckling compared to the dainty and daring Kiki silhouette. Nevertheless, I cherish them like a small child, and have only worn them once, thus damning them into the wardrobe purgatory of waiting for just the perfect time to come out of the closet – only for it never to arise.
Louis Vuitton S/S 2008 Look 31
My mother is a clothing collector. Since she is forever a lover of designer clothing, as soon as she made enough money as a young woman, she went out to buy a luxury fashion item – and never looked back. What she has amassed now is impressive – both in the awe-struck kind of way and the meaning that between her, myself, and my sister, we are spilling out of our house. But it’s filled with important pieces. Fashion Instagram pages will post iconic looks of models strutting it down the runway, and my mum will have it hidden in her treasure trove; like a dragon hoarding her gems. The tulle coat from Louis Vuitton is one of those pieces. From the S/S 2008 collection, it’s a completely impractical piece of clothing. All it is is see-through black tulle fabric crafted into the silhouette of a trench coat. There is no warmth or protection to be found in this outerwear layer at all, nor coverage to hide your outfit underneath (so if you were planning on surprising your boyfriend with lingerie beneath a sleek trench coat, this one is NOT for you). Okay, it’s not the most practical item in the world, but when worn over an evening gown on the way to a VIP evening event? Chef’s kiss! Iconic. A piece I will cherish forever (as long as mum doesn't steal it back).
Prada Face Bag S/S 2014
My first foray into the world of novelty handbags was a coming-of-age moment for me. Having previously just been invested in the very latest Marc Jacob’s leather handbags or the classic Louis Vuitton Neverfull to carry all my schoolbooks, when I turned the bright-eyed age of 18, I travelled to Boston with my family to look at U.S. universities (and ultimately decided on none of them). There on that trip I bought all the university hoodies for colleges I would never attend, and tried my very first cup of coffee (albeit, a Starbucks cappuccino – disgusting, I am very much a coffee snob now). For my belated birthday present, father went out to buy me my very first novelty handbag – the Prada Face handbag from the S/S 2014 collection, and one I still covet to this day. Yes, it’s good to invest in timeless staples that you’ll use again and again, but buying distinct novelty pieces from iconic collections you love will never age. Fashion is cyclical, and will always show up again, so regardless of what Marie Kondo says: keep your stuff! It will be put to good use! Regardless of whether you wear it again, for me it signifies a sign of the times, and still holds great memories for me today. Yes, buy the pieces you’ll wear forever, but don’t forget to invest in something frivolous every now and then. After all, fashion is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?