Fashion. She’s my nemesis. I like clothes and I used to like clothes shopping. At least I think I used to like clothes shopping and have fond memories of trying things on in Miss Selfridges and the indie shops in Leicester when I was a teen. They are mainly memories of a couple of seasons where I hit my stride in opaque tights and short black flowery print dresses, or long floaty tunic tops, denim cut offs and a velvet hat. Yes a velvet hat. And a choker. Oh I was one of those teenage girls in 1994.
But it was a brief love affair, because for all the ‘YES!’ excitement I think of when I remember trying on my patch work dress of loveliness (which I wore until it almost fell apart and then hid in a wardrobe at my parents’ house) or a black see-through mini baby doll with peachy red roses which made me look, with my choker and white pink lipstick, the absolute dogs bollocks, I also remember crying in changing rooms. Sobbing, sometimes, in my bright white bra, realizing nothing I tried on fitted, let alone suited me. That yet again I’d selected something which would never suit me or fit me and that I might just have to cut myself out of and pay for out of sheer panic and shame.
The crying started when I was about 17. It hasn’t really left me, and furthermore created another trend, a terrible spiral which I’ve been edging round and round in ever since. For the second half of my life, I realize, typing that out.
I’ve been buying clothes because they fit around me. Not because they look nice. Not because I have any sense of style. Not because they reflect anything about me or make me look or feel great. Not even because they fit properly, but just, you know, because I can get them off and on again without a struggle.
There have been brief moments, in that intervening time. where I’ve hit a look that was on trend and worked it a little – dresses over leggings, skinny jeans and Scandinavian type tops, a summer of three-quarter combats, vest tops and cardigans, a good couple of winters with slip on round toed ballet pumps. And oddly in pregnancy I found a groove in the capsule wardrobe that being so bent out of shape required. There was at least relief in having 8 things, a couple of dresses, one cardigan, a couple of tops, some jeans and later some cords and tunics.
I’m also a classic example of the ‘fat girl likes handbags because AT LEAST THEY FIT’ cliche.
And though occasionally I’ve pleased the Gods of TK Maxx and found something classy (that fits, but that I quite like) mostly, I’ve fallen for comfort and only looking passably unfat, sometimes just fat but with shape. Photos attest that in the wearing these clothes let me down as badly as I did in the choosing of them. I’ve detailed my endless search for the perfect cardigan before, and that has provided some shockers. I don’t scour Vogue, but I pay a bit of interest to the fashion pages. Mainly because, like eating chocolate for breakfast it combines a brief moment of interest and a huge morning hit of self-loathing.
It is such a bad move, paying any attention to what is on trend when you are actually wearing Sainsbury’s jersey which looks like badly washed Boden on the first wear and like, well, Sainsbury’s jersey after that. I don’t want to express my entire personality or make a statement, and I don’t have a very modish body shape or face – I look like a fucking clown in most make up and have features, but in an ordnance survey map way, rather than ones that would be celebrated in Grazia.
But I’ve lost my babyweight and can’t take refuge behind the bulletproof vest of a massive bump or maternity gear anymore. What’s to do? How do you go about finding a look when you are a panic buyer with no experience of buying stuff you actually like for the last decade and a half?
I’m as elastic as bagel dough and have a strange shape left over. It isn’t a firm figure more a smudged composite of what once was with no obvious strengths to play to but it is mine, and I am now being let loose back into adult country, the world of work where one is supposed, at the very least, to look like one is together some how.
My plan hasn’t extended to finding a look, answers on a postcard on how to either become someone who styles it out, or finds the right shops to be sidelined into not offensive and reasonably not rank looking.
I have a stopgap solution though. This has been to buy a new pair of boots and wear an interim uniform of dresses and those, or jeans and smart tops, while I read FAT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE and HOW TO BE A WOMAN. I have inhaled the latter, thanks @caitlinmoran and realized that at the very least I have a pair of yellow shoes which I can wear when my pelvis gets better, and agree with her about undergarments, clothes you can’t afford and stepping away from Per Una (as well as waxing, birth horror, being fat, feminism, and SHOUTING WITH CAPITAL LETTERS, of course, natch). I’m wondering if the other one will at least remind me that I can think my way out of rag hell as much as I have spent my adult life thinking my way in.