Back in 1990 and 24years old, whilst doing specialist training there was a girl in my group who I admired for her fashion sense. Some girls just seem to have it. Me, I liked fashion but had no idea how to put outfits together. I just knew I liked how some people dressed and Kate was one of those girls. She arrived at a lecture one day wearing a tan belt that really caught my eye. Kate struck me as a confident girl.
She was tall and I wished for some reason I had what she had. Confidence and a cool vibe.
Let me take you back to 1972 my year 7 or also then known as form 1, we had our first casual dress day. A day when we weren’t cloned in school uniforms. Casual clothes day was a day where you came to school in your everyday clothes and this was a day that confirmed if you were one of the dags or one of the cool kids. I’m not sure for boys but for girls, the 2004 movie Mean Girls is a good depiction of what school could be like for adolescent girls. I borrowed my sisters Miller shirt. I felt so lucky that she allowed me to borrow her green coloured plaid shirt with a thread that glittered and complimented its pearlescent press stud buttons. I felt like I sort of fitted in or at least gave others less reason to make me feel like I didn’t belong. I was transitioning from bullying at primary school to my first year in the school grounds of a public co educational high school. (My experience a little of bullying touched on in Why I write a blog. )
I knew at school to be unnoticeable you needed to be in the norm, somehow, even if it was by wearing a shirt that was mainstream at the time. Something that didn’t make you stand out but blended you into the unnoticeable and that’s where I was most comfortable. The bullying I’d received in primary school about physically looking different had ceased. I had managed to ride the wave of that but was now in the thick of adolescence another battleground to endure. Peer group pressure!
Being handed down my sisters ‘Treads’ towards the end of their fashion era also gave me a feeling of being fortunate. Even though they were on the way out I could still get some kudos for owning a pair! It was another 70’s fashion that helped me fit in amongst peer groups at high school. The sole was made from recycled tyres and the top woven suede strapping.
As I was never one of the cool girls I would find myself thinking how lucky they were that they fitted in effortlessly. That it made them alluring and it made them stand out, to me anyway.
In 1984 and 18, after completing my high school certificate, I started a tertiary course in legal secretarial studies.
My friend Alice from college was bubbly, friendly, confident, accepted me as I was and lived near me. We had travelled to and from college together on the public transport system and would meet at the bus stop. She also was a girl who seemed to have an effortless ability to put all the right pieces together with amazing style. She had a flare with accessories. Scarfs, jewellery, and footwear. At the bus stop one cold morning she taught me how to ‘wear’ a scarf.
Alice had a casual job at Sportsgirl which was a clothing store that teenagers loved. With her influence I bought myself a windcheater or as some would refer to a light pullover. The blue windcheater was one of my first purchases that I bought that I really liked. I wore it with a white big collar shirt to Harry’s graduation. It was a special occasion and for an impressionable 17 year old a special piece of clothing.
Sportsgirl had clothes I liked but it was expensive for me. Alice just knew what boots to put with what outfit, how to wear a scarf. She seemed a natural at it. She was another that infulenced me early on towards finding my own style. Was it to look like them or be like them, confident. Perhaps a bit of both. With the high school years behind me and now away from those who could judge me 5 days a week in the classroom and at parties. I had escaped the high school peer group pressure at last. I now could work on who I wanted to be, dress like I wanted and not what peer group pressure forced me to be.
Having left the school grounds of my public high school and tertiary college life I was earning my own money, working in a hospital, living out of home, and nearing my mid twenties and doing further studies. I wondered where girls brought these nice clothes. How did they learn about style. Did this just happen because you went to a certain school or lived in a certain demographic I would wonder. Some girls I had known had gone to ‘finishing classes’ that involved a course on how to present as a young woman. How to dress and put your makeup on. I liked the idea but always thought it was out of my league. It was expensive and therefore not something I engaged my thoughts in.
From the age of 18, I shopped at a clothing store that had affordable clothes which I liked. I liked how I felt in their clothes. I have bought clothes from that store for 34 years.
Now it was 1990. I was out shopping one day and saw the belt I had noticed and admired on Kate. The girl in my specialist course. Kate represented everything I had thought I wanted to be. Buying this belt that Kate had, assured me that this store had stuff that those effortless stylish confident girls wear. But I still didn’t feel I felt like I really liked how I looked. Perhaps my lack of confidence is a perception I had of myself and it’s an existing innate personality trait that my school years cemented in my thoughts about myself.
Like most females in their twenties. Your parents no longer have the same influence on you, you have the freedom to buy what you want, be who you want. I was becoming me. I had married a good looking, intelligent, witty charismatic man who loved me and I loved him. But I hadn’t yet mastered loving me. I reflect now and wonder did that part of my journey happen when Harry died. Did I only understand me and grow as an individual when Harry died because for the first time in my life I had to be a sole person, with no one to hide behind, no one to protect me, no one that I could mould into their way of life. A female, a Mum and the Dating Game. Entering the Jungle And Surviving. Part 1 : Getting started
Every summer and winter when married to Harry, I bought a new outfit. Money was tight with a mortgage to pay and young family, so I would lay-buy the outfit making regular payments. Lay-buy was a great way to secure the clothing I wanted and give me a chance to purchase as I was able to afford when living from an income fortnight to fortnight. I tried to choose carefully but although I’d buy nice clothes from a local boutique I still didn’t find ‘the look’ , the clothing items of the other females I admired.
When I found and bought the belt like Kate’s I loved it. What I loved about the belt was the detail. The white stitching, the colour of tan, the leather buckle that was consistant with the rest of the belt and the width of the belt. I liked that belt so much I still have it 29 years later. It’s a belt that I can only wear waisted. I wanted a belt that I could also wear with my lower cut pants. This year my go to store where 29 years ago I bought my other belt had a similar width and colour tone with a metal buckle that will fit around my middle wear my lower cut jeans sit.
Belt widths, colours, and what they are worn with, have changed over seasons. My original white stitched belt I had in my closet and hadn’t worn it much in years. Dropped waisted dresses had been in, low waisted jeans, very thin belts, and weight fluctuations prevented me from wearing it, but I always had an attachment to my white stitched tan belt so I kept it. I kept it because I genuinely love that belt as a clothing item but I also have an attachment to that belt because it made me feel a bit like how I thought Kate looked when I bought it. Effortless and confident. For someone who has spent her life living unnoticeable, it gave me a pleasure that’s difficult to describe. A pleasure of fitting in a little. Even if it was just a little. A feeling of perhaps being accepted. That perhaps I was a tinsy bit like the cool girls. The cool girls who oozed confidence. When I wore that belt I felt good. Was that how confident girls felt? Is that how the cool girls felt?
My new belt is lovely but not quite as nice as my other. What makes clothing particularly nice to me is the detail. The stitching, the fabric and its texture or pattern. The cut. The quality of fabric. The design. The way we dress is definitely an expression of ourselves. Science has shown that not only do the clothes we wear express ourselves the clothes themselves can have psychological effect of making us feel better. There’s a psychology expression, enclothed cognition. It’s the influence clothes have on the wearers cognition. Science says that the clothes we wear affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. Do you wake up some mornings and say to yourself, I feel like wearing this dress or outfit. I think it’s because it does put us in a certain mood. We feel confident or empowered or feminine or attractive.
Whilst doing a course at work I met a woman who bought a lot of her clothes from second hand stores. She looked great. She designed jewellery, an artistic woman who also had a natural flare for colour and texture. She knew how to accessorise to get the complete look. I admired her. I would look at her outfits and think to myself, if I tried to put that together I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have been confident enough to be able to walk into a second hand store and pick out items that came from varied seasons of time that complimented each other and pull it off to be an effortless look. That was a skill I hadn’t yet mastered. One day whilst out with her I went into a small designers store. The designer made a comment to me that struck me. I don’t really know why or what the conversation was leading up to it but she said words to the effect, ‘your outfits cool but your mum earring let it down’. It impacted on me. It got me thinking about accessories worn with outfits. I think it was at this moment that I understood accessories are just as important to the look you are going for as the items of clothing, once again reinforcing, it’s all in the detail. This transcends into life. To be good at something is all in the detail. It’s ensuring everything is presented at the standard you are wanting to portray. The way you present yourself, your business, yourself as a professional, your home. It’s all in the detail. The meticulousness of the detail says something about a person, your personal brand.
I read an article a long time ago in my 30’s that went through the decades of life and had people of influence discuss dressing in their age group. The women in her 40’s said it wasn’t about fashion for her now, it was about knowing your style and buying what suited you. It was about being stylish more than fashionable. This I understood. At the time I was working with a collegue who was in her 50’s some 20 years or so my senior. She to me, always dressed stylish. She was fashionalbe but looked stylish. Dressing for your age is the art of being able to recognise when something is to young for you. The length of dresses and skirts and design of clothing in general. If you have a great set of pins I believe you can get away with short dresses for much longer that me with thicker set legs. Generally as one ages their skin gets looser as loses its elasticity and it dulls. These days I cover up rather than expose. I’m always checking in with myself in my mind, is this the ‘look’ I’m wanting. I definitely do not want to look like mutton dressed up as lamb. The more senior women I worked with have shown me that you don’t have to look like an old lady gone to seed, that looking great is all about your style and complimented by your personality. All style and no substance isn’t attractive nor admirable.
Another medic I worked with. A shorter woman but she always looked great in what she wore. Being tall or shorter doesn’t really matter. It was more because she was confident rather than anything else. Confidence is an attracive quality. It’s alluring. Kate was confident more so than anything else.
Over time I have learnt it isnt about being ‘cool’ its about feeling comfortabe in your own skin. It’s about finding your style and ‘owning’ that. Owning it means, taking pride in what you’ve got. Owning it is about exuding confidence and pride.
I apply the philosophy, ‘it’s not about fashion in your 40’s it’s about style and buying for that style that suits you’ . When particular clothing that suits me comes back in fashion and available in stores I buy up big, stocking up on the clothes that suit my figure. For me that advice has been helpful. There’s a skill to looking fashionable with your own style. Sometimes it’s colours of pattern of fabric or a shirt that makes your style blend to fashionable. A dress at a length, with a neckline that enhances you but in a modern fabric with a color or belt or earrings that modernise it. Or being willing to wear a dress shorter but to a length that’s going to compliment rather than look inappropriate for you. Accessories transform an outfit and finish the look, the style. Some tips I have learnt….. When buying fashion items, think wisely. Remember the cliche classics are classic. Classics are items of clothes that transcends all age groups, colours, fabrics and design that transcends time. Spend the money on those, buy quality that will last the length of time of your investment. Articles that are pure fashion pieces recognise and buy only a enough to get you through the season or buy low end knowing the quality only needs to last a couple seasons. Ask yourself do you think this item of clothing will last more than 2 years, will the print, cut, design be out of fashion in after 2 seasons of summer or winter before handing over your money especially if it’s an expensive item. Could you find a similar item cheaper elsewhere. Are there at least 3 ways I could accessorise this or 3 tops or pants or skirts I can wear this item with. Do I really need it or am I buying it because I just like it can sometimes influence your decision to purchase.
For me I have learnt, waisted outfits, below knee length works better for me , but if above knee length fitted styles are better . Crew necks, boat neck or square neck design are better than v necks. Straight leg pants that are just above ankle length or loose leg flare pants I’m more comfortable in. I’ve learnt about proportion. The best length of tops and jumpers for me, what looks better with a heel. It’s these tips I’ve learnt over the past 34 years through trial, error and observation of others.
I still look at women that look effortlessly well dressed with admiration. The ability to pull together an outfit and look simply stunning. There’s so many styles you can do or align yourself to.
I came across this blog in which the blogger has compiled a list of styles and asks which one are you? https://blog.stylewe.com/10-types-of-fashion-
Dressing well isn’t about having money to buy designer or expensive clothing. Dressing well is about style. Some of the best dressed women I know shop at second hand stores of chain outlets. Dressing well is a form of art, a way to express your personality. Money allows you broader choices but it’s not the key factor at all. It’s knowing your style, doing it well and feeling good in your own skin. That’s the common factor with all those females over the years I admired for their effortless style.
I have my own style now. It took me until my 40’s to feel comfortable with myself. I’m still not sure what my exact style code fits into but I think you can jump between styles. It’s the attention to detail that’s important, the right accessories accentuate a style, completes it. I still don’t believe fashion comes naturally to me. But I don’t think Im a disaster either. It’s not everyone’s thing. Ted isn’t into fashion at all! That’s ok. We are all different. But I guess it’s my thing. I’ve developed my style, that I feel comfortable with. More importantly I have learnt a lot about myself along the way. That we all express ourselves differently. Funnily enough after years of trying to fit in, it isn’t about fitting in now. I just enjoy wearing clothes I like. I like being me. Enjoying fashion isn’t about being shallow it’s just another art form. Fashion is art. It’s ok to like art. It’s ok to invest in art. It’s ok to admire the detail and appreciate its beauty. I will continue to admire those forever with an effortless style. But instead of now admiring and wondering how they do it, I admire them from within the comfort of my own skin, and a confidence in my own style.
Love Lucy x