Aged 9 my current obsession is a bright pink t-shirt complete with pink and white spotted leggings. Awful, I know. Somehow at that age it seems like the perfect combination. I cry when both items become too small, which fortunately comes sooner rather than later. A later craze is for the Naf Naf jacket, with its appropriately “naff” logo. Fortunately, my parents say a resounding “no”. Soon after the Schott jacket appears. In vivid colours and with far too much padding, one extension of the trend involves buying two jackets then taking the Velcro label from one colour and switch it with another. Basically it shows that not only can you (or your parents) afford one jacket but two.
Moving schools is something of a major shock. If you think school itself is tough, imagine one that’s all girls. It seems that everyone in my year knows, or has an older sister who does, the vital secrets to perfect hair and make up. At 12 I don’t even know what foundation is, have never used straighteners and my idea of a beauty regime involves a hairbrush and toothpaste. I am still in Barrett’s school shoes and a questionable pale grey horse print jumper. On a school trip, another girl tries to pull it from my bag and bin it. Looking back, maybe she had a point.
By 16, not much changes. I still have hair that looks like it was styled in a wind tunnel, have never even considered tweezers and find the idea of developing outfits impossible. One summer is spent in virtually the same pair of black trousers and a matching t shirt. Co-ordinated it may be. Stylish it is not. One of the few attempts at colour, a pair of bright red Benetton jeans, is spoiled when on mufti day the meanest girl in my class makes the same choice. Said jeans then spend the rest of their natural life shoved to the back of my wardrobe.
18 and at college. There seems to be a gulf between the smart and well presented students, who quite frankly bore me to tears, and the more individual dressers. None of the clothes which I wear now will survive beyond the college years. Jeans feature a great deal, but just plain dark blue denim. I spend two years of A levels jealous of my then best friend who has perfect straight blonde hair, wears suits and carries a make up bag with her biros.
After leaving (and having a major disaster with regards to some of the results) it’s off to another college to do retakes. It becomes two years of bullying, hiding away behind “nothing” clothes in an attempt to get by. My one highlight is a weekly costume design class, where I develop marionettes and dragon masks with paper mache. We go to the V and A Museum, and I stand awestruck looking at the Versace dresses on prominent display.
Finally at the age where many people have graduated to a mortgage, babies or other grown up life choices things have at last changed. The miracle of straight hair arrived (thank you GHD) as well as a new sense of how to dress to suit my shape rather than hide it. Even the glasses have improved from Barlow style lenses to a Brad Goreski inspired pair. Now there’s just the small matters of moving out, finding a job in magazine styling and perhaps the occasional date at some point. Where’s that fashion fairy godmother when you need her?