I have a shameful secret…until recently I didn’t like fashion. Well, perhaps not as strong as didn’t ‘like’ but certainly didn’t ‘get’. I was the girl who would feign family duties, lack of cash or even a smear test to get out of a shopping trip with friends. I didn’t understand why girls – in pairs, small groups or even whole trend-hungry herds – would spend hours and hours browsing the shops, trying on armfuls of items, parading in front of one another, pulling garments this way or that, craning to see their bums in the mirror (this is obviously a few years ago before stores strategically angled mirrors so that no one can avoid seeing every last inch of our bodies even with one eye shut – thanks a lot, Progression. Haven’t you heard that ignorance is bliss?!) with the ultimate intention of Making A Purchase. A Purchase they’d want to wear immediately, preening like a peacock and stroking themselves with a satisfied, almost post-coital smile on their blissful faces.
I stuck to plain outfits where there was no risk of clashing (now very cool) or drawing attention to oneself (ditto) with maybe a funky (do we say ‘funky in our mid-twenties? Yup) accessory or bright pair of shoes. Even then, if anyone commented on my new Purchase I’d tut audibly and snarl: “What? This is old thing?!”, almost as if I was embarrassed that I had even been shopping.
That is, until this year. Perhaps it was my age; my maturity bringing a new confidence. Perhaps it was (slightly) more money as my career progressed. Or maybe just the clothes are better these days.
Or maybe it was my fashion muse. She is my boyfriends, brothers’ girlfriend. Also, now, a friend. I could have said ‘friend’ from the start but I felt I had to explain the connection. She is five years younger than me and I hate her outfits. Hate them.
I know, stay with me here. Let’s call her Polly. Polly is obsessed with fashion. OBSESSED. She will whip her iPad under your nose, showing a saved picture from ASOS or Mywardrobe.com as a greeting. Five years younger. Ipad. No, I am not jealous. She is my muse, remember? She will squeal at the fashion pages of the magazines I buy for the features (and sometimes a freebie on the cover), cross-hunting designer pieces from the high street or seeking them on auction sites. Can I just say eBay or what? I do not know a single other one. Maybe Polly knows…
Since she has come into my life I feel almost stupid and uneducated about matters of dressing oneself. We have been invited to various family occasions – Christenings, weddings and suchlike – and Polly will be planning, scrapping, re-planning, sub-planning and post-planning her outfit as soon as the invitation lands on the mat.
There is no ‘mat’, of course. There will be an E-vite or a Facebook group as our society currently allows. There have been few postal invitations and certainly no mats for them to land on since the days of one mirror in a changing room with no way of seeing your bum…
I, of course, hadn’t been putting the same effort in and the disappointment on her face when I tell her I am wearing something I already own and I haven’t spent the last six weeks urgently hunting the perfect outfit is undeniable. It almost like she feels sorry for me. That I am missing out on something.
And perhaps I am.
Polly dresses in the clothes she likes and doesn’t care what people think. But she happens to be oddly intuitive. She was wearing a leather dress with her not-quite-maroon coloured Kurt Geiger boots a year ago – now I can’t move for leather-look in the shops and own a similar pair of boots. She showcased masculine tailoring, the colour yellow, and flatforms before I even knew what those words were. Except yellow. I know that word).
I cringe at her outfits when she wears them. Then I end up coveting them six months later when she is long bored.
I have started to take baby steps toward understanding my own ‘style’ and dressing accordingly. It’s already working with an unusual handbag, a different nail colour and – my biggest achievement to date – a ‘weird’ coat. Coats are a biggie – they cost more money and we wear them on the outside. But it caught my eye and rather than fight it, wondering what it would go with and was it worth it. I just bought it. And I love it. Polly likes it too. It is the only time in my life I asked: “Do you like this?”. I had never needed to before as my outfits were so inoffensive you couldn’t dislike them, just feel apathy toward them at worst.
Polly is now taking clashing to the extreme, mixing different prints (checks and florals, or florals with bigger florals, or checks on florals and textured tights) and in my opinion she looks like someone was clearing out a nursing home and all the patients blankets fell out in a pile.
But I’ll be wearing them at Christmas.