How I Learnt To Be Myself (Not Alexa Chung)
I’ve always been the kind of woman drawn to a pattern. I love flowers, abstract prints and anything with embroidery. This is true of my homeware but especially true of my wardrobe. Some days I open the doors up and feel overwhelmed by it all. To be fair, every time I open it up I feel that. All I can see are dresses on top of dresses and hangers bent out of shape by the weight of shirts/skirts/ trousers – it actually makes me feel queasy. Put it this way, there’s a lot of STUFF and I don’t wear all that STUFF.
What I DO wear is dungarees. I have them in black, blue denim and even white (I know what was I thinking?). I wear them to work (not all the time), on the weekends and on holiday (I even got a cut off pair which are very unflattering). And I LOVE DUNGAREES but I have other clothes and never seem to wear them. And this is where Sulky Doll comes in. Sulky Doll is a fashion stylist/image consultant/fashion blogger and vlogger. When she said she’d come to my house to help sort my nauseating, clashing wardrobe out, I jumped at the chance. Then I felt nervous. My wardrobe is essentially full of sand and dirty clothes. It’s where I throw stuff that I don’t know what to do with anymore. I was nervous about showing Sulky what was really going on in there.
I also had my daughter at home which is not ideal. I’d been awoken at 5am and as usual had pulled my tired dungarees on and readied myself for the day. By 10.30 I’d been to the supermarket with two small people and tried to convince them that mini-milks were baby cappuccinos. I’d been answering emails on my phone in a frenzy whilst sitting in my neighbours car (the battery had gone dead in ours) and holding a child’s car seat in place (couldn’t get the seat belt round it properly). I was doing all the stuff we do each day in our dungarees completely mindlessly. I wasn’t in the mood for talking about fashion.
I wanted to lie on the bed and sleep.
To cut a long story short Sulky (A.K.A. Donna) sorted me out. She calmed me down. She helped me feel better about myself (no mean feat). And there were 5 key things I learnt and these are things I feel might be relevant to a lot of women (unless you’re a fashionista already).
Here we go:
1. There should always be at least ONE part of your body that you like
Like most modern woman, I dislike my body. So there is literally nothing in my wardrobe that showcases any part of said body. My jumpers have high necks (and I tend to do my blouses right up to the top). I hate my legs and no amount of reading interviews with outsize models who are ‘happy with their shape’ is going to shift those feelings… but Sulky convinced me otherwise. I discovered (through her tactful questioning) that I actually like my neck, shoulders and arms. And that my lower legs aren’t too bad. So step one of re-discovering my fashion mojo was thinking about clothes that show these off. So a V-neck jumper or T-shirt. Or unbuttoning a blouse a little. And then also not wearing thick black tights when it’s boiling outside (the midi-skirt and slogan jumper is one of my favourite looks but always with mega-denier tights).
2.Every woman needs a good pair of jeans and trousers
Most of you probably know this already but it was news to me. I actually don’t own any STUFF TO WEAR WITH ALL THE BUSY, PATTERNED STUFF I already have. Sulky made me realise that I don’t have one pair of jeans that I like. THIS is why I live in dungarees. It’s not that I particularly like them -it’s just that I don’t want to go out wearing my threadbare Mum pants and a flowery shirt. Nice jeans (that flatter my pear-shape) and trousers (that make me feel okay) are now top of my list.
3. Fashion photos on Instagram are misleading
I am a gullible idiot. If I see a woman on Instagram and I like her outfit, then I often feel compelled to buy it. Women who take fashion photographs of themselves have usually spent a while curating that look. They probably have quite a few photos where their eyes are closed or there’s a ladder in their tights. You usually don’t see them sitting in the back of a neighbour’s car having a mini-milk poured into one hand whilst they hold a car seat with the other and try to locate a Werther’s Original from their handbag. You don’t see them in their threadbare pants either. There are chinks in every armour and trying to replicate a fantasy image isn’t a good idea (more on this later).
4. Don’t save things for ‘special occasions’
Sulky pulled one dress out and asked me when I would wear it. I looked at it and realised I NEVER go out in the evening and so would probably NEVER wear it. ‘Why don’t you wear it in the day then?’ she asked. The idea that I could wear ‘special’ clothes everyday was a bit of a revelation. Now I feel I can wear lovely things more often (or I’ll end up buried in that lovely Zara dress and won’t get much enjoyment from it). Today I’m wearing a dress that I’d reserved for a BIG NIGHT OUT. Again it’s a fantasy that won’t happen. Instead now, I feel special and glamorous… yet I’m sitting at home on a bed, with a sleeping toddler by my side.
5. Wear things that make you feel good
I know, this sounds very OPRAH and all that jazz but if you don’t feel good in something then you probably look crap. I have a cropped trouser jumpsuit from Cos that basically makes me feel like Billy Bunter. I spend all day feeling like Billy Bunter and then come home and take it off. I pick my squashed ego off the floor and think ‘what was I even thinking?’ There were actually quite a few items that I prefaced their introduction with – ‘This makes me feel like a big, fat whale and makes my stomach stick out like a balloon.’ Sulky had a certain look when I said these things. They quickly ended up in the ‘recycle/E-bay’ pile.
One last point which was a real rude awakening for me… I AM NOT ALEXA CHUNG. Every woman has a fantasy who lives in their head. She takes the image of this person into the hairdressers (I’m showing my age but for a long time mine was Natalie Imbruglia). Well I am a forty-something woman who has a crush on Alexa Chung. That M&S range she did…I purchased even the rubbish stuff that everyone else slagged off. Sulky was very good at telling me I am not AC (without making me cry).
She suggested that I try and be myself instead. She didn’t make me feel bad about not being Alexa. In fact quite the opposite.
Ultimately fashion can feel frivolous BUT it’s one of the things that really shapes the way we feel. It tells the world how you feel and also exposes what you’re trying to hide. Billy Bunter isn’t a bad look as long as you’re comfy that way. And without getting too deep here, if you understand what you like and what you don’t, you may just start to focus more in other areas of your life.
And okay I don’t love ALL of my body but have you seen my neck? Come here. Look closer. It’s quitepossibly the most exquisite thing you’ve ever seen.
See Sulky’s website on: http://sulkydoll.co.uk and follow her on Instagram: @sulkydollstyling