There is a certain kind of woman who dresses for no-one but herself. Ladies that carry themselves with a quiet confidence and the subtle throw-down: “I don’t give a damn what you think – I look fabulous.” I’d quite like to count myself amongst those women. Some days I pull it off. Some days I don’t. There is an art to dressing fearlessly – and it is so much more to do with state of mind than state of dress.
I remember when I was ten years old. All I wanted to wear was a purple polo shirt and a pair of black shorts. Like every other girl in my class. My mum’s tastes, however, were not quite so Kmart. A dressmaker, she sourced inspiration for my outfits from German vogue magazines. I remember going to school in a pink and purple geometric print sweater dress, paired with hot pink tights and black ballet slippers. It was fashionable at the time. It was not how the girls in my class dressed. I looked at myself and the outfit in the mirror – confused. My ten year old mind comprehended it looked good but also anticipated the inevitable persecution for dressing so differently. And the inevitable persecution came. The teasing with the clear undertone of “who the hell do you think you are?” Later that tear-stained day one of the kinder girls sidled over to me and whispered “I love it. I wish I was brave enough to wear something like that.”
At ten years old, all I wanted was to fit in. I wanted to disappear into the ubiquity of same-same clothing. But I learned something that day that I took into adulthood. The first realisation that clothes could be camouflage or they could be armour. That you could use them to fit in or stand out. And if you chose the latter, sniggers might be closer to jealousy than disparagement.
I didn’t become a ten year old fashion icon – far, far from it. My teenage years were filled with same sartorial mistakes as everyone else. In fact, I don’t think I truly embraced dressing for myself until I became a mother. Early motherhood is often heralded as a style wasteland. For me it was when I stopped caring what other people thought. The need to dress a certain way disappeared. My baby didn’t care what I wore, as long as nipples were easy to access. And I found the freedom to dress how I wanted. A lack of boundaries can lead some people into a style rut but I found it quite liberating. I could be a hippie one day, a dairy-maid the next (well, I was actual a dairy-maid every day), a 60s mod-girl or a boho babe. I could wear flowers in my hair, jingling anklets at my feet or a gold temporary tattoo in the company of a non-judgemental infant. I think motherhood allows us to reinvent ourselves, to rediscover our playful and creative sides. I see no reason why that can’t extend to dressing ourselves.
My boys are older now. I am more often in the company of others and sometimes in a corporate environment. But I still dress to please myself. I still try to dress without fear.
Here are a few little ideas on dressing fearlessly:
- Dip your toes in the water by adding one extra little thing and see where it takes you. Maybe a statement necklace or a fabulous pair of shoes. Once you get a bit braver, keep stepping outside your comfort zone.
- If you see someone wearing something you love (whether offline or online) tell them. Give them a little confidence boost.
- You have to love it. If you don’t love it – you will never wear it with confidence. So if you don’t love it, don’t buy it.
- Think of dressing as a form of creative expression. Give yourself permission to put some creative thinking into it. Have fun.
- Get to know what you suits you and follow that. Don’t listen to style “rules” that limit your choices based on age, shape or size. Listen to yourself and what you love. Wear what makes you smile.