For Christmas when I was 11, I received my very first eyeshadow palette. As a firm believer in looking after your skin (especially acne-prone, sensitive skin like mine) and therefore investing in “good” (slightly pricey) makeup, my Mum bought me a smokey eye Dior palette that I adored. I was practically forbidden from using the cheaper makeup products taped awkwardly to the front of magazines so this was kind of a big deal. From that day, I must have spent a good 10 minutes each morning applying eyeshadow and creating different looks.
Then, I think at around 12, I begged my Mum to buy me these black faux leather ankle boots with a chain detail, causing my Grandma to gasp when she first saw them. At around 13 or 14, I waltzed into Peacocks (does that store still exist anymore?) after school one day with my best friend and bought a pack of 3 brightly coloured lacy thongs. And in that same year, about 15 or so more of them from Primark - neon, animal print, fancy ones with bows – I had them all. And as it’s the style of pant that my Mum has always worn, this was completely normal to me. Until of course, I got into the school changing rooms to get ready for PE.
Even now, I shudder at the thought of the school changing rooms. What should have been a space bustling full of bodies chatting away and swapping uniform for sports kit was actually a space that bred bitchiness, cruel stares and whispers from giggling girls huddled in corners. With the development of the young female body came criticism and comparison, everyone eager to look at the girl whose boobs seemed to appear overnight or in contrast, the girl that still needn’t wear a bra even in her late teens. There was so much gossip, so many unnecessary comments escaped from jealous and insecure mouths and just so. much. bitterness. I would do anything to avoid those changing rooms (I am definitely guilty of pretending to be on my period more times than is biologically possible).
But back to my point. I too was a victim of nasty comments and bitchy whispers because while in my home, wearing thongs and G-strings was perfectly natural, apparently that wasn’t the “norm” for young teenage girls. So while I did also own many pairs of those branded Jack Wills briefs, I lived (and still do) in thongs. Who wants pant lines anyway? Not I.
And over the years, there have been so many instances when I’ve been stared at or criticised for my choice of clothes. While my friends now say that I always look “glam” (not true), “smart” (debatable) and “well-dressed” (a huge compliment), in the past I’ve been made to feel as if I’m overdressed, whether that’s because I’ve chosen to wear heels instead of flats or a blazer instead of a parka. But something occurred to me the other day, after I’d shot these images with Zoe and was walking along South Bank afterwards, I have always dressed for myself, I’ve always worn what I want and what makes me feel good. Of course I’ve tried many times to fit in; I tried the Jack Wills hoody and joggers combination, the Topshop Joni jeans and crop top combination (an absolute disaster on someone like me with child-bearing hips) and then for house parties, the tighter-the-better skirt/top/dress combination, my least favourite dress code of all (sometimes it’s good to leave some things to the imagination, you know?). But I stopped trying to fit in years ago. I don’t care what the latest must-have item is (not to say I don’t appreciate a designer trend), what the models are wearing on the catwalks or what the magazines think would suit my body shape, I will wear whatever the hell I like. Always.
And that means that my style is hard to describe. One day, I’m happy in a jeans and blazer with a shirt and ankle boots, the next day I might wear a playful printed mini dress with trainers and the day after that, I might wear a baby blue maxi dress with a deep V and some faux suede heeled ankle boots. With faux fur. And a strut to match.
Because I can. And because it makes me happy.
You Do You.