This piece was first written in February 2017, and has since been edited and re-written.
1995: A mother put her little girl in a dress for a family wedding. A scoop-neckline. Floral. Edged in a silk pink frill beneath a flared drop waist. Dad photographed us.
In 1995, I wasn’t aware of Maison Margiela’s sequin-encrusted Spring Collection or Tom Ford’s Fall show for Gucci; I was busy having picnics with my stuffed-bears. All I knew was that I liked what I wore and that I liked twisting and knotting bed sheets around my outfits. I had few inhibitions, like the time I wore a T-shirt and knickers on an Irish beach in the summer of ’98.
The photo that dad took is now one of my favourite photos. It reminds me of how my style has evolved. It also makes me think about how I now see clothes and identity. Two things that entwine frequently as I try to circumnavigate who I am.
When I look at the outfit that I will never wear again, I see how my degree of consciousness has changed, tarnished by modes of thinking that society has influenced me by. Heavily influenced by the need to have a certain body, or the notion that a certain body suits a certain look- something that social media is unfortunately still trying to circumvent. I have since developed abstractions of how I am seen by what I wear, or at least how I think I am seen by how I decorate myself.
I recognise that I am lucky to have clothes and that I occasionally have disposable money in order to afford not solely the basics, but the thoughtless purchases too- the fast-fashion pieces, the trends and the panic buys. I also live amongst a society whereby I am not reprimanded by government or culture for what I wear. And along with my dispensable money for reckless high-street purchases and my ability to experiment with clothing, I am still often dissatisfied by the clothes that hang in my wardrobe, let alone the few that I choose to wear.
What I wear says more about the person I am trying to become- the Annie Hall, Sally Alright, Holly Golightly or Carrie Bradshaw. Because when I look at the outfit I will never wear again- the late eighties hand-me-down, I see the wondrous things I dreamt of and all unaffected by the ideals of how I try to present myself.
Neo-nostalgia fashion is a concept between reminiscing over the past and creating something new whilst evoking the past in part. Everyone is rebooting past styles and I too have fallen for it. And sometimes to borderline obsession. But I am aware that I try to invoke a certain style before I dress. Checking street-style pages before I do, or thinking back at my era of inhibition. My style is heavily curated in the same way that my Polyvore sets are. It’s a level of perfectionism that can become, without proper attention, detrimental in many circumstances. So whilst a personal attribution like Anna Wintour’s shades or Fran Lebowitz’s suits are unquestionably a part of their identity, my affinity to an evolving style is still ever-adapting in the balance. And for the first printed issue of NR Magazine, I wrote specifically on the topic of gender and identity.
It has therefore become an inevitable compulsion of mine to return back to the rachis of my original style because it was a simpler time. I scowl through vintage racks collecting logo sweaters. I pair them with thin jersey joggers as I used to, but instead, wear them with heels; but there are certain things that we cannot, and often should not re-create. And though I often dream of superfluous money to buy these clothes and will see fashion magazines as my deity along with the racks of my favourite brands , I know that it’s more about wanting to dress without a society-fuelled reticence.
We need to learn to live within our means and for what we have at the time.
The outfit that I’ll never wear again has inadvertently sparked a desire for me to work hard, and perhaps in part, so that I can afford the clothes that I want in order to live as that persona. Though a career in storytelling is driven by everything but money, possession and materialism, the perk of such awards will always be a secret desire.
I don’t want to wear that outfit again, but perhaps I’d like to recreate a certain freedom.