I haven’t blogged about fashion for a little while. Every time I’ve sat down to write, my mind has wondered and the words have dried up or what I had planned spontaneously morphed into something else. I still love fashion but it’s impossible to ignore the industry’s negative effect on the world. The devastating toll on the environment and criminal working conditions in textile factories in developing countries continue to be shocking. Fashion also has a lot to answer for in relation to our collective mental health. We are continually bombarded with impossible beauty standards, perpetuated by the demand for underweight models who need an unhealthy BMI to be employable. When I worked as a fashion editor for an online magazine, I witnessed some appalling behaviour, which was always brushed under the rug with the excuse ‘that’s just the way to industry works’. The rug is too small to cover up all the shame dust and fashion is having to re-think how it does business. Changes are being made, brands are becoming more sustainable and inclusive, but it’s possibly too little and far too late.
All this problematic stuff being said, I still have a flutter of excitement when I see something beautiful in a magazine. Back when I was a personal stylist, I would love finding the perfect thing for a client; seeing someone come out of a dressing room, feeling great in clothes they would never have chosen themselves was invariably gratifying. Finding pieces that made my clients feel self-assured was more profound than it might seem. I saw people blossom in front of me; suddenly they held their shoulders back and smiled at their own reflection. Style is not solely about artifice and many of us get a lot of joy from of our clothes because it’s a way of externalising one’s internal-self. When you find the balance between personal style and knowing what shapes and colours work, getting dressed becomes a pleasure. I think everyone deserves to feel good in their skin and wearing the right clothes can help.
Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying style, problems can arise when we define ourselves entirely by what we wear and the pressure to have the latest ‘in’ thing. In the past, I’ve shopped to make myself feel better; I would buy cheap, silly things while chasing the high of owning something new. I’m now cautious about what I buy and I always question why I want something. I interrogate my feelings and ask if I really love that piece and think it would be useful? Or is it my bipolar craving a distraction? To use therapy speak, what does the wanting want? Is the desire for a new dress about the dress? Or am I looking for a way to boost my faltering self-esteem? If I do my best to find validation from more reliable sources and if I still want the dress, then I’ll think about getting it. I usually wait quite a long time before I buy something, which means that I often miss out, but that’s no bad thing and it’s an effective way to curb my consumption.
So how do we balance great style and the toxicity of the fashion industry? We should certainly buy less, buy the best quality we can afford and not rely on the accumulation of commodities to sooth our woes. Rampant materialism can only ever lead to misery; there will never be enough beautiful things in the world to plug up a bottomless void of emotional destitution. I think of fashion as being akin to food, clothing and nutrition are two of life’s non-negotiable necessities, but our relationship to both can be dysfunctional and problematic. When we make good choices, we’re sustained by something more substantial than short-lived gratification.
Knowing your style helps you to buy smart; I don’t waste my time with jeans or skinny pants. I love the look on other people but I’ve just never felt comfortable. This dress from Rixo has me written all over it. Everything from the length, to the print, the mini ruffles and the sleeves. I know that I’ll be wearing this for years to come.