Why was I stewing on this article, now residing in our flat's terribly designed and stinking communal recycling skip, again? Well it was something to do while I scraped at the black goo which grows where the water pipe in our (unheated) bathroom leaks (right down in the corner, natch) and sprayed it with bleachy water. I was cleaning- a 'traditionally feminine' job- and one which, by some fashion magazines' and bloggers' logic, is always infinitely improved and rendered painless by refusal to wear practical clothes. Perhaps in fashion-land cleaning consists of a light flick with a feather duster. Perhaps. Or perhaps some people do indeed feel infinitely more glamourous if they rip up their Agent Provocateur nylons and bleach-spatter their Prada blouse so they can never wear it again.
And almost always, my sentiments are echoed online in the form of comments on blogs - or just comments over coffee, when reading the magazines. Most stylish women can't, or won't dress 'perfectly' (by industry standards) 24-7 and what is really damaging their self esteem is the passive-aggressive postulating of pop psychology suggesting prioritising one's job, baby or lifestyle over this week's designer style or a perfect vintage look is somehow indicative of unrealised inner worthlessness. There are some truths (and they are truths) that fashion (and dare I say it, vintage and designer fashion in particular) seems to want us to ignore:
1) Some clothes are inherently more comfortable (be it warm, cool, easy-to-move-in or whatever) than others. That is to say, some are uncomfortable doing some jobs. Suspender belts and corsets, for example, aren't great for craning round the u-bend with a scrubbing brush.
2) Most reasonable people can tell when someone has 'made an effort' regardless of their look. That is to say, it is possible to look groomed whilst following almost any fashion and this- gasp- includes the humble jean and even that much-maligned genre (whispers) sportswear.
3) Many women, whilst enjoying looking good, maintain their self esteem from what they do in life rather than 'looking pretty'. It is not a problem with society and it is not that they are 'less feminine' or letting their feminity down in some way. Many women of incredible self esteem and social value wear no make-up and dress without deliberate fashion, yet still radiate what it means to be a great woman. People who get wound up by this ought to ask themselves why they have that reaction, or just bite the bullet and write me 500 words on why they consider Mother Teresa, Ellen Macarthur or Rosa Parks less womanly for eschewing lipstick and pretty frocks.
4) There is no mutual exclusivity between an item of clothing being pretty and an item of clothing being comfortable/practical. The high street (and designers) realise that they can sell twice as many clothes by making the distinction, 'tis all.
I like nice things and I like to look nice. However, sometimes, I also need to move around, deal with mess, or just slouch about without having to resort to an old South Park T-shirt from before His Lordship cast such things aside. So I buy comfortable clothes which look nice: it can be tricky, but it can be done.
Here are some of my tactics, my '3 simple rules' when I dress comfortably and practically:
1) Comfortable Clothes Fit
Anything too tight, even if designed for comfort, will dig in somewhere- in a truly irritating manner- and thus fail its purpose. The two biggest culprits: jeans and leggings. Jeans will pinch, rub and give you muffin tops and leggings- well. Um. Once I saw an episode of the daytime TV show 'Coach Trip' where they were filling sausage skins with raw mince. It can all go so horribly wrong. Leggings are one thing to be brutally honest with on sizing.
Likewise, too baggy and you'll look like an explosion in an early 90s branch of Our Price. Seriously, the 'pretty' side of pretty-and-practical will take a major hit. If you like loose, buy loose clothes in the right size so the shoulders fit well- the shoulders fitting is key.
2) Use Colour And Pattern
Confident use of colour tells people 'I've done this on purpose'. It tells people 'I like this style, I've chosen this'. Let's use an extreme example: the humble hoodie. Without colour and pattern, it says school PE kit- however with just the right colour choices it screams Gwen Stefani. The key thing is, the fabric and structure would be identical: it's purely the eye for colour and pattern that does it. Whatever your style, and whether it be a slick of red lipstick, a floral dress or a vibrant gold belt round a jersey dress, steering clear of grey ramps up the style of the most functional of outfits.
|Created using LookLet.com|
|Does this look like a kid at a bus stop? The items are|
a hoodie, trackies and ballet pumps: the red and animal
brings it to life.
Everyone has their 'thing'. Their red lipstick, their pencil skirt, their item of clothing that they wear and think ooh-la-la. For me it's heels, high, high heels and knee high boots- which I just can't wear all day to work (the heels for comfort, the knee length boots as it simply wouldn't be anywhere near appropriate. Like, appropriate would be texting from half way up Everest 'OMG great view, but it's cold!'). Plain black pumps or Uggs are comfortable enough, I was happy to wear them at work, but... meh. Just meh. Then I discovered a little trick which- bear with me- could make you look like a nutter. But it works for me. Replace the 'smart' detail on the item with another style element more suited to the situation. For example as heels are a no-no, could you go for colour (covered above), texture, lazer cutting or unusual structure?
|This is very close to what I wore today. Minus balloon.|
|Just a sloppy T-shirt and jeans or a 70s look?|
The design decides: speed of dressing and
comfort are identical
Anyway, looking fabulous needn't mean discomfort or limiting everyday life. And if it did, I'd seriously ask if it were worth it.
My final tips? Don't feel guilty about everyday style, just revel in a change to dress utterly outragiously at least once a week- whether to go out or stay in, for me it's insanely high heels and loads of eye make up. Because dressing up should be so much fun.