My Style Journey
From Geek to Chic... via Shock and Awe!
Harry Winston once advised: “People will stare, make it worth their while.”
In stark contrast, I was often told growing up “no one’s looking at you!” Should I be fussing over a rogue curl or ill-fitting trousers, my mum would remind me that I wasn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things! True enough, but all this was at odds with the expectation on me to get up, dress up and make my face up! I think it was her way of instilling modesty in me, of cowing my ego, for which, of course, I am ultimately grateful.
As I grew from painfully shy child into archetypal teenager, the last thing I wanted to do was blend into the background as I headed to Art School. But I struggled to express my individuality with the limited selection of M&S clothes that either twinned perfectly with my older sister’s wardrobe or varied only in colour and size! I think it was this nerdy twinning that gave me such a strong sense of individuality. Having been forced to look the same as someone else, I couldn’t wait to look different!
So I raided my dad’s wardrobe for cool, oversized pieces, like the brown suede jacket that was the envy of my trendy friends or the black, silk-collared tuxedo jacket, with sleeves so long I had to push them up, Miami-vice style! Then there were the chunky Norwegian knits he’d worn skiing and the French-cuffed formal shirts for which I sneaked his cufflinks and tied at the midriff. All of these were paired with reams of jewellery, the tiniest mini skirts I could find (and get away with) and men’s Levi 501s that I bought in Flip, the coolest vintage shop in Glasgow.
Having plastered my bedroom walls with torn out pages of Vogue, Elle and Harpers Bazaar throughout my 80s childhood, I now found great joy in styling looks that made an impact – bright colours, crop tops, biker boots with denim cut-offs – everything my mum hated!
This teenage rebellion found its zenith in the multi-coloured, skin-tight Versace catsuit that literally glowed in the de rigueur UV lights of many a nightclub, earning me the nickname “The Body” from some fellow-clubbers!
At this point it’s important to say that my mum was a very glamorous lady. She was never seen without her lipstick on, heels high and hair perfectly coiffed. She was clearly the inspiration for my love of fashion that began as a child, watching her paint on her winged eyeliner or pick out that white, summer skirt suit with the pink lily print running down one side - a timeless classic that would still look current even now. She could expertly reapply her lipstick with no mirror and paint her nails in 2 minutes flat before running out the door with my dad for what seemed to me like the most glamorous world of dinner dances. I miss her still…
Slowly, the crop tops and catsuits morphed into wrap dresses and palazzo pants, tailored suiting and high-neck blouses, still paired with sky-high heels and the ombre lips I’d copied from a nineties Naomi Vogue cover. As my skirt lengths descended (occasionally) and my salary increased, my passion only grew, but I still held true to my search for the original. My style evolved to a point where my mum would greet me approvingly, admiring my choices and encouraging my purchase of tasteful, quality pieces she would have chosen herself, at my age.
Everyone hits bumps in the road of life. When mine hit especially hard, aside from faithful friends and family members, it was in styling clothes, playing with colour and creating art – in the form of watercolours and pastel drawings – that I found my salvation. Unlike people who want to hide away in black or blend in wearing beige when they feel down, for me, wearing an outfit that feels unique and eye-catching seems to bring me back to myself. When my mood is low or things are tough, in fashion I have a loyal friend, a cheerful compadre who will always make me feel better about myself, my situation and the world in general. It’s a form of therapy, it speaks to my soul and puts me back in touch with my core being.
Miuccia Prada once observed: “fashion is instant language.” Wise words from an incredibly talented woman. And so it is for me – fashion is my way of communicating with the world, to "make them stare", so to speak. I only hope I can make it worth their while. Thanks for the advice, Harry!