Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Wardrobe Stories

I wore the above jumper dress out to dinner on Valentine's Day at our local Thai restaurant (amazing food, kitsch decorations and a great mix of families and friends as well as couples). The dress is originally from Topshop but I bought it from a charity shop in Camden, London. The complete outfit also included the brown leather Levi belt (formerly my Dad's) that I've mentioned before, and a brown imitation leather jacket I spied in the window of a 'save the cats' charity shop before Christmas last year (that wasn't its exact name but whatever it was, I remember thinking that it was a dubiously specific cause). It's always fun to wear an outfit that's primarily second-hand, but it was the dress that especially made me smile.

Neither of us can remember why we were in Camden or exactly when it was, but I know it was definitely in the early days of our relationship. My then boyfriend (now husband) was still learning how to navigate the rocky terrain that is my emotional landscape, and I was (am still) learning to try and be more flexible. It's trivial but true that - out of all the things we could have clashed over in those early days - I would get the most defensive over my dress-sense.

I think it comes from always having looked different and drawn the eye: "ethnic minority", so much taller than my peers for most of my teens - it was impossible for me to fit in, so I created a crazy niche for myself and guarded it with my life; "individuality is sacred" was my mantra. To have a man come along and suggest that a different accessory here or there might work well was more than I could put up with - especially when he was right. It seemed such an affront to my militant independence. And when my immediate enthusiasm for this dress was not matched by his, I took it very VERY personally.

Sometimes it's the smallest things that have their unassuming roots dug down deep in something sensitive - something like self-esteem, unconditional acceptance, awkward memories. Buying this dress was a catalyst for some of the conversations that gradually lowered my guard. Make no mistake, I still dress how I want to dress. But I learned to leave room for other influences and, above all, lighten up! Five years later, eating out together on Valentine's Day in that dress, we could laugh about things that weren't funny at the time. And I remembered, with the help of a humble item of clothing, just how possible change is.

'Wardrobe Stories' are a string of posts helping me to appreciate the clothes and accessories I own in an atmosphere where it's easy to end up taking things for granted.

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