Who or what has influenced the way you dress?
The Kardashians are not the only influencers
When I use the term influencers your thoughts might go straight to social media, like the Kardashians on Instagram or someone with a large audience on YouTube. Yet they aren't a new thing invented by the millennials. We've all had them since childhood and whether you are aware of it or not, what you choose to wear is a direct or indirect result of your influences from an early age.
When I first start working with you I’ll ask you about your clothes stories. Questions about how your parents dressed and their thoughts around clothing. We explore your attitude to getting dressed and where it comes from. We talk about your early memories of clothing and who chose what you wore. Whether getting dressed was a creative process or a more practical one. It's all relevant to how you dress today.
My clients are sometimes surprised when I start asking them questions like this - then more often than not I can see the penny dropping as they make the links to their current ways of thinking around clothes. It's fascinating stuff.
Mothers have a lot to answer for
Mothers have a lot to answer for. You can see from these old photos that our mum liked me and my sister to be dressed the same. We were always smartly turned out in our matching outfits that she made for us. Which was fine ...until it wasn't. As I got older I wanted to look different from my little sister. It annoyed me that we had to dress the same.
As a teenager I began to have more of a say in what I wore and enjoyed being more of an individual. Whereas my sister struggled with the freedom of choice and didn’t have the clarity around her style like I seemed to have. In her case study (in my book) she describes being drawn to uniforms and liking being smart. Wearing a uniform is my idea of hell. We do both still like to be coordinated though. So, you can see, just in this little snippet, how our mother's choices influenced us both but in different ways.
Parents generally seem to have a big influence over how you dress because they are the ones buying your clothes when you are young. I have clients who still have ‘rules’ to overcome around dressing that are made up by parents. You mustn’t show your knees when wearing a dress. Your shoes and handbag should always match. Worse still you could have body image issues because of throwaway comments made about your appearance. I had one client who didn’t wear a dress or anything tight fitting on her legs for almost 40 years because her dad said she had tree trunk legs in her early teens!
A desire to fit in
When you become responsible for shopping for your own clothes, for most people I speak to this seems to be around age 14, you might start to explore different styles. You are probably influenced at this time by your peers and a desire to fit in and be one of the gang. Sometimes you will dress a certain way to identify your musical tastes and affinity to a subculture – think punks, goths, heavy metal, mods etc.
It might be that you follow trends set by the older kids in school. I remember being desperate for a pair of plastic wedge heel tassled loafers from Timpson’s shoes shop like all the cool older kids. I properly resented my comfy leather Clarks school shoes. I did eventually get a pair of the coveted wedges – so bloody uncomfortable and I couldn’t even walk in them because they were so high. Lesson learned there.
Explore your identity
You might explore your identity and play around with different styles as your world expands when you leave home and go to university. People don’t know you there so there is the possibility to experiment without the ‘who’ve you come as’ comments that you can get from your family if you try anything different. As an art student in the 80’s I personally, had the perfect opportunity to explore different styles. This was my first venture into charity shop shopping and buying vintage clothing, my mother was horrified that I was wearing second hand clothes. My hairstyles got more unusual and required lots of gel and hairspray. There was even backcombing, and sugar and water spray involved for the most extreme styles.
Your work life will influence how you dress. There might be a dress code to adhere to or a uniform. For some people, like my sister, this will be a good thing as it takes away the stress of making decisions about clothes on a day-to-day basis. However, it can be even more challenging when it comes to what to wear when you are off duty. I often have women come to work with me who have changed careers. It’s usually from something that requires them to dress in a particular way to working for themselves. They can’t seem to get it right and need a bit of help to develop a style that helps them express the new version of themselves.
Motherhood impacts personal style
Sometimes your wardrobe can be influenced by your circumstances, for example becoming a mum. I know for sure that was the start of me losing my identity as I’d known it. My body shape had changed completely, 5 stone heavier and stretched stomach muscles that never pinged back meant I had said goodbye to my waist and flat fronted trousers. Crawling around on the floor with a baby meant my clothes became more practical. No time for ironing my beloved, crisp white shirts and so on.
This is how some twenty odd years on when your kids have flown the nest you can be left wondering what happened to YOU. You are making do with clothes that you don’t REALLY LOVE and the joy of getting dressed is severely lacking. You are in a rut, but you have a choice. You can stay there and merge seamlessly into midlife mediocrity or you can make the decision to do something about it.
Be your own influencer
You can choose to not blend into the background and spend this next phase of your life reconnecting with who you really are on the inside and making sure that is reflected on the outside. You can be more you. Then be even more you than ever before so that you can OWN your look and show up more fearlessly and powerfully than ever before. 100% comfortable in your own skin. Your time is now. Be your own influencer.
If you need a bit of practical help you know where I am.
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