I write this sitting in the biggest, warmest, most outrageous coat you ever did see. It’s basically a huge mass of (faux) fluff – the colour somewhere between grey and violet, like a very cool old lady’s blue-rinsed hair (they were at it long before pastel dip-dyes hit Instagram). One friend said it reminded her of a cloud. Another thought it made me look like a stylish Care Bear. It is the coat of dreams. I wore it out and about earlier with a swirly velvet dress and some men’s shiny black boots that add extra stomp to my stride. All of it, bought second hand, created a way of boldly facing the world – one that I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to try on for size age 14.
That was when I first discovered the delights of vintage dresses. I’d begun raiding my mum’s wardrobe, stealing away velvet minis and silk blouses she’d bought herself as a student. Suddenly a whole world of creative possibility opened up. That possibility was helped by style blogging. I’d started mine, called Clothes, Cameras and Coffee, on a whim. I was keen to create my own space, where I could find women of all ages interested in similar things. It worked, giving me room to take photos in ridiculous outfits (and even more ridiculous heels), and write about everything from books to charity shops.
For ages though, I muted my look around friends and peers. I was anxious that my choice to go for fifties frocks over bodycon might make me a target for even more bitchiness. I worried that to stand out meant potentially standing alone. So, in the company of my own age group I swapped long, lace skirts for skinny jeans – saving the more outlandish parts of my wardrobe to wear around those who wouldn’t, I hope, judge me.
Even typing that now, I’m aware of how much has changed in the last six (nearly seven!) years. These days the idea of fearing judgment over an outfit wouldn’t even cross my mind. But it’s a hard-won confidence. It took time to reach a point where I not only dressed for myself, but could do so without being self-conscious.
We often talk about ‘finding your style’. It’s an interesting thing, but sometimes it’s not just about the ‘finding’ bit. In my teens I located the way I liked to dress pretty easily. Building up the attitude to match took longer. I wish I could say there’s some quick-fix formula. Sadly not. Instead, at least for me, it required an ongoing process – one that forced me to ask myself a lot of questions. Why did other people’s opinions matter? Did it say more about me, or them? Should their snark outweigh the joy I got from swishing in floaty layers? Why surround myself with anyone who thought my clothes were weird, rather than wonderful?
Over time, the fears faded, but it was important for me to discuss all of this Notes On Being Teenage. I spent so long feeling like the odd one out. That’s not just a clothes thing. Could be friends, interests, music choices – whatever. It can be hard to go against the current of the crowd. But as a very wise girl called Asima said to me when I was interviewing her for my book, “other people aren’t living their lives to please you, so why should you try to please them?” Today I’m nodding along fiercely, cosied up in that ludicrous, fabulous coat.
Check out Rosalind’s blog here http://clothescamerasandcoffee.blogspot.co.uk/