In my quest to consciously minimise my fashion impact on the planet and my purse, I’ve been reducing my wardrobe size dramatically, buying less, choosing well and making it last. However, I’ve been very clear all along that I do not, by any means, want to relinquish my love for thread.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; clothes have evolved into so much more than their original utilitarian purpose. I adore them. They’re art. They an external representation of what’s inside. They can transform you into another version of you, another facet. They’re memories. They’re a time machine. They’re fun.
And what I noticed spending five weeks in mostly boring black leggings and floaty tops while scrubbing floors in a meditation centre, was that it did absolutely nothing for my self-expression. I didn’t feel comfortable without my beloved drapery and I found it pretty phenomenal just how much wearing lacklustre clothes can make you feel, well, lacklustre.
So my thoughts started dancing around the idea of how what we wear impacts our mood and how it projects that mindset out into the world around us. And that’s when I invented the idea of Apparel Intelligence.
Apparel Intelligence is where fashion and emotion meet
Red Lips Crack Whips
I will never forget the discussions we had when I spent three days on The Gap Negotiation course in Reading and the teacher referenced that power-dressing really is a thing.
It was something I’d read about before in Elle magazine and on various other glossy pages, but this was the first time I’d heard it talked about in a sort of scientific, matter-of-fact, classroom environment kind of way. He said that power-dressing can help you win negotiations by intimidating the opponent and ramping up your self-confidence.
Over the years I’ve experimented with it myself and discovered its truth.
When I was busy cremating myself in the flames of Career Hell working as a Buyer of canned fruit, I had to present a compelling update on the market conditions of artichokes in Peru.
I was stood behind a podium in an intimidatingly sleek, old-fashioned board room with an enormous overly varnished oak table that was being guarded by a small army of totally uninterested, suited and booted middle-aged men, most of whom were suffering from a superiority complex due to owning a penis or having worked in those painfully dull jobs for several decades and not knowing any better.
To be quite honest, I felt their pain; I too couldn’t have cared less about whether it’s been a good year for artichokes or whether European demand was up vs North America, but their lack of enthusiasm and arrogant smirks pushed me closer and closer to having a full on what is my life meltdown on stage.
The only thing that saved me that day was my fuck you suit.
And over the years that’s what I’ve learned. Whack on a blazer and some red lipstick and you can steamroller over any sort of conflict in the office, present like a BBC reporter and assert like you’ve never asserted before.
In just the same way, throwing on your scruffs and ragging your hair up into a bird’s nest while you run to the shops to pick up an ingredient you forgot will obliterate any drop of self-confidence you may have. Your head hangs low and you avoid contact with anybody above toddler height as you mutter prayers of not bumping into an ex or somebody you haven’t seen for a while.
Then there’s uniforms.
Some people love the ease of not having to think in the morning, the fact that they can blend into the crowd and others can feel a sense of importance or authority or purpose. They save time, save effort and I guess if you’d prefer to tiptoe your way along the catwalk of life, then a uniform is for you.
I wouldn’t say I’m overly ostentatious, and I actually get quite shy and nervous when all eyes are on me, but I don’t love rules, I don’t love conformity and I’d like to be able to parade my way through this lifetime expressing myself however the hell I want.
I actually inherited my anti-uniform stance when I was in little school. Instead of purchasing a cute green and white checked summer dress from the school uniform shop like all other normal people, my summer frocks were handmade by my Grandma on her sewing machine. Everybody else had a squared collar, one top left pocket and short sleeves. My frocks were all totally unique; every single one of them had a fancy trim or a scalloped collar, oversized pockets and puffy sleeves.I looked like one of the Von Trapp kids had escaped the hills of Austria and ended up in Garston, but I absolutely loved it.
For me, not being able to express your personality on the outside can feel like your character is being strangled and can destroy one of the most gratifying morning joys; standing in front of my colour-coordinated wardrobes and picking out who I want to be that day.
Because every day’s a fancy dress day.
Apparel Intelligence can be just mindfully looking at what you’re wearing; thinking about why you chose it, what mood you were in when you did, what it represents and how it makes you feel. It can tell you a lot about yourself and maybe these are things you haven’t really given much thought before.
If you let your mindset choose your outfit for you, the chances are that you’ll stay in that mood for the rest of the day. So I decided to start experimenting with the idea of selecting outfits based on how I wanted to feel.
On days when I’ve woken up really not in the mood for whatever it was that day had on offer – an important negotiation, a big presentation, a nerve-wracking first date, a networking event full of tossers…whatever it was, I’d whip out my secret wardrobe weapon – a pale pink cropped jacket made of nothing but oversized sequins. I wore it to corporate meetings, to first dates and on hangover days, not really caring if people needed sunglasses just to give me eye contact. And it worked, I felt sparkly on the inside.
So for my adventure to the East I’ve decided to do what I do best – ignore any flickering thoughts of practicality or logic and go with my heart. I’m liberating my fabric personality from its dust-gathering imprisonment in a cold, dark and lonely Ikea prison and squishing some of my most-treasured threads into my oversized backpack
I’m dressing for adventure, dressing for happiness and dressing for me.