Cake, Crying & Couture - or How I Found My Style
"You always dress so well." It's not an unfamiliar comment to hear - from friends, colleagues and family. But, it wasn't always that way. To achieve true style, it takes more than a mad supermarket sweep round the rails of TopShop. Finding your style is an incredibly personal journey - unique to each and every individual. When I'm asked about how I found my style, the truth is, there isn't a magazine or Pinterest board in sight of my journey. However, over the years there have been pivotal points or "moments" that have defined my style development into the Instagram keyboard gangster I am today.
The College Crazy Hair Days
My style journey began the day I left school.
Unlike most of my peers and much to the horror of my teachers, I left secondary school education at sixteen. Never one to follow conventions, I chose to shun the "expected" route to university and instead, decided to head to college to study a vocation - photography - entering a hands-on learning environment unlike anything I'd ever experienced.
Mixing with students mature and adolescents, my day to day landscape had shifted from underneath my feet - and one of the biggest transitions from school girl to "student" to hit me hard was processing that there was no longer an authority dictating what was and wasn't acceptable daily wear. It came as quite the revelation.
With a student loan in my back pocket and Primark only just down the road, you can only begin to imagine the neon cosmic monster than was unleashed.
Looking back on my fashion choices then, I do have a good giggle to myself. It was less about the whole look - and more a fixation on anything gaudy, garish - the closer I could look to an Anime or Manga character, the better. I was a far cry from the mousey school girl with the geeky glasses and pleated skirts.
Fashion wasn't high on my agenda - and at this point, I hadn't so much as purchased a copy of Glamour, let alone Vogue.
Exploring my personality during this period was pure and utter fun. Anything striped made it into my weekly repertoire. Chucks, bows, frilly jackets, ties and hooded shirts all welcome - and absolutely nothing black.
Unfortunately, my canvas of choice was my hair - which undertook an almost-weekly punishment of bleaching, stripping and bad home-dye jobs. Safe to say, by the time I left college, I resembled something similar to a haystack.
It was safe to say, any street style photographer would have crossed the road and then ran in the other direction, but I didn't care. I didn't even know the meaning of "sartorial."
The Couture Days
My first trip to London Fashion Week in 2011 was a game-changer. My first experience came as the result of winning a national photography competition with the Telegraph - the prize: to shoot a runway at Somerset House.
I'll never forget my nerves - not for the prospect of messing up photography on the day, but the striking realisation that my wardrobe was fundamentally flawed, immature and in no ways at all worthy of the glamour of such an event.
But little time to prepare meant I opted for classics - an investment Hilfiger shirt inherited from a family member, low rise Diesel jeans (the closest thing to designer in my wardrobe), a waistcoat circa trends of 2004 and the piece of resistance, half a shaved head.
Looking back now, to say I want to die inside at the thought of that combo is an understatement - particularly the shaved head, but London Fashion Week meant making a statement - and upon arrival, the street style photographers lingering around the courtyard of Somerset House agreed. I was worthy of a snap or two.
The following seasons that followed saw myself and my fellow SB Corrine as regulars reporting from the Fashion Week press pit. Over the seasons, our awareness of what was hot and what was not became refined, and as we wrote for and studied every fashion publication you could imagine, our style evolved together, from girls playing dress up, to a style arsenal of masculine tailoring and haircuts that would make even Alexa Chung envious.
Living for the runway came with its caveats. Quickly, I became painfully aware, for the first time in my life of the issue of body image and the pressures imposed upon those who followed the industry. An increase self-awareness meant that almost overnight, sleeveless dresses and tops became a no-go, for the ridiculous fear of exposing my 18 year old "bingo wings."
Exploring fashion in this format gave me an insight into what worked and what didn't. Working on a daily basis side-by-side with stylists helped to form wardrobe strategies that would set me up to be the style envy of my peers. But I had fallen prey - and found myself a worshipper of fashion - or to put it bluntly - a slave to style.
The Tearful Cake Days
Fast forwarding four years into the future, a change in life circumstances, career focus and poor health led to an unexpected weight gain. By in which, very quickly, I morphed from what was an "acceptable" size 8-10, to a generous UK size 14-16.
It was a painful transition, which led to a falling out with high-street style and retreat into stretchy jeggings, baggy jumpers and ballet flats. Fashion trends during this period were less than desirable, with clingy, cheap body con dominating the market - a good look for nobody, let alone an individual with poor body image.
I still admired beauty of the runway: the skill and the devotion that went into crafting up a beautiful couture collection. But, I felt like an imposter - how could I enjoy such a thing when I was the very embodiment of everything I had turned my back on not-so-long ago? To bury down that feeling of style inadequacy, my solution was to turn to cake - in large quantities. Needless to say, this did nothing for my physical health too.
Occasionally, my style spirit would peak - and take me into a shopping spree only to be disappointed with the weaker season's offerings. The turning point, however, came late in Autumn 2015, when I could no longer fit into anything I tried on in "straight size" stores upon a trip to my local retail outlet.
Breaking into tears in TopShop was a low point - and it was at that very moment I decided that it had to stop. I owed it to myself - and my passion for fashion - to settle for a wardrobe that was functional, but didn't bring any happiness.
Six months later, I was healthier - and back into a size 12. Not quite the skinny waif I had been before, but far more comfortable - I could enjoy the best of both worlds - cake and couture. Gradually, I returned to a semblance my former self - evolved, with a very different perspective.
The Present Day - How I Found My Style
My style has been full of swings and roundabouts. But, if I had the chance, I'd rock stripey-frilly trench coats, huge bow adorned dresses and half a head of hair all over again. The thing is making these "mistakes" aren't really mistakes at all - but a necessary development in anyone's style journey.
When an artist begins their career, simply emulating their idols may be the limit of their capabilities. But with constant practice, every day, over a number of years, many develop their own flair - and develop their own recognisable identity. The same happens with style.
A photo posted by Scottish Bitches (@scottishbitches) on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:07am PDT
Following the trends like a slave is no fun in the long-run, but it provides a great place to start.
The best advice I can offer to anybody looking to "innovate" their style just that little bit further is to never take things on face value. What looks good on a dummy, may look awful on an actual human being - and vice versa. Try the frills that scare you. Dare to wear culottes. Who cares if the latest write up of Vogue recommends avoiding cropped jeans because you're 5ft 2"? With great style, comes great reward, and often this means picking up the one item of clothing in the store that repulses or revolts you upon first glance and giving it a go.
A photo posted by Scottish Bitches (@scottishbitches) on Sep 4, 2016 at 2:42am PDT
Want to have great style? You already have it. Just be you.
Was your journey similar to how I found my style? What were your highs and lows? Share your style stories with us in the comments below!