Through my evolving journey into identifying and honing my style, there is one thing I have learnt.
Not to follow fashion.
The understanding that fashion is something that comes and goes (at a quicker rate than ever, as fast fashion now sees 52 micro seasons)* while style is something personal to you; changed my approach to clothes.
I have always shopped at second hand stores, even before I was aware of the environmental impact of the fashion industry. To me, it was the thrill of the chase and an affordable way to luxuriate; a carved out bit of me time.
As a teenager I was very much into the indie scene, which meant it was actively encouraged to wear your (or someone elses’) grandmother’s cardigan – plenty of those knocking about in the charity shops.
As I got older though, I felt I had to fit in a bit more with mainstream and that meant shopping more mainstream.
Most of what I would buy from the high-street was perfectly passable, but it would always be slightly off.
I’m not talking about legitimately ridiculous fashion disasters, but buttons would always strain, hemlines didn’t sit right and there was always a huge gap at the back of my jeans.
I never really understood what irked me until one day I went to a casting for a fit model job in a warehouse near Holloway.
I was sent by my agency as the client had specified they wanted a black model. Once I got there, the lady measured me and very matter-of-factly stated I wasn’t black enough. The reason? My bum was too flat.
Too seasoned in modelling at that point to be upset about what she said, I was infact quite intrigued.
The clothing line I was called to cast for was to be sold in the Caribbean and therefore black customers. These customers have an overall body shape that was different to say that of an average Chinese person (a market they also produced clothes for) and as such she had to find models that fit to type.
A little light bulb went off and I realised that clothes sold in UK high-street stores where being made for the majority white population.
It’s one of those things that deep down I already knew, but just needed a moment of clarity to solidify as a thought.
It finally made sense as to why all those clothes just didn’t fit right. They weren’t made for me – literally.
This lead to me taking a step back from ‘shopping on demand’ and learning to master the skill of waiting.
Now, if I see a new trend I like, I try and wait at least season or two (the traditional seasons, so 3-6 months) and ask myself if I still like it.
If it’s a yes, then I’ll try it on in and see if it suits my body shape in real life, then wait a little more till it comes up on eBay, Depop or Vinted. It doesn’t always work out like this, but it’s better to try and buy sustainably when you can than not at all.
The midaxi dress though, is one of the times it worked out perfectly.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, at one point it felt like midaxi dresses were taking part in some sort of fabric partenogensis. My urge to buy was palpable, but sticking with my conscious consumption I bided my time.
After the initial urge faded, I was in better position to examine whether this trend would truly fit in with my lifestyle – another expensive and time-consuming lesson I’ve learnt – as well as speaking to the woman I am today.
The woman I am today, might be a dress size bigger but she is perfectly content, learning (and wanting) to show off her best bits – which the midaxi dress helps to achieve with aplomb.
My slimmer-than-average waist for my dress size is afforded its rightful attention with a cinch of the belt. My larger-than-average hips for my dress size are given a generous freedom in the a-line cut of the skirt. And most of all my taller-than-average legs (I’m 5ft11) are giddy with excitement over those extra inches of fabric.
They also have the wonderful added bonus of making people think I’ve put in more effort than I actually have, as well as being so much more colourful – something that brings me untold joy!
While I have grown out of old cardigans and converse, my new found ‘uniform’ is just as distinctly me.
A style victory is there ever was one. All hail midaxi dresses – may you never go out of fashion, so you can forever stay in my wardrobe.
* read about micro seasons here
And read more fashion thoughts here