June 16, 2024

Fashion Design

Fashion Designs that Enlighten the Soul.

How to make ‘classic’ fashion your own

4 min read

It might surprise you to read that I’m not a big shopper. I stick to a uniform of sorts and I don’t think twice about wearing the same outfit three times in one week – sartorial sacrilege, I know. Back in the day, I opted into every enticing trend going and had great fun doing so, but as I get older, and more comfortable both in my skin and my own style, I have come to appreciate the joy of old faithfuls. I’m not talking about the traditional classics – the obvious go-tos, like the ones we imagine inhabiting the mythological French woman’s wardrobe: white shirts, blue jeans, trench coats, Breton tees and the high priestess of forever fashion, the LBD. My favourites are the emotional classics, those highly personal, distinctive pieces that don’t look like classics, but nevertheless are to me. They are the buys that are here for a good time and a long time.

I do own several items that would be considered trad-classics by anyone’s standards. A black Tim Ryan fringed knit top I have owned for 17 years is a definitive forever piece. Black Prada satin platform sandals and a black (do you spot a theme?) military coat from Alexander McQueen? Definitely classics. A black python Pauric Sweeney crossbody bag, bought in 2011, is still one of my most-worn pieces, and it only gets better with age. To me, the ultimate luxury is not to keep precious things precious, but to wear them to death and wring every ounce of pleasure out of them. All of these pieces were expensive, but have proved to be savvy investments in terms of cost-per-wear. They are for keeps.

Yet my style, my look, my vibe isn’t what anyone would ever describe as classic. I have tried to be that woman, but all the navy blue cashmere in the world can’t make me into something I am not. I admire the skilful design restraint of, say, the undisputedly brilliant house of Celine – the tailoring, comfort and quietness – but something gets lost for me: the wit, the playfulness, the emotion of these clothes. The way I dress is messier, more eclectic, at times unexpectedly jarring than any attempt at being pared-back can ever contend with. My most treasured classics add drama, edge and joy to my wardrobe and all have an emotional resonance. They are me. They’ve partied with me, laughed with me, cheered me up or given me the confidence boost I needed. They’ve been with me through fluctuations of mood, weight and bank balance and outlasted boyfriends and public opinion.

For starters: to me, my Stella McCartney neon orange platform wedges (over ten years old) are a thing of architectural beauty. Sleek and minimalist, they go with everything and they’ve been everywhere. No man has ever liked them, but every girl in a nightclub loo has admired them. They don’t get out much now, admittedly. They’re a narrow fit and tricky to balance in, even at the start of the night. Three gins in, they’re impossible. And I have been known to walk home with them in my hand. So they’re unbelievably tiresome. But still. They’re possibly the happiest looking shoes in my wardrobe and I can’t help but smile every time I see them.

And never do I feel more self-assured than in my fiercely distressed Ann Demeulemeester black blazer (stalked for months and snapped up on sale from Havana). I’ve worn it with sharply cut trousers to fancy black tie events and teamed it with Adidas track pants and white trainers for festivals. The strong shoulders reek of authority, but the strategically roughed-up patches, stretched stitches and dangling loose threads proclaim a style subversion and spirited recklessness that is totally me. When I put it on, literally no one challenges me. Frankly, I think people feel sorry for me in it. “Your one’s jacket is on its last legs,” I’ve heard muttered. A lot.

Spending a fortune on classics isn’t obligatory, and not all my heroes are designer or new. My H&M green striped faux fur coat (bought on impulse 12 years ago from the consignment store Siopaella) started out as a crazy, short-lived affair – a fun coat to go out-out in and often stay out in. It was never meant to be forever. But it received so many compliments that it got notions and became my official bodacious armour. I’m in better form when I shrug it on. It makes me live up to its promise of glorious life-affirming fun. So I’ve ignored all the cracking commentary from my lovely family: “Here comes Monsters, Inc” and “is Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places missing her jacket?”… My tastes have shape-shifted in the intervening years, but that coat still feels like me. When I am sad, it has the power to uplift, when I am feeling good, putting it on makes me feel like I am unstoppable. It is my most reliable “best self” piece.

And isn’t it that inexplicable jolt of magic that really makes something deserving of classic status? We think the source of a forever piece’s appeal as one that’s rooted in logic, but isn’t it about joy and instinct? When you fall in love with something, it has staying power that outlasts the turbulence of trends. Just as you can’t force yourself to love someone who is “good on paper”, the same applies to clothes. Getting dressed is emotional, and being ruled by my heart has always served me well.

Photography by Jigsaw. This article originally appeared in the Autumn issue of IMAGE Magazine.


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