Why is getting dressed so hard?

I used to always describe myself as a person who loved to get dressed.

When I was a teenager, long long before this blog, I used to do something called "playing with my clothes" where I'd lock myself in my bedroom and try on different outfit combinations.

And of course in the heyday of this blog getting dressed was almost a job. I had lists and lists of outfit ideas, saved photos of fashion bloggers with outfits I wanted to replicate, items I'd been sent to review, and trends to follow. I would spend hours choosing outfits, photographing then, editing them and updating this blog. I would wear cardigans as jumpers and dresses as skirts, layer tops over and under and find 15 different ways to wear the same dress.

This blog stopped being a fashion blog in around 2016 (which you'll know if you've been reading this blog at all in the last 5 years, or if you know that these days I live in jeans and jumpers). Most of the time, I get dressed for purpose rather than for aesthetics. But that doesn't mean I don't still love getting dressed for the right occasion. I love putting new outfits together or having a reason to get dressed up.

I'm way less aware of trends than I used to be and I also try to shop much less. Partly because I'm 31 now, have way too many clothes for one person (especially as I regularly wear things I've owned for 5+ years...) and I now have more stuff to pay for, like kitchen tiles and vets bills, but also because I am utterly disinterested with fast fashion. I buy pretty much all my clothes second-hand on Depop and ebay, and my attitude to clothes is the complete opposite of the fast fashion philosophy - if I'm going to buy something I need it to have longevity, I need to know I can wear it multiple times for multiple occasions and it goes with things I already own. (This article from The Guardian sums up almost exactly how I feel about shopping now and why I love to buy second-hand, but my love of shopping second-hand might be a post for another day!).

I'm also not really on social media much. I am completely unaware of trends, I don't follow influencers, I don't read fashion magazines and I rarely scroll through Instagram. When it comes to finding inspiration for getting dressed I mostly look at the people around me - what my friends are wearing, people at work, girls I see on the street.

Which brings me to my point - how do we get dressed after a year of not getting dressed?

While it's not like we've all been sitting around in our pyjamas for the entirety of the last year (although I'm sure we've all had those days!), I think it's fair to say that what to wear has been much less of a focus in a period in which we were you know, trying to stay alive, protect our loved ones and living in a perpetual state of anxiety. Most of us just wanted our clothing to be functional and comfortable. And there was also nobody to impress (unless you donned a nice top every now and again for a Zoom call).

But now the world is opening up again. And we have no idea what to wear.

Do I have nothing to wear? Or do I in fact have too much to wear?

I feel like I just don't know how to get dressed any more. I've not flexed that muscle that understands occasion + weather + comfort = outfit.

After a year of not properly getting dressed I feel like I need to give my clothes a lap of honour. I have all these things I haven't worn in over a year that I want to see the light of day again! I found a note in my phone from last September with the start of a blog post that I never finished about how sad I was to have not worn my summer dresses or midi skirts all last year. So now I feel the pressure to make it up to last-year-me even though all I really want to do is live in my dungarees. 

A pile of dresses I pulled out recently in an attempt to decide what to wear

I find myself wanting to dress up every single time I leave the house because omg I'm going to see actual people . And then of course I find myself overdressed and overwhelmed and ending up wearing jeans and a tshirt again.

And I know I'm not alone with this.

I've seen so many tweets and articles from other women going through this same confusion. We've had so long to not have to think about what to wear how are we meant to know what is acceptable to wear after a year of dressing for comfort? How are we supposed to chose something to wear in front of other people? How are we supposed to know who we are anymore?

I know I'm not the only one writing about this. Virginia Sole-Smith (who is currently my favourite writer on diet culture and fatphobia) wrote a brilliant piece in her newsletter Burnt Toast where she talks about a surprise visit from friends which resulted in her bursting into tears because the outfit she had planned wasn't what she would have wanted to wear for guests. We've all been there.

And for me too, I'm not only going through the same post-lockdown identity crisis as everyone else, I'm also moved into a whole new age bracket during lockdown.

As you probably know, I turned 30 during lockdown. I also turned 31 during lockdown. I've emerged, blinking into the sun, somehow 2 years older than when I went in (okay not quite two years but you know what I mean). I went in dressing as a woman in her late twenties and now I am a woman in my early thirties.

And I've written before about turning 30 and honestly it wasn't anywhere near as big a deal as I expected and it's not like I suddenly have to throw away all my tops embroidered with dinosaurs and sharks (I own both of these things) and dress solely in full length skirts and long-sleeved blouses, but this along with emerging post-lockdown having no idea what anyone is wearing, let alone other women in their thirties, has totally thrown me.

I've always really liked the idea of a classic wardrobe (which takes me back to the old days of "remixing" outfits, which if I'm honest I still love to do. Shout out to all my early 2010s bloggers!). I love items that are simple and classic - stripey tops and plain trousers, leather jackets and floral skirts.

But I also worry that my favourite clothes are going out of style, especially after another year in the wardrobe. I saw a tweet recently saying "oh remember when we all wore black ballet flats all the time lol" and erm, yeah I still wear black ballet flats all the time. Are they not okay to wear now?! (I genuinely had to go on ASOS and check you could still buy them to be sure.)

I don't want to be wearing Gen Z's crop tops but I also don't want to find out all my clothes are hopelessly out of style and I didn't get the memo. Without the world around me to use as a gauge, I have no idea how women in their early 30s dress. 

But part of the beauty of being in my 30s is I care a little bit less. I've been dressing my body now for over 20 years and I know what I like and what I don't. I know what suits me and what doesn't. I know there will always be things I want to try and sometimes they'll work (dungarees!) and sometimes they won't (most jumpsuits). And I know I can always fall back on my floral tshirts and patterned jumpers and, I don't care what Gen Z say, my skinny jeans.

In my beloved dungarees this weekend

And when it comes to getting dressed again, properly dressed, seeing-people dressed, I'll figure it out. We'll all figure it out.

Because the reality is, none of this matters. And deep down we know this. A huge revelation to me was reading Lauren's Bravo's How to Break Up with Fast Fashion where she tells us honestly, nobody remembers what you wear. And if they do, they really don't care. This is such a revelation to those of us who find ourselves paralysed over what to put on our bodies from time to time.

So go see your friends, see your family, do all the things you've not been able to do for 18 months. But don't care too much about what you're wearing, because I promise nobody else cares about it. 

Wear what you like, wear what you love. Wear that outfit you've worn hundreds of times but know you feel great in. Or wear your dungarees yet again (me). Wear your favourite pair of lockdown leggings or wear those heels you've been dying to wear since March 2020. Make outfit mistakes. Overdress or underdress. Forget to bring a jacket or wear inappropriate shoes. After what we've been through none of it really matters.

And I guess eventually, when we've worked through this collective trauma we've all been through, we'll figure out how to get dressed again.


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