A few weekends ago I went to a dinner party with university friends at one of their new swanky north London apartments. Obviously it the perfect occasion to get a little drunk on Prosecco, eat too many carbs and cheese, bitch about life, bitch about bitches, and reminisce over the good old times at Cardiff Uni, along with all of the crazy things we got up to. Yes. Prosecco always seems like a good idea.
My friends never cease to inspire me. They are teachers, clinical psychologists and social workers. Whether they see it or they don’t, they are changing people’s lives. Myself, on the other hand, well, all I do is write about clothes – in both my day job and my hobby job (jobby?) And whilst they sat around discussing their work – difficult children they are trying to help and the families they are working with – something very weird happened to me. I cried. I actually cried. Here my friends were, talking about real serious issues in their lives that involved helping and shaping the current and future societies, and the only thing I felt that I could contribute to the conversation was to tell them that rainbow stripes were going to be a maj trend this season.
The industry I work in is frivolous, vain, obsessed with beauty, image, money, and elitism. It’s overcrowded with inflated egos and the biggest issue people seem to face is that they don’t have enough followers on Instagram or have a standing ticket to a fashion show. I felt guilty to be part of something so superficial and riddled with ego-obsessed, self-entitled wannabes (no offence fashion people, we’re not all like that), when my amazing friends are truly making a difference in the world.
Crying at a dinner party is ridiculous. Who even does that? But instead of laughing and throwing a lump of brie at me, my friends (being the lovely people they are) told me that I am making a difference, albeit in a different way. They showed me that you don’t have to be working directly with people to help others, and noted blog posts I have written in the past that had changed their perspectives or even just made them laugh.
Talking it over got me to the root of why I love fashion. Between blubs of tears and gulps of prossecco, I rambled on about how fashion and clothing has the ability to change people. Not in the same way a teacher can inspire you and give you knowledge, but in a different way. When I was a child I was chubby (aka, fat). I wasn’t a typically pretty girl. And I knew it. But fashion was my escapism. When I wore fun, exciting, bold and bright clothing it would transform me from this chubby little chrysalis into a (still pretty chubby) happy, and wonderful butterfly type thing. Like a Cinderella moment minus the pumpkins, singing mice and bitchy step sisters. When I flicked through editorials in discarded magazines of my parents and grandparents it was like looking at a beautifully shot fairytales, without poofy princess dresses, alternately amped up with attitude and cutting-edge creativity. Fashion was my armour against the world: against any bullies and any bitches.
Just look at the success of makeover programs. Gok Wan can pin his entire success on being the sassy gay best friend to every self-esteem lacking woman circa 2006-2009 (note: he can also accredit his success to a waist-belt). Woman feels sad, drab, lacks confidence. Woman gets makeover and taught how to dress and that she is fab-u-lous. Woman feels amazing. Husband cries. Woman feels like herself again. Everyone is happy. Politicians use fashion to make themselves look and feel sharp, to show their power in slick tailoring. We dress up and dress down depending on how we feel, and more importantly, how we want to feel. It’s transformative.
Fashion – and the clothing that forms part of it – is powerful in its ability to alter the psyche, and it’s this exact reason why it is important. I’ll never pin the fashion industry and its relevance as high as the roles that teachers, doctors, social workers, aid workers, nurses, just to name a few, play in shaping the world as we know it. Nothing I do through fashion will ever be as life changing as those jobs. But I will always accept that fashion certainly has the power to make people feel truly amazing, and it should be used to do just that.