Week Two: Appropriate or Inappropriate?

 

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Dressing for Your Body Shape

Yesterday’s ‘comfy Bond girl’ experience seems to have given me a bit of va-va-voom, as I spend today’s work-from-home in another jumper dress. When it comes to leaving the house, I realise I appear to be dressed, although I’m not convinced until I put on my over-knee, grey pirate boots (new, Kurt Geiger, 2006, worn to shreds, yaharr).
Bear with me on this one – I usually wear this green jumper dress when I’m bloated or crampy, as I think it flatters me while covering me up. Without the delusions of monthly lady pain, I catch my reflection and realise I look like an algae-covered moomin. What’s worse, the dress feels horrible: it’s clingy in the wrong places, feels tacky to the skin, doesn’t move well and rides up my bottom and down on my cleavage. I can only remember enjoying wearing it once, accidentally, with a pair of orange tights (I enjoyed the banter with strangers about looking like my family’s national flag).

06.06.11

Two quid in a charity shop and no longer fit to go back to one, it’s gone from Not Keep to a new life with a community craft group’s puppet.

As I decide on the green dress’ fate, a stubbly, short-haired man strides past me in a long-sleeved, black lace maxi dress with a brown leather belt and brown desert boots. Might this be inappropriate in some social rules? To my eyes, in that moment, he looks like he’s enjoying being in his body and clothes. This seems a lot more appropriate than what I had been putting my body through with that sticky, bulky green jumpy dress.

Dressing Your Age

Some days, I don’t feel like getting dressed, so dressing how I feel would be inappropriate: on the tube, at coffee with a new friend and a book launch. I can’t think of anything to wear and my wardrobe is an overwhelming creature. Two of my first attempts go into the pile for mending. As well as enjoying the fabric of the skirt I end up in, I find myself appreciating the change in my bigger body. The band of the skirt used to hang off my hips, and now, going no lower than my waist, I like the ra-ra-ness, the swooshy, curvy, out-outness.

07.06.11

With pumps and a tee, I worry I look like a little girl, for a nearly thirty year old. As the tube pulls in, I see a nine year old girl, dressed in a waxed beige trench, probably designer. She has teamed it with demure, tan-toned tights.
The man whose lace dress was appropriate for him in the world and the little girl dressed as a sophisticated businesswoman / international spy get me thinking about what is appropriate – to me, but not me in my own bubble.

How Do I Wear Myself to the World?

Last week had a lot to do with hiding – till I was ready to come out of my shyness in a much-loved dress or till I felt like my clothes were making me invisible. I didn’t like making myself disappear, and got less neurotic over the week. Today, Wednesday, I strode out in a sheer, patterned top I’d been really looking forward to wearing – another Irish Charity Shop purchase. I’m wearing a skirt I love – it’s been on the same adventures as last week’s black linen skirt. This is appropriate for my identity, my place in the world… except, when I leave the house, a storm breaks out. My shoes (another pair of black, fabric pumps) are soggy, feet cold, top too thin. I had to take my top off, dry it and put it on again – and walked The City with it inside out for two hours. Totally inappropriate. At least the label says ‘French Connection, Size 10’.

08.06.11

My Thursday clothes are appropriate to toothache. I expect to get a tooth extracted at the dental hospital, so wear clothes fit for a dentist’s chair and having my skull tugged at. The scarf is from a clothes swap, which I organised, along with the members, as an informal English-learning opportunity for a women’s project at a charity I used to work for. That’s one of the few times I’ve brought myself to relinquish clothes, before now. Even then, I had to psych myself up, putting the things I was giving away in a bag, then taking them out again, a number of times.

09.06.11

Clothes Are for Coming Out to Play

As well as my usual Friday work, I’m helping out a community theatre group then meeting two lovely friends I haven’t seen for ages, EH and AM. Today’s outfit – purple glitter leggings, seagull-print culottes and an oversized white shirt, with my black pumps – is great for moving sets for the play, and then for relaxing and enjoying the pub and the brilliant live jazz fusion night at the amazing Troy Bar on Hoxton Road. An ever so slightly zany outfit, still covered up, but it feels totally appropriate to who I am in the world I’m in today: a fun, energetic, moving about sort of day.

10.06.11

I realise on Saturday, in a way I’ve failed to previously, how much I love the thin, flowery dress (£1, Commercial Street Charity Shop). It’s too out of fashion for me to have acknowledged how much I value it but I love it, feel homely, sexy and cool – even though it’s a high-necked, midi, thin cotton shift. It did cause a bit of inappropriateness when crossing the Thames: I had to walk the bridge with a lot of folding-a-parachute sort of action on this blowy day.

11.06.11

I finish the week in my Brick Lane market-appropriate outfit. It is probably inappropriate to go to the market wearing what I see as a French, late-70s market lady’s outfit – shopping dressed as an imaginary stallholder – but to me it feels celebratory. And what could be more appropriate, as today the Wolf and I are meeting up with my younger brother? In the rain, my short, black, shiny, PVC mac finally becomes ok to wear, after spending four years in my cupboard.
The green moomin dress is the only thing for the Not Keep box this week, that I’ve worn. A pair of grey PVC Mary Janes that seemed to be burning the tops of my feet through my tights are also in, having not left the house. I’m getting a bit more confidence in who I am in my skin and in my clothes, in the world. Maybe I have so many clothes because I don’t always feel confident enough to believe it’s appropriate to be myself out there.

12.06.11

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons