With all of the uproar about the ban on the burkini in some parts of France, I’ve been considering my stance on the subject and actually just thinking about dress and appearance in a more general sense. I’ve always had a love of fashion from about the age of 14 when I stopped wearing my older brother’s hand-me-downs. Sadly, that’s not to say that I have always been fashionable (!), but I enjoy taking note on what others wear and buying clothes for myself. Indeed, I would often spend my £100 a month earnings from Newlook back in the day actually in Newlook using my 50% discount purchasing clothes. It was the bane of my mother’s life that I bought so many tops that I’d actually try and smuggle them into the house without her seeing them and just wear them the next day hoping that she wouldn’t notice; if she’d ask I’d do the whole ‘oh this ole thing’ act, which she didn’t normally fall for.
I went through a stage, though, of panicking and worrying that I was spending too much time and effort on my appearance; that I should use my money to help others more and worry less about looking good. The guilt I experienced meant that I’d sometimes even worry about wearing mascara because I thought it made me ‘fake’; I’d also panic if I stood in queues to buy anything. What I am realising, however, is that fashion is supposed to be fun. Fun in the sense that we can all enjoy it to the degree in which we are comfortable and able financially and logistically.
The way that I present myself affects the way that I feel about myself, no doubt about it; not only does it affect me, but whether I like it or not, it affects the way that others view me, too. I’m not saying that we should dress a certain way because of others’ expectations, but I feel that I should dress in a way that makes me feel like the most body positive, confident, creative version of me as possible so others can get to know me and get a sense of what I’m about on MY terms. As a teacher, I actually really love planning what I wear because it helps me to feel empowered, creative and send MY message to the young people that I teach. I hope that I can show them that you can be (fairly) fashionable, hard-working, intelligent, positive and modest.
As a Christian, I’ve been taught to dress modestly and have made the choice to do so for the most part, so I certainly feel an affinity to women and men of other cultures who choose to dress modestly, too, such as Muslims who choose to wear the burkini. That said, I also really enjoyed being on beaches and choosing to wear swimming cozzies in Greece surrounded by people with cellulite, wrinkles, pale wobbly bits etc. many themselves choosing to sport next to nothing and allowing everyone else to see their bodies, warts and all. It made me think that we were comfortable (even just for a few hours) with who we were and that we were one human race together wonderfully imperfect- I liked that a lot. That’s the thing, though- it’s all about choice. Most of us have the opportunity to choose what we want to wear; we get to choose the message we wish to send to others about ourselves. What a joy! I really hope that it stays that way for everyone whether that is wearing less or covering more.
My love of clothes could be potentially expensive and difficult considering that I choose to wear stuff that covers my shoulders and isn’t too short, yet is still at least vaguely on trend. To get around this, I frequent the local charity shops very regularly. Scope is particularly good and many of my favourite tops have cost me £1. How fortunate most of us are to live in a way that allows us to develop our tastes and experiment and even if the cash is tight, charity shop shopping is the way forward. Then, once you’re done with an item, you just hand it back in at a charity shop for someone else to enjoy for a while. Badabing , badaboom. You can find some real treasures.
I’m going to finish with an excellent quote that summarises my key thoughts for today (if you’re not a believer, you can choose to tweak it accordingly :)):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’
I’ve added some images to show off a small section of my charity shop stash…