Growing up I always had a sixth sense about how to dress myself – no matter what size I was or what the latest trend was, I inherently understood what was stylish and which looks I could or could not pull off. That’s not to say that the nativity of youth wasn’t ever a question – I have certainly had my fashion misses over the years – but below it all, I have always been a pretty suave dresser. (Even if I do say so myself!)
I attribute much of my knack for dressing, to the type of creativity that can only come from a background where you couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money on clothes. I come from a fairly large family and we weren’t particularly well off, so developing a personal style with what I had was just what I had to do.
Even before I was dressing myself I had a knack of wearing whichever outfit my mum had put me in, with confidence – even though some were extremely questionable looking back on them now! The very first moment I had a choice in what I wore, I picked items that were outside of the box. I would try to replicate common trends or be influenced by popstars & the music videos that I would see on smash hits or MTV. My sister was an East 17 fan and so I got some of my fashion from them, and my older brother loved anything afro-carribbean style so I had elements of a street style that just weren’t present in my then very rural and Caucasian surroundings.
Colour was an element that came very naturally to me. Whilst my school friends had the latest must have adidas rucksack in the standard black or navy blue design, I saved up for a bright blue one with lime blue piping. Don’t get me wrong, I never blended in well (which was problematic) but I was able to follow the crowd whilst also staying true to my own personal style. Orange, lime Green, bright tartans you name it I was wearing it.
When I was 12, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship for an acting summer school, a Shakespeare masterclass with a whole bunch of other young creatives. Someone had dropped out and so I had been offered a place at the last minute for free! I joined a talented cast of young creatives from extremely privileged backgrounds – none of whom l had met before and so l could be a completely new person – and boy did l take up the opportunity! I learned that how I dressed did not define who I was and that I could use my clothes to express myself _ but also retain a keen sense of who I was. Whilst was in no way a skater, there was no reason why I couldn’t be influenced by those trends. I took the “baggy jeans” movement to the next level finding the widest legged variety possible and pairing them with bright coloured woven boxers.. retro Shirts and a short back and sides to boot. When I was cast as Ferdinand in the tempest the directors said I needed to channel my “Mr lover man”persona – which was a far cry from my actual personality.
Quite often my mood would be reflected in what I wore. When I got stressed I would become pre-occupied with a crisp lines & a perfect centre parting. I have vivid memories of crying in front of a mirror and pulling chunks of hair out because I had a hard time at school and it was “photo day”. I must have re-tied my prefect tie and re-angled my head-boy badge 40 times! I would shine my shoes until I could see my reflection in them because to me the details were the most important aspect.
In my early jobs I either had a uniform or was made to “dress smartly”. For the first time ever I had my own money and could spend it on whatever I liked! My first purchase was a pair of Levi twisted jeans. They lasted almost 15 years and became a sort of fashion scrap book with patches & fixes made along the way! I loved those jeans and I saved 7 weeks wages to pay for them. But the more time that I spent in clothes not of my choosing, I felt the need to express my individuality even if it was only for my own good – and from there began a passion for underwear. To this day I firmly believe that wearing great undies can be a confidence boosting exercise. Over the years my tastes have changed but I have always worn what underwear has made me feel at my best.
As I got older I continued to explore fashion – adapting to my changing body shape and owning my choices even when others thought I was clearly mad! There was a period in my life when practicality ruled the roost – rehearsal wear was king and comfort was key to me. Layers became vital in every day wear and the ability to change how pieces were worn made perfect sense. This time in my life was inspired by a group of dancers that I worked with who would transform what they were wearing rehearsals during as they got hot or cold – I learned to turn old T-shirts into vests and that how I looked didn’t matter if the clothes were serving a purpose.
There are some simple facts:
1) If you are of a bigger frame you have less choice
2) When you are bigger you have to know your body to dress it well
3) With a lot of bigger people Just the act of buying clothes ls enough to seriously damage your confidence.
By the time I reached my biggest I was well aware of these issues and decided that it was even more important that I let my sixth sense kick in and choose to make the most of all that I had! Co- ordination was one tactic that I used to great effect. Pattern, texture and colour palette would seamlessly work together. I tried to stop worrying about the letter on the size label and instead tried multiple sizes to see what looked best on me. As things fitted better, I adjusted my underwear-choices so that I not only looked good and was more comfortable, but that I was more confident too!
There’s no doubt that my new body has given me a lot more options, especially with regards to where I can get my clothing from.
There is also something very satisfying about creating a more tailored look than I could personally achieve when I was bigger. As l teeter towards 40 I sometimes worry that I come across as though I am trying to dress like a 20 year old! I think that l am only sensitive to this because there is a judgement of people growing older. But I also think that by wearing clothes that I feel confident in, I can’t go too far wrong!
And besides what does it really matter anyway.? Confidence, confidence, confidence.
That’s what is needed. My sixth sense is still flowing and whatever I choose to wear, I will wear because I feel good in it. And as I said you can’t go too wrong by starting with some underwear that leaves you feeling your most confident self,