My Life in Fashion, Part 2

(The masochistic among you will find Part 1 of this story here.)

When we left our heroine, she was floundering in the stormy sea of “grunge”, wearing Doc Marten boots and a selection of baggy, unflattering clothes, and totally failing to see the irony of “rebelling” against the uniform of one group by adopting the uniform of another. Because she really was THAT stupid. She was also apparently referring to herself in the 3rd person, so she’ll stop that now.

Before we continue the sorry tale of my life in fashion, I did actually manage to unearth another image from my Sullen Teenager era:

...and then the wind changed, and Amber's face stayed that way forever

Oh, shut up - YOU’D frown too if you were wearing a brown floral PLAYSUIT. Ahem.

(Also pictured: Ted. Who had apparently been drinking again.)

Anyway, when I went to university, I packed all of the aforementioned “grunge” gear (not the playsuit, though. I wasn’t quite THAT bad.), even although, somewhere deep down, I was never really comfortable with that look, possibly because I’m 5’3″, and maxi skirts make me look like a midget starring in a costume drama. I thought that was the kind of thing people would wear at university, though. I imagined we’d all sit around in smoky cafes all day, listening to The Smiths, reading Sylvia Plath and talking about how no one understood us. And actually, I DID do all of those things at university: I just did them on my own, in my bedroom, because everyone else was too busy partying.

The DM boots and grungy clothes, however, lasted one day exactly. Because what I realised when I arrived at university was that this was a place where you could wear whatever the hell you wanted to wear, and be anyone you wanted to be. And I quickly discovered that what I REALLY wanted to wear was very short skirts and very high heels:

I also apparently wanted to always wear sunglasses indoors:

We were now in the era of the Spice Girls. God, but it was a terrible time, fashion-wise. Unfortunately, when it came to “being anyone you wanted to be”, my best friend Stephanie and I discovered that we mostly wanted to be the girl group Shampoo, who had one hit in the 90s and then sunk without a trace:

At least it explains the sunglasses, hmm?

(When I wasn’t dressed like a member of a girl group, though, I still frequently wore those hideous jeans. If time travel becomes possible in my lifetime, I’m going back to burn those jeans, I swear.)

It was at this time that my obsession with clothes began. Not so much with fashion, I must add. Other than my “I must have exactly the same pair of expensive trainers as every single other person in my class” phase, as a 12-year-old, I’ve never really been interested in following trends, or wearing things just because they’re “in fashion”. In fact, every time I read one of those articles in Vogue that are all, “Are you worried about how to wear the new harem pant trend?” steam starts coming out of my ears. Actually, The Fashion Police is basically a reaction to that whole “This is fashionable and is made by a DESIGNER so we must all wear and love it, until next season, when we all must hate it,” idea that prevails in the world of fashion. I’ve never really understood that, and so although I’m fascinated by fashion, I have never “followed” it in the sense of thinking “Oh, this is fashionable, I must buy it!” I buy clothes because I like them, and if they happen to be in fashion at the time, well, it’s probably an accident.

This “buying clothes” thing, though: it all started at university. I was working weekends at the Phone Farm at the time, and got paid every Friday, at which point I would head straight for Topshop, or wherever, and spend all of my money on clothes, leaving just enough to buy food for the next week. Or sometimes not enough, to be completely honest. I’d still go out with my friends, but while they all got happily drunk, my ability to nurse the same drink all night became legendary. People probably thought I was just mean, but actually, I’d already spent all my money on clothes and shoes. I was an idiot.

Then I left university, and entered the fashion wilderness. I started my first job as a reporter, and I was also still working weekends at the Phone Farm, because I was greedy and wanted to buy everything, whether I needed it or not . The result of working seven days a week, though, was that I was forced to wear “business attire” all the time. I basically worked non-stop for about three years, and by the end of that time I had no casual clothes AT ALL: not even a single pair of high-waisted jeans. I KNOW! Terry and I watched a video of one of our holidays from that time recently, and you can tell from that how deeply lost in this fashion wilderness I was, because I’m wearing things like pencil skirts (from a suit) and t-shirts, like a poor little lost lamb who has totally lost her ability to dress herself. Which I had. For a couple of years I barely shopped AT ALL: I was always at work when the shops were open, and I didn’t do much shopping online either, because if the clothes didn’t fit (Which was almost ALL the time), or I didn’t like them, it meant spending my lunch-hour standing in a queue at the post office to return them, and I just couldn’t be bothered.

But! It got better! And then it got WORSE!

I got a new job. I left the phone farm. I had a bit of extra money, and I also suddenly had FREE TIME, in which to wear things other than suits. Gradually, I started to feel my way back to the land of the stylish, (I say “back”: clearly I was a foreigner in the Land of the Stylish, and I didn’t speak even ONE WORD of the language.) and to re-stock my wardrobe – a process I very much enjoyed. And then Terry got ill. He had to give up his job. And, just to make life super-difficult for ourselves, we decided the best thing we could do was start a business. We had no money at all, and faced with the choice between selling the house and selling some of the expensive clothes I had managed to amass in a fairly short time, obviously the house clothes had to go. I sold almost everything that had any value at all on eBay. Then I sold some stuff with no value at all. We managed to keep the house, but by then the closet was bare – literally – and I had adopted my then-uniform of skinny jeans and tank tops, which I wore almost exclusively for MONTHS, out of sheer laziness. (Note: not the SAME jeans and tank top. That would be gross.)

Which brings us more or less up to date.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to actually wear all of the clothes I buy, rather than just falling back on the jeans/tank look all the time. Although I like to shop, I also like to feel like I’m getting value for money from the things I buy, and so these days I try not to let things hang unworn in the closet for months when I could be wearing them and enjoying them. By doing this, I’ve discovered that I have very firm ideas about what I like and don’t like: for instance, I love polka dots:

And bows. Or bows and polka-dots, ideally.

I love green:

And, um, shoes.

I really love classic/retro styles, although ideally with a modern twist, like a pair of killer heels:

Stripes are like crack to me:

Did I mention the shoes?

THIS girl would hardly know me:

Or maybe she would. Because sometimes I think I’m secretly still three years old, with a grubby face and maybe a bathing cap and a pair of wellies. Or I’m ten, and the only girl in school with a bright green coat and matching beret. Sometimes I’m sixteen, and no one will ever, ever understand me, or I’m 21 and feeling like the right pair of heels will let me conquer the world.

You can tell a lot about someone from what they choose to wear. But you can’t tell everything.