If you read the extracts from my teenage diary which I posted a few weeks ago, you’ll already know that my younger self was pretty far from what you’d call “stylish”. Or even “acceptable”, really. (She did look almost exactly like Neneh Cherry, though, so there was that…)

When I read back over those diaries, or see old photos of myself, I always wish I could briefly go back in time and give my younger self some much-needed fashion tips. Don’t worry, I’ve seen Back to the Future – I know you’re not supposed to change the past, but COME ON, people: one less 90s teenager with a bumbag and shellsuit can’t hurt, can it? Here’s some fashion tips I’d give my younger self…

Fashion tips I wish I could give my younger self…

fashion advice I wish I could give my younger self

[Dress c/o Unique Vintage; Kate Spade shoes]

Red lips will fix almost everything 

Dude, I hate to break it to you, but you got no lips. You’re a no-lipped wonder… only without the “wonder” bit. That quick slick of gloss you think looks so effortless on models? That look isn’t for you. You need colour on your lips, or people will keep on asking you if you’re feeling OK, and whether you need to lie down. Trust me (er, you…) on this.

You can’t wear low-rise jeans

Or trousers. Or skirts. Or ANYTHING that sits on your hips. This will make your life difficult in the early 00s, because low-rise will be pretty much the ONLY rise you’ll be able to buy for a while, but stick it out, because the fact is, you have a long torso and short legs, and anything low-rise will emphasise that, and make you look like someone used a shrinking solution on your legs. (The shrinking solution is a reference to Harry Potter, by the way: you’re going to LOVE Harry Potter. Do yourself a favour, and don’t just dismiss it as a children’s book when you first hear about it – we both know you still love children’s books, don’t we?)

Where was I? Oh yeah: look, it won’t be easy for a while, but you’re going to have to wait until high-waisted clothing comes back into fashion. Clothes that sit on your natural waist will elongate your legs, and make you look more in proportion. As an added bonus, you won’t have to keep sucking in your belly every time you stand sideways. (Yes, I know you do that.)

Look for retro-reproduction brands

On the subject of high-waist pants, you’ll find it easier to buy this kind of stuff if you search out retro reproduction brands. It might take you a while to come around to the dresses and skirts, because I know you’re trying really hard to be “trendy” right now, but you know all of those capri pants and boat-neck sweaters you like, but can never find in Topshop? They have them, and they’ll look much better than the standard black trousers and saggy cardigans you’ll keep buying on the high street, thinking they’ll look “classic”.  Look for brands like Collectif, Pinup Girl and Stop Staring – you’re going to LOVE them.

On the subject of being “trendy”, though…

Forget about following fashion

All of those Benetton sweaters and branded sneakers you keep begging your – er, our – parents to buy you? You know you don’t actually like them, don’t you? You’re just wearing them to try to fit in, but here’s the thing: you will never fit in. And before you go throwing yourself on the bed in a fit of tears (yeah, I know you do that, too), you will be OK with that. No, really. You’ll find out that wearing clothes YOU like, rather than the clothes everyone else likes will make you look better and feel happier. And once you’re out of high school, no one will care about what brand of sneakers you’re wearing, anyway*…

(*You won’t wear sneakers again after high school, unless you’re working out. Yes, you will work out. Sometimes. That’s a whole other post, though…)

fashion tips I wish I could tell my younger self

“Oversized” just looks like the wrong size

Every time you see some girl wearing a slouchy, oversized sweater, and looking all cute and delicate in it, just back away slowly: you can’t wear that stuff. On you, “oversized” just looks like “the wrong size” and “slouchy” just looks “sloppy”. You will never work out why other people can pull this off, but in general, anything baggy or even just boxy, will make you look 5 months pregnant. Yes, this means you’re never going to look like Twiggy, in a cute little A-line shift dress. Sorry, kid. (While we’re on the subject, you don’t look like Neneh Cherry, either: look, it’s better you know…)

Stop messing with your eyebrows

Even if you ignore all the rest of this so-called fashion advice, for the love of God, PLEASE STOP MESSING WITH YOUR EYEBROWS. STOP IT NOW. Seriously, put down the tweezers, and listen to me carefully: YOU ARE RUINING YOUR WHOLE FACE. For one thing, those super-skinny brows look like ass, and for another, when you’re older you’re going to have giant bald patches on your brows, which you’ll have to spend ages filling in every morning. I know bald patches on your brows sounds awesome to you right now, because you’re so obsessed with stopping them meeting in the middle that you’ve adopted a “the balder, the better” approach, but you are SO going to regret this later, I promise you. I actually wish I could, like, ground you or something right now, just to get the message through your patchy-eyebrowed head…

Yes, you can wear pink

You’ve avoided it for years, because people say it clashes with your hair, but pale pink can actually be quite flattering, and if you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

You should maybe lay off the black, though

When you get to your early twenties, you’ll decide that black is chic, and you’ll try to dress in head-to-toe black outfits for a while. Then you’ll wonder why you look like a vampire (Oh yeah, vampires will become REALLY popular. I KNOW.), and where all that lint came from. The fact is, black drains what little colour you have from your face, and leaves you looking like you’re about to keel over and die. It’s also pretty high maintenance if you buy the wrong fabrics (and you will ALWAYS buy the wrong fabrics…): it fades quickly, and is a complete lint magnet and because you’re a bit… let’s go with “fussy” here – about that kind of thing, it’ll drive you mad. Lighter colours look better on you: remember you’re clumsy, though, so wear some kind of “bib” when you’re eating…

(You will never actually take this piece of fashion advice to heart, by the way – you’ll keep on wearing back, but at least you’ll abandon the “all black, all the time” uniform you had planned, so that’s something…)

People care less about what you’re wearing than you think they do

You know how every time you leave the house you spent hours agonising over what to wear? Stop doing that, seriously. I mean, do you really think anyone cares? Well, OK, maybe they do right now: maybe they’ll snigger over your tres uncool sneakers (No, you’re not ever getting those Travel Foxes you want, by the way: sorry to break it to you…), but if you could fast-forward a few years – or even to tomorrow, really – you’ll discover that no one remembers what you wore to that party. Trust me when I tell you there are no 30-somethings sitting around right now going, “Remember that time Amber McNaught wore that really ugly sweater to Susan’s house that time?” (And not just because you don’t actually know anyone called ‘Susan’, either…) No, they’ll be more likely to be going, “Amber who? Did I know her?” because you were so paralysed by your stupid self-consciousness that you didn’t actually speak to anyone. So stop worrying about what you’re wearing, and whether it’s “right” or not, and join in: I promise you will not regret it.

Heels really do make your legs look better

In a bid to end on a positive note, I’m going to give you this one: you’re right about the heels. You’ve always thought they made your legs look better, and yes, they do. Sometimes people will make fun of you for your dedication to heels: they will imply that you’re an airhead, and say you’re stupid for wearing heels most of the time, but you’ll get the last laugh, because, as with the high-waisted trousers, heels will create the illusion that your legs are in proportion to the rest of your body. So ignore everyone who clutches their pearls and says they just don’t know HOW you can walk in them: we both know you can, right?

(I’m not even going to get into the whole “don’t buy a bumbag/shellsuit/whatever” thing – those aren’t “fashion tips”, they’re just common sense…)

What fashion tips would you give your younger self? 

23 Comments
  1. Jesus, It’s like you’re talking to my younger self. Baggy and oversized do you not make you look like an off-duty model, they make you look like you got dressed in the dark.

    Also, fake tan – I am not and never will be a lovely natural shade of tan. I am naturally a pale blue shade and only look like I have a coloured myself in with a magic marker when I try to go more than a couple of shades darker than my natural colour.

    Everybody has their own insecurities but trying to dress like everyone else is just going to make yours (Eh, mine) worse so you may as well wear what you like.
    I am still trying to wean myself off the all black though.

    1. I’m the same with the all-black, to be honest – I need that message NOW, never mind when I was a teenager. It just looks so chic when I see it on other people, that I always end up wanting to give it another go. I always end up covered in lint within a few seconds, though, so that puts me off again!

  2. Stop thinking that dressing like a boy is fun. Seriously. You will find yourself when you finally realise that wearing skirts and dresses is the best thing ever!

    I loved all your tips to yourself though ~ I think that you should totally go back in time and help out your younger self. Think of all the angst you’ll save ~ then again, maybe not… I have a feeling that my younger self would be angsty no matter what tips I gave her! 🙂

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. Oh yeah, my younger self wouldn’t have listened – she thought she knew it ALL! It does make me worry that one day I’ll look back at what I wear NOW, though, and be all, “God, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to wear that…”

    2. Bonita, your comment resonated with me – I spent the ’90s doing the grunge thing, dressing like a boy, in oversized checked shirts and jeans, with a really bad haircut. I would advise my younger self to discover skirts and dresses pronto!!

  3. Awesome and painfully true post! Mine would be – one day you’ll discover Topshop has a Tall range and you’ll never have to wear half mast, low slung jeans ever again. And believe it or not, you’ll eventually go off mega flares, so try not to cry when your gran accidentally burns your favourite ones with the iron. They didn’t look that great anyway 😉

    1. I’m actually the reverse of that one, in that I should really have told my younger self to step away from the Petites section, because 5’4″ is not “petite” – it’s just SHORT. And all the trousers will look like they’re at half mast…

  4. Mine would have been summarised as “That thing that looks really awesome on other people? Not for you. Sorry.” Which I think is reflected in some of your advice to your former self as well. I think it’s probably one of the hardest style lessons to learn, really, because you’ve gone to all the trouble of figuring out you really like a certain look, only to discover it doesn’t like you back. (Anything even slightly cutesy or fussy brings up this problem for me; I WILL look like a toddler playing dress up, no matter how chic the model in the photo appears). Sometimes you just have to admire things from afar.

    1. Oh God yes, this is such a great point! Even now I constantly see people wearing things that I absolutely love… and absolutely CANNOT wear, because they just don’t suit me. It’s a really hard lesson to learn though – I don’t think it’ll ever TOTALLY sink in for me, sadly!

  5. Love all of these points – and my younger self could have done with hearing pretty much all of them. Apart from the eyebrow tweezing – in that instance, I need to go back in time and say ‘for the love of god pick up a pair of tweezers and get rid of those stragglers – who knows, you may even kill a few of them for good and save yourself hours as an adult’… I used to wear trousers I could genuinely fit my whole body into one of the legs. I did this for years.

  6. Ok, you’re 12 and confused, but for the love of god, just stop buying male clothes already! If you want the oversized, cargo trousers look, at least buy it in the women section! And also, ok you’re 15 now, you love powder foundation, but you have to realize that you’re pale, like SUPER pale. No, it doesn’t matter that you’re Italian and people around you are all naturally tan, you’re roughly the color of a mozzarella. Most foundations in your country have their fairest color that is still several shades darker than your skin, so you’re applying foundations that make your face darker than your neck: stop already. Just wait patiently for Sephora to arrive, and hail MUFE HD foundation n.115 as your perfect shade of foundation. Cherish it, because it will get discontinued in Europe as soon as you’ll think of getting another bottle of it. Maybe buy one for future-you (a.k.a. me), while you’re at it? I’d have plenty of fashion advices to give my younger self, but these 2 are the most important for me right now!

  7. My fashion was pretty embarrassing in high school… I didn’t have a trendiness problem. At. All. Instead my mom made all my clothes and I looked like I lived on Little House and Prairie. Just gawwwwwwd. Of course, this is pre long skirts and band tees goth phase….

    Younger self, stop wearing child sized tee shirts from Hot Topic. Seriously, you aren’t THAT little. You look like you grew out of your clothes but kept wearing them anyway – seriously. Please do learn to wear pants younger… and find the good ones that fit your legs and make them look miles long. Please, for the love of God, avoid heels with a passion. Yes, they are lovely for some, but bunions run in your family and you have to walk a mile to class at university. Just don’t do that to yourself. Other people have been blessed with better feet; accept it.

    On a totally separate note, I have a question! I know you mentioned baggy clothing not looking good on you. The thing is, I have a few oversized pieces that seem like they look good in the mirror… but don’t on camera. Just sloppy and ugh. Has this ever happened to you with anything? Do you continue to wear it on your “off” time, or do you ditch it?

  8. One thing I want to tell myself at 18 is this: You have curves. You might be short and kind of skinny but you still have curves. So learn to dress them and learn to love them because they are not going anywhere.
    And never ever be ashamed when people tell you that you don’t deserve your body. You got it, being ashamed of it won’t make anything different.

  9. I would tell my younger self to stop hiding in baggy, saggy clothes and make the most of your (my) figure. There will come a time when you (I) would sell your firstborn* to have that figure back!

    Well, maybe not your firstborn…….???

  10. So many things I wish I could tell my younger self:
    Stop trying to look like a Spice Girl crossed with Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (if you don’t know this reference, google it). Platform sneakers are not a good look – especially metallic platform sneakers.
    Cool it with the glitter. If it’s associated with Tinkerbell and strippers, using it in excess is probably not a good idea.
    Realize that you have peachy undertones and therefore look better in gold than silver, and better in corals and oranges than blues. So much of my life was wasted in silver and blue colors because I mistakenly thought I had cool undertones.
    I could go on and on. This is leaving out my 6 – 8 year stint as a punk/emo kid who thought Converse sneakers were appropriate with everything, wore way too much black eyeliner, and thought wearing multicolored plastic bracelets up to my elbows made me cool.

  11. Oh yeah, the baggy stuff…

    Dear 1990s me,
    stop wearing stuff that’s too big for you. Please. You have a wonderful slim waist that needs to be accentuated, not hidden under layers of oversized sweatshirts! And all those overlong shirts that you cram into the waistband of your jeans don’t mysteriously become the right size because of it. They are still too wide in the shoulders, and the sleeves are too long. Girl, you look ridiculous!
    And while we’re at it: NO PERM! Yes, your/my sister is in training as a hairdresser and you get it for free, but PLEASE refrain from getting a perm. You will not get soft glamorous waves, but look like a castrated poodle instead. With dull, strawy hair. For almost a year. So please reconsider and accept the structure of your hair as is. (Changing the colour is okay, though.)
    One more suggestion: Try wearing a skirt just once in a while. It doesn’t hurt…

  12. Loved this post – hilarious! Mine would probably be something about wearing complete tracksuits when I was ten. I thought I looked awesome in them, in reality I probably just looked so stupid. I was doing it to try and get the boys to like me! Having said that, years later Cheryl Tweedy made it a thing so maybe I was just ahead of my time…

    Nicola // pink-confetti.co.uk

  13. Love this post! My young self made a lot of mistakes too, mostly hid in baggy jumpers, had a brief butterfly phase, then got lazy and started wearing pyjama bottoms in actual public (it was a THING at my college in the 90’s I swear!). I feel more interested in fashion now that I did in my twenties, hopefully someday I will truly know what suits me and waft around like Anna Wintour! I still struggle with some things. I REALLY wish I could have hid my tweezers in the 90’s too, ugh!

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