My sinusitis hasn’t killed me! I am just in Devon for the week, grappling with my thing about beach cliques and the general crushing superiority of hearty people so very much enjoying an English beach holiday; I’m also preoccupied with trying to second-guess what might enrage a local, (the list is endless and nuanced), none of whom can conceal their disgust for “summer people”; one doesn’t really stand a chance.
Anyway, while I was trying to remove some fine flecks of sand from the creases of my eyelid, (it’s like they’re superglued there), this piece about Style vs Fashion arrived in my inbox from Dolly Alderton. Yes the actual Dolly Alderton from THE SUNDAY TIMES!! It was like a bird of paradise had fluttered in through the window and landed on a pile of wet sandy clothes.
It is a guest post, which I had requested and then forgotten about and it’s terrific. I’ve got more to say about Style vs Fashion soon, but my head is just filled with the sound of angry West Country accents and my face is sort of wind-blasted and crazed. I’ll need a few days back in London before I can get my head round it.
Until then, here’s Dolly:
“So apparently peonies have become the most photographed thing on instagram. Of course they have. I should have known this because I LOVE peonies – they’re so frilly and full and unctuous. They look like a big, juicy snog. Incidentally, the other most instagrammed thing is avocado on toast, which I also love. It’s one of my favourite breakfasts.
A few other thunderously predictable things I’m passionate about: Breton stripes, skinny jeans, white t shirts, tortoise-shell reading glasses, large round sunglasses, “undone hair”, “barely there sandals”, diptque candles, velvet sofas, flat white coffees, black blazers, black ballet bumps, navy round neck jumpers, trench coats, denim jackets, small gold hoops, white shirts, white plimsoles, salted caramel, the Chanel logo.
I hate that I love everything everyone else loves. I hate that my taste is so homogenised. It is a daily woe that leaves me wrestling with the deeply philosophical question: do I like avocado because everyone else does or does everyone else like avocado because of me?
Sharing the taste of many is what generous people call: “classic style”. But I don’t want “style”; I long for fashion. Any old muggins can watch enough films or read enough magazines to realise red lipstick looks good with flicked eyeliner; that black goes with white; that sausage goes with mustard. Anyone can learn the basic rules of “classic style”. But fashion – proper wear-two-skirts-and-a-shirt-back-to-front—totally-instinctive-fruit-on-your-head fashion – is so much harder to navigate and find a distinct space.
I once had lunch with one of my most fashionable friends, the writer Pandora Sykes, who was talking about commentators who slammed eccentric street style during fashion week.
“I’m sorry if I’m not wearing the boring uniform of skinny jeans, cashmere jumper Celine bag,” she sighed.
“Yeah!” I chimed in. “BORING!” hoping she never goes onto my dream clothes Pinterest board: “Doll’s Dresses” and finds three hundred photos of women in skinny jeans, a cashmere jumper, carrying a Celine phantom and shoulder robed in a Burberry mac. With long, highlighted hair (of course I love long bloody highlighted hair why can’t I love lilac hair shaved like the head of a friar?).
I haven’t always been like this – there was a while when I tried to be what I like to call “a vintage lady”; those women who are dedicated to time-travel in through their clothing. My chosen decade was the 60s (my favourite time both aesthetically and in music, but also couldn’t be bothered with land girl victory rolls, they made me look like a dinosaur). I slept in two pairs of fake eyelashes, wore black tights instead of trousers and carried a cigarette holder. But I realised I couldn’t be arsed to be a vintage lady when I was tired or hungover or on a deadline or in a rush leaving the house. Which was always.
I was also briefly a punk, with a shaved head and denim hot pants and boy shirts. That died a sudden death when I realised wearing ANY skirt or jewellery made me look like a lesbian art teacher.
I often float towards hippie; spending hours on ebay searching for wispy bits of vintage Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark; mooning over long skirts, billowing sleeves and antique Persian turquoise rings.
And yet my default is still so bloody “capsule”; sharp blazers, leather bags, ankle boots. I’m in a dangerous cycle of capsule; the more I buy, the more I feel I have to adhere to my chosen template. And the less I contribute to a fashion narrative.
So here’s my new sartorial rule: to go with my gut. To stop fretting about being too typical or worrying I’m not hip enough for a gold boiler suit I’ve currently got my eye on (although I’m guessing you’re never hip enough for anything if you use the word “hip”). I’m hoping that when I stop feeling caught in between classic and fashion-forward I may end up in a comfortable middle ground of my “authentic self”.
It may not ever make me a street style icon. No one will ever be interested in #WIWT. But perhaps feeling unboxed is the most fashionable interpretation of style.
But leave me my peonies, I beg of you.”