The Freedom of Fashion

Henrietta Easton explores her thoughts on the freedom and beauty of fashion. As always, the opinions of Label's writers are entirely their own and this is a lovely personal account from one perspective. Of course, we all use and value fashion in different ways, but this is a unique insight into one person's experience, and the confidence they draw from beautiful clothes. 

The key to effective fashion advice is not to tell people what to wear but advise them how to wear it. I don't want to say 'this is what you should be wearing this winter' because although following trends is a wonderful way to use fashion, it is also a way to abuse it. What is misunderstood and what needs to be recognised is that the beauty of fashion is that it can be made entirely your own; trends should be manipulated into your own style rather than vice versa.

It is equally as important, therefore, to give advice on how to wear the clothes that you love and not be afraid to wear anything at all. This is why I get so frustrated when someone says 'but you can't wear that, it's just a house party' or 'isn't that a bit much for a lecture?’ But why shouldn’t I? There is nothing stopping me except a fear of looking out of place or inappropriate in a certain situation. We don’t wear clothes we really want to because of a worry that we will stand out too much, creating, in our minds, almost a ‘uniform’ for every social occasion. I know I am guilty of this, having bought wide-legged trousers and midi-bell skirts that I really only wear to formal occasions, yet every time I wear them I think to myself ‘why do I never wear this casually?’.  I know that it is because if someone comments that I’m ‘over-dressed’ or tells me I shouldn't wear something because it would be ‘wrong’, I automatically lose my confidence and feel out of place.

When I, as an under-confident and style-naive 16 year old, entered my sixth form years at school, it was no longer compulsory to wear school uniform. This was a wonderful freedom that I took every advantage of. I often used to wear sequinned skirts and my favourite Cabbages and Roses silk coat to school; I didn't want to look the same as anyone else and I used this time to experiment. I was also desperate to establish myself and I felt comfortable doing this through my clothes. Although I did get compliments, I also often heard 'wow you are wearing that to school!?' It wasn't because what I was wearing was too short or too low cut, it was because people were surprised I would wear something as 'dressed up' or special to school. My logic was that this was a place of learning and routine, and although I liked school there were days when I didn't want to be there, and so I felt that wearing something beautiful or exciting, something I would look forward to wearing, would make my day a better one.

If people say that certain outfits are only appropriate at certain times, I think this is true only to an extent. Your daily life should be treated as your own catwalk, showcasing your creations with you as the supermodel.  If you feel comfortable and confident wearing jogging bottoms then that is a wonderful thing, but please don't call me ridiculous or impractical for feeling the same in my black pleated midi skirt, silk shirt and heeled boots. Wearing this helps me to take on the day.

 If you are only choosing to wear slouchyclothes because you feel down or stressed, you are almost willing yourself to feel worse; if you feel low or under-confident it is better to wear an outfit that you love and would wear to impress. I was having an essay mind-block a few days ago, sat in my pyjamas still and I really felt disgusting. I got up and put on a lovely dress, did my hair and make-up and sat back down. I had an instant sigh of relief and a new burst of energy to tackle my essay; I may be mad for saying this, but for me it really works.

When it comes to choosing clothes for exams I have a specific motto that I have followed for years; I choose an outfit that I know makes me look good, because self-confidence is the first step towards success! People say to me, ‘I cant believe you're wearing that to an exam, how have you bothered that much with your outfit!?’ I reply that if I'm wearing something I love, even if I do badly, at least I know I looked good. Why shouldn't exam day deserve a put together outfit? What is more, in daily life, why shouldn't you wear your new palazzo pants to your lecture or your seminar, if you feel people might think you look 'stupid' or overdressed, you'd be wrong, they'll be wishing they had your same confidence. Plus your favourite clothes will be pleased they get to see the outside world more than a few times a year.

Here are four outfits that I wore this week to my seminars, for lunch with a friend and to my choir rehearsal. It’s been a stressful week of deadlines and I put together these outfits, comprised of some of my favourite pieces, to brighten up the week and give me that little bit of extra confidence.   

The most important point to take from this is that fashion doesn't have to have rules if you don't want it to, personal rules can be established, but they shouldn't be affected by anyone else and by what others might think. I’m not trying to say that you shouldn’t wear slouchy, comfortable clothes because I love them as much as anyone, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t wear a ‘put-together’ or even more formal outfit simply because those around you aren’t. Beautiful clothes are supposed to be worn and just because you don't live in a bustling city, attending balls, parties and brunches there is no reason why you cannot wear these same clothes to a lecture, to karaoke at the union or just to Tesco on a Wednesday afternoon.