Sensory memory is a weird thing. You can spend years not thinking about your ex boyfriend from high school until a stranger comes walking by you down the street, wafting the same bad aftershave, and poof, you're back in 2008, fumbling about in his bed before his parents come home from work. Sometimes you can't even work out who a scent reminds you of, it just reminds you of a certain time of your life - simple as that.
I had this exact same experience with this dress. No, the smell didn't remind me of a lover of a bygone era (thankfully), but I pulled it from the brown Zara delivery box and was instantly transported back to my childhood. I still can't pinpoint exactly what from my childhood, but the touch and feel of this exact fabric and embroidery created that sweet, millisecond of time travel back to some moment in my life where every single little thing I wore was covered in florals, glitter, or Minnie Mouse (and quite often, all at once). Going through the emo/goth early teenage phase I was always more drawn to a black tulle skirt with slashed PunkyFish tank rather than baggy trousers and supersized hoodies. As a sweet 16 Indie Cindy girl it was all about floral tea dresses and Granny-chic pearls. Then as an 18 year old, heading out of college and into the local dire clubs named things like Fever and Liquid, high heels and bodycon dresses became the Friday night staple (although with some form of trendy spin). Without even knowing it, I slipped perfectly into my gender stereotype, quite simply because I liked it and I felt happy.
And then, as Frankie Graddon for The Pool so perfectly highlights in her similar experience, all of that wasn't okay anymore. The colour pink pigeon-holes little girls, high heels are something that'll get you sent home from work if you don't wear them, and dresses and skirts are a symbol of bowing down to the patriarchy. Even using the word girly seemed uncomfortably un-PC. It became unfashionable, unfeminist, and uncool to wear such things. So heels were replaced with trainers, skirts with baggy tailoring, and dresses with masculine-inspired pieces. And these new additions to my wardrobe were great - comfortable, fresh, and fun to experiment with against my slightly saccharine, uber-girly past.
But was it really me? No. Did it ever really feel right? Of course not. In case you hadn't noticed, I still have a thing (or two, or three) for a super feminine dress, so changing my style as a reaction to the anti-feminine sartorial trend, simply to be seen as 'cool' felt plain wrong. It felt like I was adhering and following trends rather than doing what made me happy.
And wait a minute, isn't that kind of the point of clothes?
Personal style should be about confidence, self-expression, and being who you want to be. If a suit makes you feel powerful then wear it. If a dress makes you feel powerful, then wear it. And if going completely naked makes you feel powerful, then for fuck sake, take off all of your clothes and wear nothing at all!
The best way to stick it to the system isn't by wearing something that doesn't conform to a gender stereotype, but by wearing something that makes you feel like the best possible version of yourself, and the sooner we all realise and adhere to that, the better this place will be.
Photography by Rebecca Spencer
I'm wearing Zara embroidered dress, Ted & Muffy boots (c/o), CRU London Charlotte bag