There's more than one way to live in style
I recognize it immediately and laugh. “No way!” A few people glance in my direction. The colour, the print, even the texture is exactly as I remember it. It was as if someone had put all their unworn clothing from the nineties into storage—and as they packed up every lime green item, every hypnotic swirl, every micro T-shirt, they must have known that, one day, fashion would come calling again, and that it would be only a matter of time before a new generation of teens would be swooning over stretch bellbottoms in geometric prints.
I should know. I was there, back in the day.
I call my daughter over. I have a big, excited smile on my face. “Look what I found!” I point at a halter-neck dress in a metallic swirling pattern. “I used to have one exactly like this!” My daughter grunts in the way only pre-teens know how and rolls her eyes before walking back to the grey sportswear section in the store.
She is at the stage of pre-teenhood where she wears only sweat pants and oversized hoodies. But I know there is an inner fashionista there that is just growing in confidence before she fully comes out and expresses her fashion identity. Her room is filled with piles of messy sketch books with pencilled fashion drawings and anime characters in elaborate outfits. She makes Tiktoks under a pseudonym where she posts her drawing process in hyper speed. It is her way of safely experimenting with different styles. Anonymously and without judgement.
When I was my daughter’s age I visited my grandmother on her farm. My hair had just started to settle into its post-puberty curl and I was emulating everything that the Spice Girls did. I wore a satin A-line skirt and a slogan micro T-shirt, with high-heeled sandals. This was my way of practicing my walk away from the scrutiny of my friends. I had my hair up in a high curly bun that day and my gran was convinced that this hairstyle was ‘The One’. She turned me around and around so that she could look at me from all angles, and said, “I think you found your hairstyle”. My gran was of a generation where you found a personal style and then stuck to it for the rest of your life. She wore her hair in the exact same style every single day and had dozens of twinsets in varying colours. No fast fashions. Everything was made to last.
I have things in my wardrobe that were made to last, things I have been holding onto since the nineties, in fact. Solid, heavy, black leather biker boots that have been back in fashion a few times since my parents gave them to me as a Christmas gift in 1999. A treasured leather-and-suede jacket with a wide seventies-style collar that my mother wore before me. Outlandish high-heeled shoes that are simply too unique to ever be in or out of fashion. They catch my daughter’s eye as she lies across my bed chatting about the inspiration behind her latest Tiktok, while I pack away laundry. She tries them on and attempts a wobbly catwalk. Her eyes are lit up. “They are yours if you want them,” I say. That week she wears her new high-heeled shoes in the house every night. To practice.
© Norton Rose Fulbright LLP 2023