So, first of all I should probably start by saying Happy New Year to you all! So, ‘ Happy New Year’. I hope you all celebrated in style, adorned in your very best. I personally had a small panic attack selecting the perfect dress to make a first impression on 2013. Because I have spent much of my Christmas holidays writing my novel, I’ve had very little time to shop, so thought New Year’s Eve would be the perfect opportunity to don one of the many loved and forgotten dresses that hang patiently in my wardrobe awaiting their outing. After my said panic attack I opted for a Holly Fulton for ASOS black and yellow shift dress I bought a year and a half ago – which, in hindsight, is probably one of the most unique and expensive dresses in my wardrobe and pretty fitting for the occasion. But this dress was selected under the strict instructions of my ever changing body.
It was about the time when everyone was watching The Hills, and I was not only obsessed with my weight, but very much in control of it and a very happy size eight, when Heidi asked Lauren Conrad, ‘Have you been working out a lot?’ and Conrad responded with something along the lines of, ‘No, I just wear dresses’. Immediately I scribbled into the notes section of my That Extra Half an Inch by Victoria Beckham, ‘wear dresses to look skinnier’, this new fashion tip was added to the bottom of my never ending list of how to dress myself skinny. It doesn’t take Karl Lagerfeld to know that black is slimming, so with this in mind and in the light of my newly acquired Lauren Conrad fashion tip I bought myself six black dresses from ASOS all in one pop – it was 2007, my partner was living in Sicily and I was partying frequently. These six little black dresses was merely just the beginning of a frenzied episode in my life where I purchased nothing but black dresses. They were draped or backless, prom or puffball, bat winged or off the shoulder, short or even shorter. I partied attired in black dresses for four years – never wearing the same twice out to a big night out and if so, rarely was it documented on Facebook.
The black dress was my thing, at least I thought so at the time. Occasionally I’d worry whether I had gotten too predictable – friends used to comment that I always wore black dresses, but I was convinced that this was my style and that I was very lucky to have found one – a style that is. I suppose the colour black in itself, although slimming, refined, classic and elegant, can also be associated with being boring, safe, Gothic and worst of all – death. So, one summer I made a conscious effort to invest in a whole array of poptastic brightly coloured dresses in canary yellows, warm corals, floral, striking oranges, emerald greens and a rainbow of prints – even though I love a black dress on a summer evening. So, albeit my effort to rid myself of the black dress, I had moved away from black, but was still very much wearing dresses. I wore dresses to mark occasions, I wore dresses to look glamorous and mostly I wore dresses to feel dressed up – because surely only a dress can do all of these things in good and proper form without each and every time.
After a 2011/12 winter spent dressed in a variety of black midi dresses, by summer 2012 my affair with dresses died officially died. It was around the time that I had split up with my partner – a Sicilian man ten years older than me, a workaholic, very rarely seen without donning Cartier shirts and Hugo Boss suits, who has the utmost appreciation for formal dress. My black dress fitted into all occasions suitably and complimented his formal attire. However, when we split up I began hanging around in Peckham, a setting more art chic than and far more quirky than what my wardrobe was used to. The affair ended also about the time that I started using Pinterest ardently, pinning street fashion photographs by Tommy Ton, admiring the manipulation of garments and the styling of an ensemble and falling completely head over heels in love with Olivia Palermo’s ability to dress. Magazines were featuring articles that celebrated statement separates as opposed to the statement dress and suddenly the black dress felt so irrelevant. It felt boring.
I wanted to be more interactive and involved with the way I was dressing – I wanted a challenge. I started with skirts and lots and lots of tops in different materials, cuts and colours. I had emerged from the Victoria Beckham-esque dress and was completely inspired by Olivia Palermo and the thought she put into creating one ensemble. It involved the pairing together and experimenting with colours, fabrics, silhouettes, mis-matching, prints, layering, accessorising and most importantly, being brave enough to be totally unpredictable. I had opened up a whole new approach to fashion, which very quickly managed to empty my bank account and burst my wardrobes. I was enjoying a more youthful approach and it wasn’t about being classic or timeless – it was about being fun. My skirts rose from midi-length to short and I purchased a selection of shorts, short shorts, in wool and twill, leather and silk. It was a very special moment when I purchased myself a pair of denim Topshop shorts! I’ve worn them three times now and each and every time I do I have to mentally coax myself into doing so. Denim shorts have always been my biggest fashion no-no for anyone above the age of twenty four and four years senior, I am prancing around Garage raves adorned in denim shorts. Oh the irony!
So, after the best part of a year piecing together separates and implementing my new unpredictability styling technique, I was especially looking forward to being plain old and predictably glamorous -stunning dress, skyscraper heels and a clutch bag. The art deco style Holly Fulton dress I ended up wearing on New Years Eve went up against a red peplum dress inspired by Lanvin’s peplum, frilled sleeve dress from the Lanvin Spring Summer 2010 collection and a black midi dress with a sheer decolletage embellished with polka dots inspired by the remarkable dresses from Stella McCartney’s autumn winter 2011 collection – you know the ones that took the world by storm. Ultimately, I was most excited about wearing the red dress – I hadn’t worn it in at least two years – it’s hot, it’s sultry, it’s powerful and when I previously wore it to Kensington Roof Gardens the compliments were endless. Let’s just say this dress makes me feel special. Or, more aptly, made me feel special. When I modelled my very special red dress in the mirror yesterday afternoon, during what I like to call my ‘dress rehearsal’ or what my partner calls ‘Ayesha’s catwalk’ I was getting ready to look and feel the most dressed up and glamorous I had felt all year – all for my first meeting with 2013.
However, I quickly realised that the ‘wear dresses to look skinnier’ style tip that I had been swearing by for the past four or five years no longer applied. The very garment that I have always gone to to make me feel protected and safe, glamorous and womanly, refined and special no longer made me feel either of the above. To put the realisation into context, imagine really looking forward to wearing your favourite pair of jeans that you haven’t worn for a while, you know the pair that suck you in, lengthen your legs and go perfect with your favourite pair of boots or stilettos, only to realise they no longer fit or are no longer flattering. Neither my Lanvin or my Stella McCartney inspired dresses, or any of the dresses in my wardrobe for that matter, could hide the fact that in my new found youthful approach to dress, I had also been eating like I had metabolism to match. The dresses clearly displayed the pounds that I have piled on over the months and have been covering up beneath my statement separates without even knowing it.
As much as I have enjoyed piecing together separates, and as much as this has become my new go to look, the irony of fashion would have it that I am now eager to look and feel just as confident being refined and glamorous in my dresses as I feel confident being fashionable and stylish in separates. Fashion isn’t all about dressing ourselves skinny, it’s mainly about feeling good in our clothes. On the other hand, life is about balance and you can get too much of one thing; whether it’s junk food, partying, work or even black dresses. The black dress and the denim shorts are indeed metaphors for the two extremes of my personality and my approach to life. My desire to now find balance in my life between the two extremes and redefine my affair with dresses may be enthused by the rekindling of my relationship with my partner. Of course I am not about to let go of all that I discovered in the four months I was single and I am not going to take away from the great moments that I had playing around in my denim shorts, but I cannot deny my affection for the black dress, the respect it commands with its elegance and refinement and how powerful, yet safe and protected it makes me feel. With some balance implemented into my life, less junk food consumed, less nights spent partying and a lot more time exercising I’ll get excited about wearing the black dress as a means to show off as opposed to covering up, because let’s face it, there’s no fun in dressing up if it’s just to hide lumps and bumps anyway!
So, to all of us planning to shed those extra Christmas pounds, working to fit into a favourite pair of jeans, trying to tone up to look stunning in the perfect party dress and whatever less fashion concerned ambitions we might have for the coming year – here’s to embracing a challenge and never losing sight of our goals for 2013!
Of course, till the pounds are shed – I’ll still be opting for the stylishly fashionable in street chic separates.