I’ve always had a bit of a penchant for dresses, and for dressing up. Since the age of around 18, a dress has been one of the items of clothing I feel most confident in. I’ve added more and more to my wardrobe, and over the years I’ve known that if I’m feeling unattractive, or if the thing everyone seems to be wearing at the time is far from flattering and far from comfortable on me – like skinny jeans – I can pop on one of my favourite dresses and feel prettier in no time.
However, as I get closer to being a real grown up (lolz), there are far less opportunities to dress up than there were in my formative years. It seems that the weekly dinner party, cocktail night and glamourous ball invites I was expecting are just not forthcoming, and with that, my love of putting on a fantastic dress has been somewhat curtailed.
Because if it’s not for a super fancy event, dressing up gets a bad rap, I think. I often hear women quite fixated on the idea of ‘not being too dressed up’ – and that’s cool, if what they mean is they don’t feel comfortable in a particular style of clothing or whatever else. What is a shame though, is when the reason for ‘not being too dressed up’ is about what other people might think, because at some point, ‘dressing up’ has come to imply that actually, you’ve tried too hard, and you’re totally uncool.
And god forbid we’re not cool, god forbid we admit that yes, we made an effort, god forbid we don’t pretend to be completely and utterly effortless and display just the right amount of nonchalant but put-together perfection. Effortless is a word that bothers me quite a lot in relation to women and fashion, not least because the effortlessness everyone’s so bloody fascinated with seems actually to be rather a lot of effort after all. There are countless blog posts, articles, how-to guides and god knows what else all over the internet on how to look effortless, and I get it, I really do; these effortless babes in the effortless photos always look so damn cool. But I’m afraid I am not one, and I think that’s probably alright as well.
Which is not at all to say that I don’t like a good old jeans-and-converse situation, or a dressed-down look, or some simple, easy tailoring; those are all great too, and if we’re being honest I think pyjamas might actually be in my top 5 outfits of all time. Fashion for me is about fun, though, and I also love slipping on a dress and sassy shoes – providing I can walk in them and they don’t hurt, because trying to pretend to be super happy when I think my shoes might be slowly destroying my toes is one effort I really can’t get on board with.
I have been made to feel uncomfortable for wearing something very much not effortless in the past though, and while many people might think that sounds ridiculous I bet there are others who remember a time someone said to them ‘Oh, you’ve really dressed up’ or ‘I was going to wear something like that but I didn’t want to be too dressy’ – comments delivered with the purpose of making you feel silly for making an effort. Why, instead of ‘you look amazing!’, do we sometimes end up with words in which the undertones of ‘you look like you have put some effort into getting ready today and therefore you’re trying too hard’ are barely concealed? What is trying too hard anyway? Try hard, try a bit, or try not at all – it makes no difference to me, and we probably do them all depending on what day it is and how we feel.
So I think it’s time we stopped being so bothered about what the ‘right’ level of effort to put into our sartorial choices – and what the right level of effort to let other people know we’ve made – is. Sure, some situations might call for a particular type of outfit, but the desire not to be seen as the girl who tried too hard or wore something that was ‘a bit much’ shouldn’t be part of your choice. How something makes you feel, whether it gives you confidence, whether you feel like you can take on the world in it…those are the things we should be listening to, not how cool or uncool we might look to others. And yes, comfort is important too – but personally I’ve had far more pairs of uncomfortable jeans than I’ve had uncomfortable dresses (such is life, when you have a massive butt and sizeable thighs), so to me a dress will always be a winner in that department.
To conclude this half-rant, half-ramble; dressing up is fun. If you want to wear something special that makes you feel fantastic, just bloody go for it – that thing might be a tee and trainers, it might be a sassy dress and lace up heels, or it might be something else entirely. And okay, I’m not going to go wearing this outfit to work or to Sainsburys, but I feel amazing in it and next time a night out rolls around it’s coming out of the wardrobe. I’m over the suggestion that it’s uncool or try hard if I choose to dress up, because surely if there’s anything that’s cool and effortless, it’s just wearing whatever the hell you want.
Outfit details: Dress – Cari’s Closet* | Shoes – Zara | Bag – New Look
*Denotes an item which has been gifted to me. In this instance, Cari’s Closet were kind enough to send me a dress of my choice; I chose the Rose dress, because…well, look at it! All imagery, words and dressing-up-appreciation are my own.
Photos: Rob Poor