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The Current Mood

FASHION AND FINDING MYSELF (AGAIN)

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Grey Hutton for The Times

@hannahlouiserogers

PEOPLE say that you often don’t know that you’d been having a low ebb until you’re out of it. So it is that I found myself feeling a whole lot better one Sunday night this summer in a crowded nightclub that – through smoke machines and pounding bodies and sweat – allowed me to see some wood from some trees. 

 

It was the 18th of July, the night before all Covid restrictions were due to be lifted in England. I was getting ready to go to Fabric, London’s eponymous nightclub, the midnight re-opening of which I was covering for The Times (where I am a features writer). The city – along with the rest of the country – was in the clutches of a heatwave. Even with the balcony door open in our Camberwell bedroom, the air felt still, cloying. The sounds of London at melting point – sirens and singing and the racket only full pubs and parks can produce – played out in the background as I, in front of a fan, scanned my heaving rails. What to wear? 

 

I was being photographed for the story so it needed to be bright. I surmised that, at 28, I would probably be one of the oldest revellers in attendance (laugh if you want, but I was correct) so it could not be frilly or fusty. And, as I’ve mentioned, it was unbearably hot – so I needed to flash some flesh. It was at this point that my eyes fell to a corner of my wardrobe that was the exact opposite. It’s a somewhat sad spot, where the clothes are a bit, well, meh. They are mostly long in the sleeve and hem, oversized and nearly all neutral. They hang in skinny columns of white, black, navy and beige (and not in a chic The Row kind of way). They are, to put a finer point on it, sack-like. They are the clothes I wore for most of last year.

I spent 2020 in camouflage and I have been noodling around my psyche to work out what I was hiding from. Beyond the obvious need of a comfort blanket; for clothes that swaddled and soothed in a time of immense uncertainty, it has occurred to me that my fashion choices last year were less to do with a need for stretchy waistbands and more to do with an increasing sense of self-loathing.

 

It wasn’t just to do with lockdown weight-gain. Yes, I was left slightly unhinged at the closure of gyms and the disappearance of my twice-weekly run-arounds with my netball team and, OK, I was not thrilled about the inevitable softening of my muscles and the fact my jeans stopped closing. But it ran deeper than that. It was a desire not to be noticed. 

 

I wonder if it was the loss of an audience that prompted it. Usually, at work, I am more than happy to peacock about. I love people asking me what I am wearing and I get a thrill when they go and buy a version for themselves. I write about fashion and style photoshoots for the paper: I consider it in the job description that I look my best. Perhaps lacking that interaction (read: validation) prompted the Error 404 message in my brain: confidence not found.

@hannahlouiserogers

Anxiety played a part, too. Like so many women I know, I am a hyper overthinker. With no social interaction outside of my family, I spent most nights in that first lockdown lying awake, thinking of all the ways I might have upset someone without knowing or was possibly failing at my job. Looking back it’s no wonder I wanted to be buried under soft layers every morning, the weight of the fabric equal to the inner-anguish I was carting around. Yes, it was pretty gloomy.
 
Thankfully, it did not last. At some point, I began to resurface. I am not exactly sure when. But a combination of society unlocking that summer, going on holiday and going back to the office injected colour back into my wardrobe. I went back to the gym and started feeling strong again. I swapped my midis for minis. I picked out gingham blouses in bright shades and wore printed bermuda shorts to the park. I slowly started to remember what it was like to be seen, and enjoy it. Most importantly, I remembered the things that I liked about myself.

 

Reaching for a shouty fuchsia leopard print Rixo mini-dress to wear clubbing – one I hadn’t worn for two years and one that is made of silk so flimsy I feel naked in it – was the culmination of that journey back. It’s a journey that I’m carrying on into Autumn, taking to the turning leaves and that feeling of new beginnings that September brings with bright shades, vivid details and metallics. I, being obsessive about these things, have already ordered a coat in cotton-candy pink; am armed with a new pair of high waisted, wide-leg jeans in the softest baby blue denim for when the mercury drops.
 
Each item I pull out from my wardrobe will be chosen to radiate me. She is someone I am happy, once more, to show off.

Follow Hannah here. Find her work on The Times here.