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The Current Mood

FASHION AND FEELING THE SEASONS BY OCTAVIA BRIGHT

@octavia.bright

After one of the hardest winters of my life, I waited on the sun’s arrival like a puppy longing for its owner to come home and play. I belong to the sun. When it’s gone, some part of me retreats in mourning, and I wonder yet again why I still live in the Northern hemisphere. This time I realised it wasn’t only the sun I was missing – it was the light touch of summer weight fabrics against my skin, and the way I feel when the days are long and the air is mild: open, spontaneous, full of possibility.

How I relate to my clothes changes throughout the year. In the spring and summer months I’m drawn to strong colours and vibrant prints, but in autumn and winter I become muted, and what I really want from my wardrobe is to be held and nurtured through the cold and the dark. Along with the seasons, the shape of my body waxes and wanes, and the fit of my clothes shifts. I hate forcing myself into something that doesn’t feel right, so over the years I’ve built up a wardrobe that makes room for these variations in size and in tone. Crucially, it also adapts to the different ways I relate to my femininity: sometimes I want to embrace it, sometimes reject it completely. 

The sartorial joy I do find in the colder months comes from scarves, hats and coats, which I choose in rich colours. But during the anxious winter of 2020 I spent so much time inside that it seemed like my favourite orange coat barely left its hook on the door; I felt more disconnected from colour than ever before, and equally disconnected from myself. I tried to focus instead on texture and fit, sinking into a need for softness and comfort above all else. 

@octavia.bright in Baum und Pferdgarten

At the first sight of green shoots on the trees this spring, I relegated my rollnecks and sweaters to the back of my closet, and pulled out the carnival of optimistic things from the suitcase under my bed. Last winter was the first time I’d got around to packing away my summer clothes. Seeing them hanging there, limp and ignored while the world was in turmoil, I found I wanted to put them into hibernation, as though I could protect the sunny part of myself from harm along with them. With the spring sunshine pouring through my window, I reinstated my warm weather clothes piece by colourful piece and remembered the hot, suspended days of the first lockdown a year before, when we hardly knew what was on the horizon.

A few weeks before the pandemic hit, I’d moved into a new flat with a little roof terrace, ignorant of just how much of a godsend it would come to be. In the absence of a bench, my partner and I spent hours sitting on tiles warmed by the sun, shellshocked by the silence of a city in suspended animation. Soon, like most people I knew, I had stopped getting dressed beyond throwing on the same pair of jeans and one of three t-shirts in rotation. But by the time May 2021 rolled around I was so desperate for joy that I approached dressing each day as a creative project in itself. It felt immensely restorative, like welcoming play back into my life. 

@octavia.bright

Then, last month, I finally folded away the last of my winter clothes. I thanked them for their service through the gruelling monotony of January, February and March, and packed them up, hoping not to see them again until the leaves begin to brown and fall from the trees. I took some ill-advised lockdown purchases that I’d missed the returns window for to the charity shop, hoping they might bring pleasure to someone mindfully looking rather than mindlessly fixing, as I undoubtedly was when I bought them.

Now at long last, summer has arrived, we’re getting vaccinated, and the weather is, of course, mediocre. I’m still waiting for the sun to take up residence in our sky. But one of my favourite things about the city slowly opening up has been seeing everyone’s outfits – bodies in fabrics that flutter in the breeze or catch the light, people overjoyed at the fact of being outside, of being seen. The more time I spend out in the open, the more I find a familiar pleasure in the feel of fabric on my body as it moves, and the power of clothes to return me to myself. I look at everyone, looking at everyone, and see the sight of ourselves as something joyous, something free. How strange it must be to live without these rhythms of change as time ebbs and flows. Perhaps that’s why, after all, I’m still here on the chilly side of the planet.

 

Follow Octavia here.

Find her 2021 non-fiction debut, This Ragged Grace here.