In the second in our series that sees writers celebrating the clothes that make them happy, Susan Hanks reflects on what her nine-year-old self would’ve wanted.
When asked if I have a favourite item of clothing, my mind adjusts to ‘flashback’ setting. Akin to the final moments before the conclusion of a mind-bending thriller, it races back through snapshots of nights out: sweaty fitting rooms; scenes of dramatic emotional breakdown as credit card statements are opened… It finally stops at last week. Got it. But first, a bit of back story.
I love clothes. I love dressing up. Always have, always will (apologies to those of you who now have the 1998 Ace of Base hit as an earworm as you read). As a child, I subjected my Nan to full-on theatrical spectacles, with me as the starring (only) role. The plot would always culminate in heroine status. And every heroine needs a costume befitting her character (though none of them actually fit). Creative to the core and on a pensioner’s budget, my Nan would acquire gowns from god knows where.
I twirled and swirled and gazed at myself. My Nan’s dressing table was rickety, adorned with a powder puff, an ornate perfume dispenser and a hand-held mirror with matching paddle brush (the bristles felt like a horse’s tail and were futile for any actual brushing. To this day I don’t know its purpose). Through my (plastic, blurry) tinted glasses I saw a set fit for Hollywood and the lady I would become. The reality was a much too long frock, which wouldn’t fasten at the back owing to my Nan’s other way to indulge me – cake for breakfast every weekend I stayed.
Years later, my then housemate (who works in fashion) and I would play dress up. He shared my vision for make believe. It worked as a prelude to a forthcoming event, a way to justify blowing a third of our wages on the high street or simply to brighten up an otherwise dull day.
The Rimmel foundation and Body Shop perfume occupying my self-assembled cupboard didn’t quite create the same sense of nostalgia for me. My imagination kicked in once more and I looked forward to having “the best night out EVER” in whichever item I was struggling to make repayments on at the time. I once owned a pair of baby pink Kurt Geiger shoes which I nabbed at sale price. The trouble is, it’s no longer a bargain when you learn that you can’t actually walk in them and they’re only good for wearing at home while painting your toenails. It’s not just me though, right?
Sadly, as I call upon most of my once loved outfits, I associate them with ‘that was when I was thin’ ‘thinner’ or ‘ate cake for breakfast for months’ and don’t see their colour.
So my favourite item of clothing is a fake fur coat that my mum bought me last week as an early Christmas present. I’ve always wanted one, probably because I see it as the epitome of glamour and homage to the lady I saw in the mirror as a nine-year-old. This one is brand new and so is my attitude. I’m at a point in my life where my self-confidence is growing and I’ve accepted that, weightwise, I will always yo-yo a bit and that’s ok. I’m gonna make some memories in it and nod to my Nan as I do.
And I’ll let you into a secret: it’s going to be fur coat… BIG knickers.
Presenter on Moorlands Radio 103.7FM Drive Time, weekdays 4-7pm. Join Susan in 'shaking what ya mamma gave ya' for the daily Derriere Dance. Rhythm/leotard not essential.