Not having had much luck so far in her search for personal style, Sadie Hasler decides its time for some tough talk – and some epiphannying about.
illustration by Louise Boulter
Some of the greatest discoveries ever made have been completely unintentional. America was supposed to be India, penicillin was a cock up in a Petri dish, and biscuits were burnt cakes. That’s some pretty big shit right there. All glorious mistakes.
Some self-discoveries are just as unexpected – most of us stumble around like Columbus in a blindfold, our lives like one big game of blind man’s buff – and occasionally we bump into a little revelation or two. Clarity can come at any time, but it can almost never be scheduled.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’ve been expecting epiphanies from a bit of light shopping. As a girl of Primark I wouldn’t know what one is or what to do with it. I thought the most I could expect from this “style journey” was a temporary fix to sartorial boredom and a few “Is that a new cardigan?”, “Yes. It is. Thanks for noticing” type exchanges. I didn’t expect real change. I just wanted to embrace the new year with an outward air of assertiveness and then go back to my dirty old ways.
After the last Styling It Out, when I came away from Zara empty-handed and promptly fell into the comforting arms of a sturdy filly named Margarita (cocktail, not prostitute), I was told off by several friends for not buying the yellow coat I had tried on. So I did an audacious thing in the name of adventure, went online and bought the yellow coat. (Or rather, mustard, but that doesn’t sound as jolly, does it?)
I wore it a few times and had some lovely comments, and it mostly made me feel happy because it’s the colour of my Dad’s old MG. I’d asserted myself a bit, been bold, and now had a mega-bright garment to wave about town like a flag. “HEY FUCKERS. YES. YES, IT’S YELLOW-SLASH-MUSTARD. WHAT OF IT?!” I seemed to be bellowing through the silent swagger of borrowed colour.
But then my knob fell off and I lost my confidence. Perhaps it was just because it was new, or perhaps it was bastard hormones. Who knows, but I plummeted into customary ‘bleurgh’. ‘And I realised it will take more than a few new cardigans and a bright coat to make me feel like I have overhauled my boredom. Even I know that style is as much about the air of confidence you exude in life as it is about the things you wear. As with all of us, there are things buried deeper than the skin that should be dealt with first. There are definite actions I could take to make myself feel better: I could stop sitting around typing all the time and do a bit more ‘activity stuff for my arse, etc’; I could cut out bread and sugar and shit (at some point I definitely plan to stop drinking pints like it’s Bacchus’ birthday. I do); I could have a ruddy good clear out and get rid of all the clothes that make me feel like a dick. I could do all these things.
So, what? What now? Is this a journey, or am I dithering at a roundabout? Am I an intrepid adventurer, or am I a stay-at-home cosy bug? Am I the yellow coat, or am I an old cardigan? I figured if – like a true adventurer, like Columbus with a debit card – I don’t know where I’m going, I should at least know what I want to leave behind.
Into the wardrobe.
Well, first is this dress. I bought it in George about seven years ago for about £10. I have worn it maybe twice, and hang onto it because the little cocktails make me feel like I might wear it again one day, for jaunty boozy celebrations. Even though now I look closer, I think they might be ice cream sundaes. Whoops. Anyway, it’s a ridiculous dress for a 34-year-old woman. And it has a button missing.
The Asda cocktail dress
Then there’s this denim dress from Primark. It makes me feel like I should be singing a piss-poor version of Jolene in some Midwestern bar, while Jolene watches me and thinks, “Lord, do ah, the mighty Jolene, really want this dime store tramp’s sloppy seconds?”
The denim ‘Fuck You, Jolene’ dress
Then we move onto this. Can’t remember where the bloody hell I got this frightful affair. It looks like I should be glassing a love rival in the Rovers Return.
The orange ‘Easy Tiger’ debacle
Then this. My ‘the only girl to get knocked up in Little House on the Prairie’ dress. A girl with my shoulders and boobs can’t carry off shapeless skater-girl plaid. Should know better.
The Laura Ingalls wider than a mile checked dress
Then these. Two versions of the same dress I bought years ago for a fiver a-piece because the netting made me happy. I have never worn either of them because I look like a fat five-year-old who’s just been chucked out of ballet class for shitting all over the art of ballet. And probably the floor.
Pastel-coloured poofy nonsense
And these. Quickly bought for a fiver in Hennes and brought home, which is when I discovered they had stripes up the side like a trailer park tuxedo. My boyfriend calls them my American Civil War jeans and quite likes them because he thinks history is cool. I wear them for dog-walking and hope no one notices they give me camel-toe.
Oh god, there really is too much shit in here that I don’t ever wear. Stuff I have bought that I do not throw away. Cargo. Wreckage. Detritus. Flotsam. Junk. Maybe I should throw it all away and wipe the slate clean. Maybe I should just walk around naked under my yellow coat for a bit. It may not be style, but it’s a start.
Sadie is a playwright, actor, columnist, artistic director of Old Trunk theatre company, and frequently discombobulated multi-tasker.