Turns out Sadie Hasler’s been telling porkies when it comes to her search for personal style documented here in Standard Issue. She’s got her reasons though…
OK. Fine. I lied. Deal with it.
A few weeks ago, in my edition of Styling It Out where I talked, movingly, about getting rid of a fuckton of old shit, I sort of put stuff in a pile, had every intention of getting rid, and then – *KLAXON OF JUDGEMENT* – didn’t.
I just said I did.
Like a virgin fellating a Rugby Club line-up while humming a Katy Perry medley, I thought it’s what everyone wanted. More worryingly, as I turfed things into a very convincing pile of rejection, I thought it’s what I wanted.
But what if I didn’t?
What if the old shit that I drag around from abode to abode is who I am?
What if I am not meant to be some spivvy contemporary gal? What if I am the old rags, the ghost of disasters past, the fly in amber?
And what, you cynical fucks, if there’s nothing wrong with that?
Let’s look at the shit I should’ve binned while Tony Blair still had brown hair.
Item 1: the slutty red dress.
Bought this from a Hennes dump-bin to compere a ‘carnival’(/slutty)-themed charity gig. At the end of this gig I accepted a date with a chap who had been pursuing me since my divorce. I relented. We had a four-month tumultuous sort of love thing that left me unable to sit down long enough to think about whether we were actually suited to each other.
This dress was the start of me owning my body again. This dress was the flag of my freedom. I’ve worn it once, I’ll never wear it again (look at it, for fuck’s sake), but that once has been enough to keep it stowed in the corner of my wardrobe, quietly smouldering like a well-thumbed copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Cut to my Pink Lady jacket made by my textiles teacher when I played Marty in Grease aged 15.
Cut to the tartan skirt.
I might not remember the event much on account of being paid for my quizmastery in gin, but he remembers the sweary girl in the tartan skirt and the long socks, and who am I to throw that away?
Cut to the red boots my Dad had made in Chelsea in the 1960s. Every now and then I try them on to see if they fit me yet. They never do.
Should my wardrobe be a representation of who I was, who I am, or who I want to be? What is the right mode of being?
Now, in case you think I’m about to shirk my commitment to this style adventure, I also had a realisation. I think I’ve diminished the importance of my down-belows (and by this I mean my below-neck accoutrements and not my ladygarden) because, and this is perhaps a bit worrying, if my face looks alright – and by alright I mean I haven’t got the acne to stop a thousand ships (1994–1997: yowser), the gnat bite to end all gnat bites (1996 – on the eyelid: ooff) or the tangible signs of having a breakdown (2003–2006: shudder), I pretty much fucking think I’m doing OK and who the fuck gives a shit if I haven’t got the arse to pull off MC Hammer trousers.
My arse hasn’t got me through this shit. My face has. Your face is the thing that best convinces everyone you’re doing alright. I am a fucking master of smiley denial; I reckon 78 per cent of my good friends have seen me laughing down the pub in the past and bought it, when inside I am thinking of maybe walking in front of a bus on the way home (cheaper than a kebab). I have suitably credited my face with all this trickery, and not the fickle fiver quick-to-bobble garbs I’ve shoved on just so that society can be appeased to see I’ve covered up my nipples, clit, and anus. (The last three bastions of decency; the foundation of all social dressing; let’s never lose them, girls.)
And if my chosen style is merely making my face look happy and together when the contents of my brain behind it are raging allsorts, then my style staples are thus:
Seriously. From the age where I felt like never leaving my room because of soul-cripplingly bad spots, this has been my constant friend.
This is truer than any sturdy underwear, than any pretty party frock, than any sassy outfit chosen to denote confidence, personality, and self-worth.
Because it gives me the skin I wish I had. I live in fear of it being discontinued. I might stock-pile.
I remember an arresting metaphor used once by some bird on telly, a WAG I think, whose services to popular culture were far surpassed by her services to vacuity, but in one thing were we agreed: we don’t like our eyes without mascara; we think we look like foetuses.
Of course we are societally conditioned to think that now. We are used to eyes being rimmed by some sort of broody blackness. We look at portraits of 17th-century birds in art galleries and think, “Didn’t they look different back then? Doesn’t the Girl With a Pearl Earring actually look a bit like a bleached frog?”, but that’s just because we have come to expect something cosmetic to ‘be there’ – from at least a cursory charcoal splash to sassily layered extensions, as though our lashes are our awnings.
Those are my only steadfast style items. To summarise, if I go out without panstick on my skin and mascara on my eyes I feel like a bleached frog foetus, and my clothes are mostly neither here nor there.
Style is acting. It is trickery. It is not natural. It is not us. It is the us we want to be. Even the most stylish people on earth have had to have a bloody good think about it first.
And that is why I can admit that fashion may be art. If it has the process of thought, the capability to enlighten, the desire to express something human, then it is art. And I suppose that’s why it’s still worth trying to give it a go. (She sighs deeply.)
I’ve been dawdling round the edges of this style thing, my friends. Partly because I’ve been too busy to shop, but mainly because I’ve been a bit afraid. There. I’ve said it. I was afraid of looking for style and either finding it, or not finding it.
Well, it has not gone undetected and now I have a very bossy friend, Deborah, updating me by text with the various stages of a whole day of shopping that she has planned for me. Gulp. She has mentioned Selfridges, Vivienne Westwood, ASOS. I have heard of these things. They sound like strange planets. She is not taking no for an answer. It is now out of my hands*.
I fear in my next Styling It Out forces may conspire to make me… woman-up.
*It will involve cocktails or I ain’t doin’ it.
Sadie is a playwright, actor, columnist, artistic director of Old Trunk theatre company, and frequently discombobulated multi-tasker.