Everyone knows it’s not about what’s in fashion, it’s all about looking good in your clothes; sadly something that has eluded Sadie Hasler. Join her in a new series as she searches for that most elusive je ne sais quoi – personal style.
Illustration by Louise Boulter
What is style? Is it one of those things that ‘other people’ have – like kids, money, driving licences?
I think my approach to style can very much be summed up by the following anecdote: My mum once gave me a carrier bag of stuff she didn’t want anymore. In that carrier bag was a pair of thick rubber-soled Scholl flip-flops. They were beige. When I put them on I felt like I was walking on the moon, if the moon was also a bouncy castle. The beige Scholl’s and I had a brief, beautiful, shameless affair, until my best friend cast her eyes down at my feet and told me if I didn’t stop wearing them she would cease going out in public with me. I stopped wearing the beige moon-Scholl’s of Happiness. But sometimes, at night, when the world is dark and everything is quiet, I look up to the moon (the real one made of rock and dreams and conspiracy theories), and imagine the orthopaedic goodness of yore rubbing against my soles, nay, my actual soul.
It was weeks later, as the same friend told me the same thing about a pair of slippers I had mistaken for actual shoes and worn out and about, that it dawned on me that I had…no style. I’d always known I wasn’t mega into clothes n shit, but I had not really considered that if I wasn’t careful I was only about half a decade away from wearing fleeces with wolves howling at the moon on them.
Now, in that new year sort of self-appraisal sort of way, I feel a bit like if I don’t find myself a style that I like, that suits me, that keeps my friends talking to me, I might reach the stage where I really begin to not care, and then what? Millets all-weather daywear before I’m 40? Hurriedly fashioned tablecloth togas for special occasions? Is that what I am? What am I? Does it matter? Are clothes a part of what we are? Can they transform us; make us happy? Does it matter? HOW MANY FRIENDS HAVE I MADE FEEL HIGHLY UNCOMFORTABLE WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING?? DOES IT MATTER?
In the absence of any real self-knowledge, here are some snippets of things my friends have said about how shit I look:
“Oh wench… Well. It is a style unintelligible to any fashion editor. If I were to narrow it down I’d say…gypsy punk boho budget chic? Or, THE MAGPIE.” Sarah
“I would say your style is currently ‘barmaid’: cheap to purchase and looks like it’s been thrown on while rolling out of bed where some young buck is sobering up and wondering how he got to be so lucky.” Susie
“You always have bobbly leggings. I quite liked that grey jacket you lost. Where is that?” Dave
“Thank God you’ve finally asked.” – Deborah
“Your style is 90s college librarian staff night out – one unfastened ponytail away from Lisa Loeb in a karaoke bar.” – Drew
“Can I be brutal? Your default is grunge. It is egalitarian, not showy. It is a subculture with a strange history. I now want to say it stopped being cool in 1996 but I do not know if you stopped being cool in 1996 or later on before I met you.” Simon
“Gloriously alternative and unique. Style and comfort both important. (If you’ve asked Simon, he’ll simply come back with “twat”).” My extremely diplomatic boyfriend Matt
Very enlightening. But what does any of it actually mean? Without exception they all think I could do better.
I’ve decided I do not want to go down without a fight. I want to feel like I’ve made the most of my thirties, made the most of being a woman not a 15-year-old boy, made the most of myself. Over the next few weeks I am going to be seeking help from friends who love me enough to rip the merciless piss out of me as they take me shopping to help me find that elusive thing – ‘style’ – or rather, that even more elusive thing: ‘the right style for me, a premature Scholl enthusiast’.
Join me on this brutal journey of discovery into that exotic land some call Fashion. If you want.
I imagine it will be like being on a road trip with ten Louis Therouxs and a really big bag of snacks. (But it will probably just be a lot of awkwardly getting stuck in 80s disco-wear four sizes too small in Sue Ryder and hasty diversions to the pub.)
Sadie is a playwright, actor, columnist, artistic director of Old Trunk theatre company, and frequently discombobulated multi-tasker.