‘What Do I Wear Now?’ Entire Personalities I Have Developed While Internet Shopping For Autumn Clothes

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When it comes to working through the new fashion trends, a combination of working from home for almost two years and the second half of her thirties has left Emma Clifton in a style identity crisis. Enter: the internet and an imagination.

Back when we were allowed to leave the country, I would try on multiple fashion trends/personalities when I was shopping overseas. There’s nothing like being in a foreign country to convince you that a piece of clothing might lead to a different life. In fact, it’s that exact logic that lead to my muumuu collection from Bali, even though most of my life choices haven’t led to needing a muumuu (yet).  

Sadly, such opportunities no longer exist and sartorial inspiration is at an all-time low. Something about entering my late thirties during the third year of a pandemic – and not having to go into an office of almost two years ­– has resulted in a slight identity crisis. Luckily, there’s nothing that on-line shopping, an overactive imagination and an anxious consumer personality can’t fix!

The fashion trend: Turtlenecks

The personality: “I am but a humble, serious writer, constantly pushing my tortoiseshell glasses up as I write thoughtful, serious pieces about the world.’ OR ‘I’m a young Nora Ephron, writing wry social commentary on the crazy times we live in. This outfit will suit the fringe I toy with getting for three months of every year but ultimately back out of every time. With this black turtleneck, I will finally feel like an adult/understand modern art, etc.’

The reality: I am minimum three cup sizes too large for a turtleneck and the taunts of Trinny and Susannah’s “SHELF BOOB” will haunt me forever. Counterpoint: the great part of interviewing mostly via Zoom these days is that people only ever get to see the top 1/3 of a turtleneck, which is the chicest part. Can just look like a floating head Cluedo character for all eternity. *adds to cart*

The fashion trend: Monotone

The personality: “I am Kerry Washington slaying bad people in Scandal or, at the very least, one of the side characters who was occasionally useful. I can totally pull off full-scale camel tone, because my complexion will miraculously become non-grey as soon as I put it on. A fully cream outfit? Sure! My body would just know not to menstruate on the days I wear this. With this look, people will ask themselves, ‘Is she just a little bit French?’”

The reality: I have the preferred colour palette of a child and no amount of growing up will change this. Plus, my period is vicious and surprising enough to power through an all-black outfit even on a good day, so anything pale is out. Bought one cream jumper, only to realise afterwards that it’s dry clean only and I’m going to be hand-washing it in my bathtub every winter weekend from now until eternity, after I inevitably spill soup on it. Still – chic?

The fashion trend: Matching tracksuits

The personality: “As a CREATIVE, it’s perfectly fine for me to attempt to wear elevated loungewear as a workwear staple because people will look at my slouchy tracksuit and think, ‘boy, she probably writes content for the internet, doesn’t she?’”

The reality: Well I bought a flamingo pink sweatsuit, didn’t I. Turns out that you can’t just emulate Tracee Ellis Ross simply by trying to recreate her wardrobe and in fact, you just turn up at your local supermarket look like someone who would have been eliminated from Squid Games, round one (very comfy though).

The fashion trend: Oversized layers

The personality: “Oh, I just rolled out of bed and threw this on? I think it’s my boyfriend’s? I don’t know, I found it next to my bed and it just happened to be the most artfully loose, fall-off-the-shoulder sexy sweatshirt? Or it’s a comically oversized coat that makes me look like a tiny little fairy doll because I am so petite.”

The reality: My equally child-bearing-hipped friend and I used to have a rule about fashion and that rule was: Is this stylish, or does it just look good on very thin young people? Most fashion trends fit snugly (smugly?) into this definition, to be honest. And yes, the oversized look is meant for those who think a size L is oversized (it’s not). Still, it lends itself better to this body than the cropped trend and any trend that embraces a giant hoody gets the A+ from me (see above, tracksuit).

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