rogue

'I've spent 30 years not knowing how to dress. Here's what I learnt when I asked for help.'

Ever since I was a child, I've had no idea how to dress. 

Perhaps it was a side effect of being a twin (with younger twin brothers) and Mum therefore having precisely no time to think about what anyone was wearing. If we had shoes on, it was a bonus. 

I discovered recently that Mum let Nan cut our bowl cuts. Ffs. Image: Supplied. My earliest feelings about clothes were that they were itchy and mostly inconvenient for whatever activity I was doing.  

I also remember dreading mufti days in primary school because I knew I wouldn't be wearing what everyone else was, solely because I didn't know how to... find that information. Perhaps you were supposed to be looking at your peers on the weekends or taking note of what people on the television were wearing but I DON'T KNOW because I never did it? And I'd always turn up wearing weird corduroy pants that weren't in and had never been in. 

Where did Mum even buy them.

While I've always been in the fortunate position of being able to walk into most shops and find something that technically fits, that didn't make my fashion decisions any easier. Being absurdly short meant that the default items like jeans and dresses were the trickiest to find. 

I also had no taste, so. 

At least my sister was a fashion pioneer (she wasn't). Image: Supplied. As I got older, puberty happened and boobs made dressing even more difficult. I didn't want anyone to look at them but covering them up was disarmingly unflattering. I was also handed the awkwardness of boobs and hips with a completely flat bum, so precisely every item of clothing I put on was confused.

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Fast forward to turning 30 and I've made absolutely no progress in the clothes department. I mean, I guess I've liked some things I've worn over the years but most days I'm fairly certain I'm dressing... incorrectly. According to any and all standards.

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Last year, I realised I didn't actually mind being in lockdown for several months solely because I didn't have to think about what to wear. 

But now I've returned to the office, I'm going out again on weekends, there are fancy events like weddings and birthdays and baby showers, and I simply can no longer deal with looking like a foot.

So I asked for help. 

And honestly people's enthusiasm to give me advice could potentially be interpreted as rude but whatever. 

Here's what I learnt:

1. Know your uniform

Mamamia's Head of Lifestyle and fashion expert Tamara Davis told me the key to dressing well is having a go-to idea of what suits you, or "an equation that works to fall back on". 

Knowing that I'm lazy, she pointed out that dresses are a bonus because they're one decision. For my shape, she suggested "styles that hit above the knee and cinch in to frame your shape". 

At first I was skeptical, because although Tamara is also a short human, she's been known to pull off this:

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And on a related note, this:

While I'm turning up to the office like this: 

That's... inappropriate. For the... workplace. 

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Tamara suggested a short safari dress, like the below from Bec + Bridge (acknowledging this one is on the expensive side and there are more affordable versions out there), or a linen mini dress, like the below from AERE

Safari Sun Mini Dress, Bec + Bridge. Image: The Iconic.  

Linen Mini Dress With Tie Sides, AERE. Image: The Iconic. 

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Both of which I've ordered online, and yeah, I'll be reporting back immediately. 

But part of my 'uniform', Tamara said, should probably be jeans. "As a short gal I always find cropped jeans or pants more flattering, it's an optical illusion thing. Jeans that pool at the ankle can make it look like your pants don't fit you," she said. 

So look. I went on an adventure.

I decided I shan't be doing skinny jeans anymore because a) a stylish person at work said they aren't cool anymore, and b) they make my legs itchy. 

So I took Tamara's advice, and went shopping. First, the fails:

HAHAHAHA. The shape. The uneven rips (which let cold air in??) The absurdly high waist. Image: Supplied. 

Not it. Image: Supplied. 

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When they're not too baggy in the leg but then don't do up at the waist. Image: Supplied. Then finally, I found them. The perfect non-skinny, comfortable jeans, that I could roll up for a cropped look. And they were goddamn $99. 

Simple. Lazy. Comfy. Image: Supplied. 

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The brand is Thrills and while I can't find my exact pair online, they have a bunch of other good jeans here. 

Tamara said my uniform could probably involve:

"A simple grey marle or white knit (try Uniqlo!) to wear back with your little skirts; a pair of cropped fitted blue or grey jeans, a few basic tees and blouses you can throw on with them, a shell-like jacket or 'shacket' (wears like an overshirt, doesn't try too hard but still adds polish), and some short dresses you can dress up or down."

And I've got the jeans now, so I'm pretty much a fashion guru. 

2. Shapes and fabric

When I yelled into my Instagram that I couldn't dress, I was contacted by a lovely stylist named Anika Walker, who made me a personalised 13 minute video with tips and also specific items for me to buy?? HOW are women so absurdly helpful?

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Yes, I've ordered several of them. Yes, I've had these shapes in mind when I've been shopping since. 

Walker's biggest tips for me were: 

- An open neckline minimises the bust

- Opening up that area also creates height, and elongates the chest and neck, which is helpful when you're barely five feet tall

- Think of a dress as a building block, that you can add accessories to

- Go for a small-width, fine belt to create shape

- Avoid too much fabric

- Go for dresses that cut above the knee, unless it has a split to show a flash of leg

- Avoid boyfriend blazers, and go for more tailored styles with a button to cinch in the waist

I had these rules in mind when I chose what to wear to my sister's book launch recently, and settled on a Zimmermann dress I'd bought years ago and only worn once. 

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I LIKE RULES. Image: Supplied.

RULES. Image: Supplied.

Did I remember to iron the dress? No, not really. But I followed some of Anika's rules and therefore it wasn't a complete disaster. 

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3. Take risks

This is the bit I struggle with the most. 

I'm risk-averse generally, so when it comes to clothes, if I see something slightly bold and out there, I avoid it at all costs. But some of the best things I've worn have been items I didn't want to try on in the first place. Or items I had no role in choosing.

In response to my call-out for fashion help, Lou from Maybe Mazie sent me a dress she designed specifically for me. With my goddamn personality in mind. 

My. God. Image: Supplied.

At first, I thought mustard and spots would be too much on me, and the length was slightly longer than what I typically go for.

But then I tried it on. 

It's... perfect. Image: Supplied.

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Yes maybe I left the tag on for the video which was silly of me. 

BUT. 

It's a lesson that you don't necessarily know what suits you. And other people (for example, experts and stylists and designers) have a much better idea. 

When you trust them, the results can be pretty impressive. 

While my journey is definitely ongoing, I've learnt to ask questions, to trust people's advice, to simplify my wardrobe (a uniform is the dream), and to take risks. 

Sometimes, however, I still can't quite decide. Like with this dress from Bec + Bridge, that I tried on for a friend's hens. 

Eh? Image: Supplied.

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...Oh. Image: Supplied.

That's why it's a journey. That's probably never-ending. 

But the biggest lesson is to never, ever allow Mum to dress me. Because she's a troll. 

You can continue to follow my fashion journey over at my Instagram, where I've got a saved stories thingy with all the clothes I've tried so far. 

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