Last week while I was scrolling through old posts and doing all those maintenance things, like fixing broken links and images and updating out of date bits, I found an old post I’d written about how my personal style had evolved over the previous 5 years. It charted my progression from being miserable in a job I hated, to being a full-fledged “vintage” blogger complete with wet set hair and a huge collection of red lipsticks.
I remembered writing it, what I didn’t remember was that it was already 5 years old! Yes, since I first had a look back and charted the evolution of my personal style over the last 5 years I’ve managed to get a whole 5 years older.
So I thought that sounded like a perfect opportunity to take another look back over the past 5 years and see how I’ve changed and how many more wrinkles I have round my eyes now than I did when I was 32. Starting in the year I wrote that first post, 2011.
2011 was right at the height of the “vintage” boom and I was into it in a big way. All my years of obsession with Poirot and my childhood determination to make rosehip jam from a WWII recipe book and then I finally discovered a whole world of people who still knew how to do their hair like that.
I also learnt that if you had the guts you could walk down the street like it too. My inner 11 year old, the one that wanted a satchel for school instead of a rucksack, liked wearing a blazer and was only sad that her school uniform didn’t include a hat, was delighted.
In 2011 I had bright red hair and a vintage midi cut, I wet set my hair once or twice a week, and on the other nights I would roll it back up with curl creme and go to bed in a hair net. I wore stockings and suspenders almost every day. The fancy dress side of me just loved that I looked like I’d stepped out of the pages of a fashion history book. If you’d have asked me in 2011 I’d have been pretty sure I had reached the zenith of my style evolution and would be dressing exactly like this forever.
This was the year I set up Vintage Norwich and started organising workshops with the Historical Sauces.
2012 was a bit of a transition year. It started off very vintage, but it was the year I started running, and by the end of the year I had stripped the red from my hair and had it cut into a bob. I was still wet setting it occasionally, but not as often.
My outfits still look pretty “vintage” but my personal style had started to edge towards being a little more casual by the end of the year.
That was the year I teamed up with other local vintage sites to create the Vintage City Network, but it was also the year I started feeling that little frisson of irritation with the proliferation of “vintage” tea shops with mismatched china and developed a phobia of cupcakes and bunting, because I knew there was more to vintage than Cath Kidston fabrics and the 50s.
This was the year I started Roller Derby, and the year I realised vintage curls weren’t compatible with helmets and largely started wearing my hair straight. In 2013 I experimented with pastel hair, introduced a lot more lycra to my wardrobe and started buying bold prints and funky tights.
I see the vintage inspiration in these looks, but also a rediscovering of the joys of modern fashions and shopping and a bit more of that boldness creeping back in.
It was finding that boldness and the desire to stand out that got me started on wearing a full on vintage look in the first place. As it got more and more mainstream I think I, along with a lot of other vintage ladies, started finding inspiration in other places, whether that was other decades or other styles. What can I say, we like to stand out.
This year I also wrote about how I was sick of vintage nostalgia and tired of the good old days, and I think part of the gradual move away from a more authentic vintage look was spurred by a desire not to be associated with all that terrible snobbery.
I remember starting 2014 entirely sick of my whole winter wardrobe. I was bored of it and couldn’t find anything to wear, ever. But by the end of the year I was pretty happy with my look.
I think I did a fair bit of shopping and novelty prints started to feature in a big way. In 2014 I also seem to have discovered a love for stilettos that I had previously abandoned in favour of more authentic vintage block heels and shoes that had languished unloved for years made a reappearance. I also decided to sod pastels and dyed my hair bright pink and purple.
2014 was definitely my colourful year.
For much of 2014 I was injured with a sprained ankle, but it was definitely the year that Roller Derby took over my life, and it was the year that I played my first (and second and third!) Roller Derby games. It was also the first Norwich Cocktail Week.
And suddenly it’s 2015 and that’s just last year!
I lost 2 stone last year, it was weight I’d put on while injured mostly, and that had a big impact on my style in 2 ways. One was that I felt more confident to try different styles, like cropped tops and shorter skirts, and the other was that I actually did a lot of rummaging in the bottom of my wardrobe and pulling out clothes I hadn’t worn in a while.
I had a fringe cut in and actually stayed blonde for a whole year. I also spent a lot of 2015 in lycra as that weight loss came from being very dedicated to my exercise program! When I got the chance to dress up I can see a bit of a more Rockabilly influence in my vintage styles, but also quite a few more “classic” looks, with less of the super bright colours, maybe it was the hair making me feel like a grown up?
Over the last 5 years my style has changed, I’m still wearing some of the same clothes, just maybe in a slightly different way. I’ve gone from full on vintage, through to more of a mix of vintage inspiration with modern styles.
Now it’s 2016 and I can already feel that I’ve started the year with a little niggling feeling of wardrobe dissatisfaction that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’ve already bought both a mini skirt and my first ever pair of skinny jeans, as well as casting a thoughtful eye at a pair of over the knee boots, so who knows where I’ll end up in the next 5 years!
I’ve always loved clothes. When I was little I used to commandeer the Princess outfit from the Play School dressing up box and refuse to take it off. As I’ve grown up I think I’ve always thought of my wardrobe mostly as one big dressing up box. Clothes aren’t just to keep you warm and legal, they’re an expression of your interests and your personality. They announce to the world who you are. You can blend into the background or stand out.
Personal style is an ever evolving thing. At different times of our life different looks will suit our purposes better. We might find shapes and colours that work for us, but the details can change. Just because you choose a style doesn’t mean you have to stick with it forever. Never let anyone else dictate what you should or shouldn’t be wearing and don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s fun to keep people guessing!