Hitting my early 50s and losing my job were two key reasons for me to reassess my wardrobe.
I have always loved clothes and over the years have bought lots of them. Whenever I started a new job, colleagues would swear that after 6 months I still had not worn the same outfit twice. This wasn't strictly true but, if I'm honest, probably not far off!
Whilst people thought I looked smart in the office, I couldn't wait to get home and change out of my workwear because my clothes were so uncomfortable. For years I had just assumed that if clothes were ‘smart' then they had to be uncomfortable. It took me launching a womenswear range to know that the discomfort came from the poor fit, not the structure, of the clothing.
Since launching Distinctively Me in 2016 I have realised that most women just accept a poor fit when it comes to their clothes. At best they will get the length altered on a pair of trousers or the sleeve of a jacket, but that's as far as it goes.
With the movement against Fast Fashion, I think it's time for women to take a different approach when it comes to shopping for clothes. I certainly have and my life feels better for it.
I now understand that I am pear shaped, so I need to keep the clothes I wear on my bottom half simple and clean, whilst adding detail and volume to my top half.
At only 5' 3" standard fits are too long for me but a petite range is not the answer as I have a long body and short legs. I can't buy tailored trousers from a Petite range as I have a long rise so they are even more uncomfortable than standard sizing (which are too long!). Like most women, I really struggle with trousers as my short legs mean that the shape or detail on the leg usually ends up being cut off through alterations.
Skirts and dresses are also a problem. Being pear shaped means that if a skirt fits on my hips, it is too big at the waist. Over the years I have bought so many pencil skirts as I love the shape of them, they're such an elegant silhouette on a woman's body. But I've never felt very elegant when the skirt swirls around my body and I struggle to walk as the length is wrong for my proportions. The problem with dresses is the top will be too big and the waist will be too high. A problem for most women I suspect.
They key to unlocking style is to find clothes that you will wear time and time again because they're comfortable and they make you feel fabulous. But what are the elements to finding those timeless pieces?
1. Find the styles that suit your body shape and personality and stick to them. Knowing what suits you and flatters your body is so liberating!
2. Get the perfect fit. Whether that's finding a shop with a standard sizing block that fits your body or buying made to measure for your key pieces.
3. Buy the best fabric you can afford. Quality fabric is more forgiving, drapes better, feels fabulous against your skin, and it will last. I have definitely been someone who loves a bargain and I have assessed that on the price I pay. I had no concept of cost per wear, but this has completely changed how I think.
The lightbulb moment for me in starting Distinctively Me was the 6 pairs of black trousers hanging in my wardrobe, varying in price from £35 to £200. I didn't love any of them. That's because none of them fitted me!
The first thing I had made from the Distinctively Me range was a pair of cigarette trousers in black suiting. I've had then for about 3 years and I think I have probably worn them on average once a week over that time. That's a cost per wear of just over £1!
For even the cheapest of my shop buys I would have had to wear them about 30 times to match this. I think I'd be lucky if I made double digits for the number of times I'd worn the most badly fitting of my black trousers.
So rather than popping out during a lunch break when you're bored and buying something on a whim, plan out what you need in your wardrobe. Choose pieces that will make you feel great about your body. And look for pieces that can increase the wearability of some of the other clothes you already have. Consider a navy blazer that will pull so many looks together - from daytime style with jeans to over a dress for the evening.
• We wear less than half the clothes we have in our wardrobe on a regular basis
• We are buying 60% more clothes today than we did 10 years ago
• 75% of the clothes we get rid of end up in landfill rather than being donated or recycled
With some easy to follow rules, maybe now is the time for you to slow down your fashion habits and get on the fast-track to style.