For me, a sound style decision is like winning the lottery. Such is my indecisiveness with fashion (and just about everything), an outfit I feel proud of at say, 11am, is a momentous occasion worthy of that smug scoff and obnoxious, imaginary fist pump. I did it! I love this outfit! It’s so great. Or is it? I cop a side glance in a department store mirror (you know those ones that come at you from the kinds of angles we were never meant to see) and immediate dread washes over me. You, Madame, did not look like this front on.
But it’s not just a lovely side view of the entire contents of my carby stomach that prompts sartorial self-doubt. There are many factors involved. There’s the issue of “what if?” What if I had worn these jeans with that top? Or that top with those pants? Or, gasp, those pants with another top? An inner dialogue I reckon with on a daily basis, a million different scenarios racing ahead at full steam.
There’s the issue of garment dissatisfaction, or falling out of love. I hate this dress and I always will, so why did I give it a go? I’m too kind and generous and benevolent. Worse still is seeing someone in the same outfit – even someone on Instagram wearing the same thing. No, no, no! And function, too, is a big provocateur. Have to walk 10km from the bus stop to the office? Oh, these sky-high stilettos seem perfect! How, oh, how many times have I done this, reasoning with myself that a) I will be fine, b) they don’t really hurt that much anyway and c) the walk really isn’t that far, etc etc. It’s like my brain truly has a lapse of logic in favor of shiny, pretty and not-so practical things.
Of course, the false advertising of the “mirror” is perhaps the biggest fraudster of all, because there’s nothing quite as cruel as a nasty, unsolicited mirror angle to deflate your fashion big headedness. But when you hit the sartorial sweet spot, mirrors don’t become feared, in fact they become your best friends. Heck, you even search for them – hunting down anything remotely reflective that refracts not light but your gorgeous reflection staring back at you. Great shoes? Tick. Tight but flattering trousers? Tick! Excellently proportioned yet still puffy top? Tick, tick, tick! Narcissism it may be, but it’s a moment of style-based self-indulgence you can – and should – be afforded. Besides, a really great outfit can make your day.
But a bad outfit can break your day. It can ruin your day. It can send you off the metaphorical edge. It’s the fashion equivalent of a bad haircut, or broken down car, or, to be really dramatic, when they tell you they’ve run out of the pizza you had been thinking about all day since first cracking your eyes open at 8am.
Much like the concept of Post Purchase Dissidence, post outfit grief is real, and I for one am a sufferer. Here, the Seven Stages of Outfit Grief explained by an expert (AKA fashion editor with a case of chronic indecisiveness and dissatisfaction).
Shock and Denial
Oh, cruel fashion world. It can’t be? Leaving the house, bound to an outfit you despise for a whole day? Why, oh why, did I go full ham? Why didn’t I listen to Coco Chanel? She was right! She’s always right. Look in the mirror and take one thing off, not add seven. Surely this is some kind of sick, twisted nightmare. The recurring dream of being naked in public would be better than this. Heck, at least you don’t have to wear this insufferable ensemble. A numbness takes hold. Disbelief seeps into every crack of your body. Paralyzed with a good dose of denial, you don’t look down at that awkward Bermuda-length which is actually now a bootleg because of your shortish height and insistence on wearing trends that neither suit nor flatter you. Maybe you’re not even wearing them. That’s it! Don’t look and it didn’t even happen. It’s not happening. That’s the spirit. And if they ask why your pants are so awkwardly cut, remember these three very wise words: deny, deny, deny!
Anger and Bargaining
Next, an irrepressible anger boils, even when you try to turn off the gas. The shock is subsiding, denial is futile. It’s time to get angry. The realization that your loss is real – that yes, you have misplaced your usually impeccable style – all but hits you in the face with such force you can’t help but want to lash out or worse still, give it the style silent treatment. Highly erratic, you even begin bargaining with a higher fashion power (Karl, Coco, Anna, etc), pleading with them to grant you relief from these untoward feelings. What if I head up to the shops and buy something new and shiny and expensive instead? You ponder.
Pain and Guilt
Then, the guilt. I could have done more for you, Bottega shoe. I’m sorry. I paired you with strange slacks that do nothing but hide your well-crafted curves and slicker-than-average leather, banishing you from the world. A pain that is both emotional and physical, on the one hand, a sharp pang inside your gut at the blasphemous marriage of a spike heel and silly slacks. On the other, a burning desire to throw a shoe – this shoe even, as glorious as it is. But contain yourself, violence is not the answer. Be kind, dear self.
Depression, Reflection and Loneliness
A moment of introspection sees you moping about in a mood so morose it’s as if someone has died (well, they kind of did, your fashion sense), lamenting thy unholiest of style matrimonies. If only my super cute Loewe shorts had married someone else. Someone a little rounder up top, more voluptuous, more ample in girth so that my legs looked lean and lithe and lovely in comparison. (Remember, don’t ever undervalue the importance of proportion). Jonathan Anderson would have wanted it that way. If I happen to bump into him by chance, I will have to walk the other way. And I will, because mismatched style is basically a magnet to someone you really, really don’t want to see (ex-boyfriend, arch-nemesis, Jonathan Anderson, for example). It’s some kind of Law: thou in bad outfit shall attract thy enemy. It just happens, even if that person lives in London and you in Sydney.
Finally, a whiff, a sniff, a taste of hope. Just when you think there can’t possibly be anything good to come over you (or take from this dreadful outfit), you start to feel a little better. It may be a slight, even just a nod of appreciation to your great earrings, but better nonetheless. You’re on the incline. You’re on the mountain, facing the right way. Up.
Reconstruction and Working Through
In this moment of clarity, even in its fleeting state, you see clearly. You see a light at the end of the tunnel. You construct realistic solutions through a haze of hysteria. You flirt with logic, that handsome devil. Take off the unwieldy third layer, he whispers. Remove that strange headband. Skip the tube skirt – you’re not 15 and you’re not a blogger, he orders. With renewed hope and a rationality thus far misplaced, is this peace, at last?
Acceptance and Hope
Not quite peace, but acceptance. It may be a mere flicker of hope, or full-blown reconciliation, but you come to terms with it in some way. You feel a little less contempt, a little less denial, a little less sadness, a little less shoe-throwing anger; all of a sudden, you remember: hey, it’ll all be over soon. You can retreat, take your shoes off, throw your clothes on the floor – burn them, if you like – and start again. Because remember, there’s always tomorrow – and that means a brand new day to do it all over again.