Dating writers often talk about the ‘brand of you’. It’s a concept which is certainly relevant in online dating, and in the social media-driven world we live in as a whole. We’re all accustomed to self-marketing and self-promotion. We understand which sides of ourselves to highlight, and which elements to keep more quiet. Which photos to promote, and which to un-tag.
But self branding is more than social media and dating profiles. Every day when we wake up and get dressed we make conscious decisions about the way we package ourselves for the outside world.
These days, there isn’t a week that goes by when I’m not compared to Carrie Bradshaw, and yet there’s one very big difference between me and the fictional dating journalist. Our approach to fashion. When I think of Carrie, she’s wearing crazy clothes. A cropped t-shirt and a tutu. Shoes which cost thousands of dollars, and a dress shaped like a meringue. Flowers the same size as her head!
Her wardrobe stretched far beyond the normal realms of a journalist’s salary … but her approach to fashion was also unique. Because Carrie always dressed in haute couture. And in real life, that’s neither realistic nor sensible. Because we don’t all have Sarah Jessica Parker’s figure (or bank balance!).
For me, personally, first date ‘fashion’ is less about the fashion, and more about me. Because as far as I’m concerned, dating success and self-confidence come hand in hand, and in order to feel confident in what I’m wearing, it needs to suit me … not just be fashionable.
As a child, it can be easy to think you have to have everything you see in magazines. And to assume that just because something is fashionable, it looks great on everyone (or anyone!). It’s funny how the older you get, the more you realise how sensible your parents’ advice was when you a child! And yet without fail, you need to learn the lessons by making your own mistakes. Realising what actually suits you can take years to properly discover! I look back at pictures of me throughout the years, and see all my fashion, hair and make-up mistakes! The bowl cut my Dad spent hours trying to convince me out of (which then took me years to grow out!), the AWFUL sun-in lemon juice infected orange hair I managed to create in my teens. Purple eyeshadow, poke straight hair, fake tans, fake nails ….
It took me years to get here, but as an adult one of the things I love most is that I feel like I finally understand what suits me. Hair, make-up, clothes. They might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I’m happy with the girl I see in the mirror each day. I’ve come to terms with my figure – my assets and the things I’m less happy with – and I know how to package them all in a way which makes me most comfortable. Because I need to be comfortable in order to be confident. And I want to be confident when I’m on a date, so that I’m the best version of me.
With that in mind, over the years my wardrobe has developed with two main focal points. Clothing which embodies my personality, but which also suits my figure. Yes, there are looks which I love on other people, and when I’m flicking through magazines … but I know they won’t suit my body shape, and in turn, I know I’ll feel uncomfortable wearing them. I know not everyone feels the same way – Lena Dunham for example seems to thrive on appearing in magazines for wearing clothes completely unsuited to her figure, however in reality I don’t think most of us have that unshakeable self-confidence.
And so, over the years, along with understanding that I don’t need non-existent eyebrows, or bleached blonde highlights, I’ve also come to recognise which clothes showcase my better assets, and disguise the parts of my body I’m less comfortable with, so that I feel at my most confident on a date.
Last month I went to a dating event run by Nadia Essex, as part of the judging for the UK Dating Awards. One of the best pieces of advice I heard all night was from the stylist Lewis-Duncan Weedon. He told the girls attending that you should always wear clothes which fit you properly, no matter the size of the label. If the label size isn’t one you’re happy with, then cut it out. No one else can see it – but ill-fitting clothing is less flattering than a dress size.
Every week on 30 Dates our resident Sian Miller gives you ideas for date outfits for different types of dates. And I’m obviously not completely against fashion, else I would never have asked her to write for the blog – but what I would suggest is to use her suggested outfits to pick the items that you like. The items which suit your personality and your body! Personally, I’m a complete style magpie. I was notorious in my old office for walking past people in the corridor and blurting out ‘I love your necklace!’ or ‘I love your shirt!’. I wasn’t being disingenuous – I just love picking out parts of outfits that I think look good.
We all have different ideas about what’s important. Whilst some of my friends spend large amounts of money on designer clothes or high heels, I’m a big fan of jewellery and handbags, and so I will spend far more on accessories than on my actual clothes. Often I’ll buy something cheap and nondescript and then jazz it up with expensive jewellery.
I often joke that I only ever wear polkadots on dates (and you’ll see that’s all cartoon Miss Twenty-Nine ever wears!) but there are careful reasons behind my wardrobe decisions. I have boobs and a bum, and the I know my lower legs are more flattering than the tops of my legs. And so I wear 50s style dresses which suit my curves. I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to wear low cut clothing to highlight that you’ve got a decent cleavage! And the girly feel suits my personality, as do the fun bolder colours and prints. I’m a girly girl, with a flat full of butterflies and bunting, and I like that my wardrobe full of floral patterns and polkadots matches that side of my personality. Likewise, I’m not too fussed about adding extra height with high heels, and prom dresses look nice with ballet pumps, and cardigans (two other items I wear regularly). In winter I change the prom dresses for thicker long sleeve dresses, but with a similar skirt length and shape, and the ballet pumps for knee-high leather boots and tights.
It’s not a dating uniform as such. It’s just a wardrobe of clothes which I feel happy, and confident and ME in … so those are the clothes I reach for when I’m heading out on a date, and want to showcase the real me.
So next time you go on a date, by all means check out our First Date Fashion features for ideas, but also have a think about what suits you. What clothes make you happy. Which outfits highlight your best assets, and disguise any parts you’re less confident about. And above all – an outfit which showcases the real you! If that unwittingly means you end up developing your own dating uniform, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – there are already enough things to panic about in the lead up to a date with someone you really fancy … why add what to wear to that list?!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx