This is a personal post about how I finally found my style. A style that I love and a style that suits me. It took a long time to get there, but I found it and here is my story.
As a kid, my parents were farmers and, as all farmers do, they did it real tough. We typically received just one new outfit each year at Christmas and I grew up mostly in second hand clothes. But I didn’t mind at all. Actually, when the neighbours brought over a big bag of clothes (from their kids who were a few years older than us) it was exciting! I pretty much lived in shorts and tshirts and wore whatever I was given. I really wasn’t fussed about what I wore at all.
When I reached Secondary School, everything changed. My close friends from Elementary School went of to a different school than me, pubity hit, and the kids at school got meaner. I was teased for wearing second hand, non-brand named clothing and for wearing braces on my teeth; I really struggled to just fit in overall. These years of school were hard. There was so much pressure to be cool and fashionable. Everything had to be either Billabong, Ripcurl, or Quicksilver and for us, these items was overpriced and unaffordable. I was ever so thankful that we could wear the school uniform to school each day and I almost had an anxiety attack each time a casual day (no uniform required) was announced at school. I had no style. Outside of school, I mostly wore either jeans or sporty clothes (shorts, t-shirt, runners) as I played netball and tennis on a weekly basis.
At the age of 19, I left Australia and flew to London to begin my training to work on cruise ships. At this point, I had never really experimented with fashion or makeup. It was in London that I was taught about applying makeup, styling my hair, and how to dress nicely. My English room mate was a complete fashionista and arrived with a huge suitcase full of amazing outfits; this was a real eye-opener for me. During my first ship contract, my wonderful spa colleagues highlighted my hair for the first time and gave me my first beauty treatments. I went shopping throughout North and Central America and began to realise that the rest of the world wasn’t completely surf-wear-obsessed like Australia seemed to be during my teenage years. My confidence was growing and my sense of style began to develop. I began wearing brighter colours and some basic makeup on a daily basis.
In my mid-twenties, I became a student again, studying a business administration course. After graduating, I obtained my first administration position at a high profile private school in Sydney. At this point my style changed again and I began to dress more corporate-like on a daily basis. Making this extra effort made me feel more professional and presentable at work. My style was mostly skirts or suit trousers with a nice top and heels. Always heels. My makeup and hair was always done, with accessories to match.
By my 30th birthday, I was suddenly the mother of a one year old daughter and a two week old son. I had put on about 15kgs and my whole body shape had changed. Suddenly, I had this belly, my hips were wider, and due to the overall weight gain, I no longer felt comfortable in my cute little work outfits (plus as I was on maternity leave, I had no where to wear them to!). It hurt to wear high heels, so flats it was. I also breastfed both of our children for 12 months each, so this also meant my boobs were constantly changing. As my pre-baby clothes no longer fit, I wore maternity clothes and ugly nursing bras for three years straight. My whole image changed and although I was eternally grateful to be a mother of two beautiful babies, I was no longer happy with how I looked. The self-confidence that I had managed to build up during my 20s had vanished.
With a little exercise, I was able to loose some of the baby weight, but ultimately I had to accept the fact that my body shape had changed permanently. It was also around this time that we moved to the Netherlands. Due to both the fact that I owned no non-maternity clothes that fit, plus the extreme weather and style differences in Europe, I needed a new wardrobe and my style needed to change. I went out and bought a few pairs of new jeans and a couple of new tops. I remember that the shift from maternity pants to new jeans that fit was a big step for me at that time, but I still wasn’t all that happy with how they looked on me. I had somehow lost my sense of self and didn’t know which direction to go next.
After taking two years off and wearing jeans daily (an easy option when you are a busy mum of two kids under two!), I then began working again. Once again my style needed to shift from casual to business. I bought a few pairs of neat trousers and some nice tops. However, soon I began to realise that I felt and looked better in dresses, rather than trousers/jeans. In the Summer on weekends, I began wearing structured summer dresses and maxi dresses. These dresses hid the areas I was self-conscious about and accentuated the areas I was still happy with. I loved wearing dresses and began investing in dresses that were more professional looking so that I could also wear them to work. Wrap dresses were a fave of mine as they were so comfortable and easy. Then i realised that I could continue to wear some of my dresses throughout the Winter if I added thermal leggings, warm boots and a cardigan or blazer. By my mid-thirties, I was pretty much wearing dresses all year round.
I then discovered vintage inspired dresses! In 2015, I fell completely in love with one particular blue swing dress that I had spotted on TopVintage.nl. I ordered it for a wedding that I was about to attend and this was the beginning of my love for this style. The dress was so comfortable and fitted me in all the right places (this is the dress I am wearing in my ‘Kristen in Clogland’ profile photo taken by the talented Katinka Tromp in Rotterdam!). I was completely hooked. This first order from TopVintage and all the subsequent ones (not to mention the photo shoot!) were what helped me take the final step to find both a style I love and most importantly, my confidence from within.
Over the past two years, I have invested in more 1940s-50s vintage-inspired dresses and I wear them daily; to work and on the weekends. When my friends or colleagues tell me that I have inspired them to wear dresses more often, it makes my heart sing! I am finally at a place where I can say that I have found my style.
Now I know that what you wear shouldn’t matter all that much and I am certainly not one to judge (after being teased myself as a kid for what I wore), But I must say that if you wear things that you adore, you will look and feel better overall! The positive and approachable energy you give off when you smile and feel comfortable with the image you are presenting is so valuable. There is a dress out there for every occasion, shape and size ladies, so go for it! Take the plunge, find a dress you love, and buy it for yourself. You will instantly feel better the moment you put it on.