After months of hiding away in loungewear, Ciara Sheppard celebrates the joy of getting dressed up again…
If you’re anything like me, your relationship with your clothes has probably felt a bit strained of late.
With the global pandemic having turned our world on its head, you could be forgiven for thinking that that your clothing choices aren’t such a big deal in the scheme of things.
However, I’d argue that cultivating a wardrobe that makes you feel good is now more important than ever.
Not only do our clothes act as a kind of armour, helping us to front up to times of stress and anxiety, they also form an important part of our sense of self.
Losing touch with that part of your personality can feel strange and alienating, particularly at a time when the world has become a very strange and alien place.
At the start of this year I made a ridiculously good purchase - a mini dress that fell a few inches above the knee with little palm trees dotted all over it.
I picked it up at a boutique shop, thinking it would be ideal for a holiday, and when I tried it on, I felt fantastic.
Even in the changing room, I could tell the dress had changed my demeanour – shoulders back, twirling for photos to send to my friends.
I really loved it.
Two weeks later, in late March, Boris Johnson declared the UK was going into lockdown as the world grappled with one of the most catastrophic global crises of generations.
My little shopping trip suddenly felt painfully frivolous, and there wasn’t much chance of my new dress getting an outing any time soon.
At first, the prospect of an indeterminate amount of time working from home seemed like a novelty, and I was silently thrilled about spending my time in tracksuit bottoms.
However, it wasn’t long before I found myself feeling less energetic, less confident and less like me.
It would be a bit of an understatement to say I find joy in fashion - if something catches my eye in a shop window, I’ll completely forget whatever I was meant to be doing to go and get a closer look.
More than that though, I’ve realised that the clothes I choose are heavily linked to my identity and confidence.
I look back at photos of myself from as recently as a few years ago and cringe.
It’s painfully obvious from my expression and my body language that I didn’t feel confident in what I was wearing.
I was too concerned with what was fashionable and never really thought about what I actually felt good in.
I’m a firm believer that confidence starts from within, but I also think that what you wear can act as a buffer to those niggling moments of self-doubt.
Now, If I have a job interview coming up or a party to go to where I know only one person on the guest list, my outfit choice helps quell about 70% of my fears before I even get there.
If I know I’m wearing an amazing blazer (I have a velvet black one that always gives me a sense of power), I feel sparkier, braver and more willing to mingle.
It’s the same with the perfect pair of jeans – I recently found my dream fit with a pair from Tu clothing that feel like a second skin.
They go with pretty much anything, and whenever I have them on, I feel at ease with myself.
That’s not a feeling we should downplay.
During lockdown, I missed how my clothes made me feel.
The longer it went on, the more my self-esteem felt like it was crumbling away like the over-baked banana breads plastered all over my Insta feed.
This shouldn’t have been a surprise.
There have actually been studies that prove that the way you dress can have a massive impact on how you feel – something scientists call ‘enclothed cognition’.
Professor Karen J. Pine writes in her book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion: “When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it.”
It seemed this was true of my new loungewear uniform – I felt tired, uninspired and my mood was as grey-coloured as my over-worn tracksuit bottoms.
Then at the seven-week mark, my friend Emily threw a Zoom quiz for her birthday with the dress code being ‘dress to impress’.
Sequins and red lipstick on, it was the best I’d felt in weeks, which makes sense - I felt like I was presenting as myself again, or at least the person I want to be.
According to Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and director of Private Therapy Clinic, many people have been going through the same over the past six months.
“During the pandemic, our behaviours changed regarding how we dressed and how we presented ourselves to the world,” says Spelman.
“People can lose confidence when they don’t feel the need to groom or style themselves as they would normally.”
Flash-forward to September, and a tentative sense of normalcy is returning.
I might not be back in the office just yet, but I can dress up for a socially-distanced drink with my girlfriends and feel like I’m rebuilding that sense of myself I couldn’t quite recognise during lockdown.
“We may have anxieties about reintegrating as the world reopens, and the way we look can provide us with a safety net,” says Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.
This is why our wardrobes are more important now than they’ve ever been.
As we continue to walk into the unknown, our clothes can help us preserve sense of normality, the idea that we can be who we want to be, no matter what’s going on in the world around us.
If you ask me, that’s something you can’t put a price on.
Dress well, feel good with Tu clothing. No matter your shape, size, style or budget, you’ll find an outfit to boost your mood and leave you feeling good in the clothes you wear. Shop the collection here.