Bubble Rap: Susie Lau on dressing up when you’re feeling down

·3-min read
 (ES Magazine)
(ES Magazine)

Radio 4 used to be my respite, a safe space of soothing dulcet tones, news delivered gently without trigger-warning footage and factoids that I never knew I needed to know. When I finally fixed the kitchen radio and settled down to an hour of needlessly fiddly cooking (I’ve had people AROUND sitting at a TABLE using real NAPKINS — this is officially a post-house-move achievement, by the way) soundtracked by R4, I proceeded to count the word ‘crisis’ 20 times, closely followed by ‘Truss’ and ‘recession’.

The doom-gloom combination of these words, that were drummed into us by the media and have now begun to feel like a reality, have sent me and many others into a post-summer back-down-to-earth landing. And so to talk about stuff that seems far from essential in this week’s fashion special — when people face losing the ability to keep themselves fed, warm and housed — will inevitably jar. But hear me out.

Let’s nix the word fashion and just talk about clothes. Something you really wear, rather than something that’s lofty and consigned to catwalks. I’m not talking about the mere functionality of putting on a jumper to shave £320 off the heating bill. I’m thinking of the gestures that you turn to when you’re wearing pieces that are weathered but not broken. I’m looking to the power of a piece of clothing that really shields you when you’re trudging to the supermarket and baulking at penne price hikes. It could be the cosy, comforting knit that is threatening to birth thumb holes but that’s okay and you won’t be darning them back up. A coat with deep pockets where you really thrust your hands in with determination to ignore phone notifications for a while. A puffer with a collar that you pull up around your neck (and possibly your ears) when you’re on a grim bus ride with irate drivers.

Put it down to half a lifetime spent devoted to the subject of clothing oneself, but I’m particularly attached to items that really do boost me mentally. The Samuel Guì Yang black jacket (a designer whose studio was a stone’s throw away from my old house in Seven Sisters) built with what my partner calls ‘power bitch shoulders’, in which I efficiently huff through haranguing phone calls to companies with intolerable hold music — ie anything with saxophones in it (looking at you, NatWest).

There’s the very old Comme des Garçons trench coat that reminds me of trawling through second-hand shops in Tokyo. It’s a hybrid of a classic rain trench for serious Zoom calls up top, but then there’s the sheer ruffled train that crumples up like an old lady nightgown on the bottom. If you’re walking behind me, I basically look pro up top and dishevelled down below, which summarises my state of mind right now.

Beyond me-against-world dressing, I could preach the benefits of a needlessly decadent dress worn around the house for no reason other than having your cat/dog or partner/child look at you like you’re deranged. I’m personally a fan of being unnecessarily overdressed. In lockdown, my wardrobe became a place of solace, even as it mocked me with its quantity of fancy things that had no real place to go. But you’ll be forgiven if your wardrobe doesn’t consist mainly of flammable lamé, snaggable tinsel and slippery satin. Still, rather than getting dressed by scraping the ‘What’s clean?’ remnants off the floor, I recommend turning to the fancy things hanging in drycleaning bags and thinking of better days to come.