Hannah's excessive collection of excessive shoesHannah Drayton with permission for Varsity

For those intending to climb a mountain, it’s very important that their clothes be fit for purpose, but when all I have to do is sit in a café and “work” (read: chat shit with a friend but with our laptops open so it totally counts as work, right..?) and maybe venture to a lecture or two, does it really matter if my outfit is wildly impractical?

Impractical clothes, like flared trousers in the rain, present undeniable challenges (cue sad, damp ankles all day long), but isn’t the essential function of fashion the way it makes us feel? Without my towering platforms, I don’t feel like myself. If I walk down the street without excessive noise from my boots, was I ever really there? Flat shoes make me feel less put-together and alert, as though I didn’t finish getting dressed in the morning. This may be connected to the fact that, as someone who’s 4’11, a height boost and a confidence boost often go hand in hand. It consistently surprises me how much of a difference it makes to address someone from somewhere nearer eye level as opposed to below shoulder height. Moreover, wearing heels alters the way you walk, and almost forces you to assume a Carrie-Bradshaw-strutting-down-5th-Avenue type of character that cannot help but imbue you with a level of self-assuredness that persists throughout the day.

“Putting on fun outfits, with no specific purpose, enforced my sense of identity”

It was during lockdown that I fully began to appreciate what a difference choosing to put effort into my clothes made to how I felt. Sure, I could wear the same hoodie and trackies for days (and definitely did for at least the first month), but I would feel increasingly more like a slug than a person. Taking the time to dress well, do my makeup, and wear my favourite platforms set a better tone for the day, even if all I could do was go for a brief stroll around the block. Putting on fun outfits, with no specific purpose, enforced my sense of identity. Crafting fun and unusual outfits gave a sense of structure and purpose to my days; no longer a mere practical necessity, getting dressed each day became something to look forward to. The cycle between pyjamas and “actual person clothes” distinguished moments of rest and productivity. Soon I ended up being more efficient during the day, and more capable of actually switching off and relaxing when I was done.

This is of course not to say that “practical” clothes (i.e. ones that perform a particular role, like keeping you warm and comfortable) cannot be fulfilling, or indeed that there should be some pressure to dress in extremes every single day. However, I find that choosing to wear something wholly unnecessary (like excessive accessories and layers, or jeans that are only comfortable when I’m standing up, or shoes that are liable to snap my ankle at any moment) for the sole reason that it makes me happy, is an act of self-care. It is a way of inserting more joy, whimsy, and confidence into my everyday life; it is a statement to myself that value is not solely determined by utility, but that something can simply be interesting and fun to deserve a place in my wardrobe and in my life.

“I find that choosing to wear something wholly unnecessary for the sole reason that it makes me happy, is an act of self-care”

There is of course the argument (made very successfully by Ria Patel) that dressing for comfort should be your priority since it makes you, shockingly enough, more comfortable and spares you the energy in the mornings. I cannot honestly claim that I have never showed up to the library wearing my oldest, baggiest trackies and a random jumper, or in a basic t-shirt with a standard pair of jeans. Somedays you just don’t feel like putting the extra effort in, and there is nothing wrong with keeping your outfits simple. However, I find that on the days where I put extra thought into my outfits I’m always in a better mood. Especially when I’m busy and overwhelmed, spending a short amount of time doing something solely for my own pleasure will always be helpful. Besides, I’ll never be so ridiculously busy that I cannot spare enough time to do my skincare, get dressed, and (ideally) go for a little walk. Doing all of these things ultimately makes me less overwhelmed and more capable of actually getting on with whatever essay crisis is ruining my life.


Mountain View

We don't always need to dress our best

It is all too easy within the Cambridge sphere to get sucked into feeling like the worth of your day is determined by the volume of work completed. Perhaps I’m just feeling this more as a decrepit finalist, grappling with internship applications and the prospect of a lifetime of work, but I’m increasingly recognising the importance of reminders that there is more to life than essays and 9-5s. Wearing something just because it makes me happy is worth the extra time in the morning. It helps to shift me away from the mindset that anything other than staring at my laptop is a waste of time, and thus makes me a more well-rounded and less burnt-out version of myself. To quote Diana Vreeland: “You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody.”