The disciplined drip of dopamine has never done it for me. When I find something pleasurable I have a propensity to take it too far, until I have little choice but to stop. That’s why I am approaching a decade sober, is the reason I have had to reluctantly put a succession of electrifying but terrible men into the deep freeze and why I must swerve the sweet aisle at Waitrose. Moderation and me? Nope, not happening.
But bad habits are a game of Whac-A-Mole: bash one down and there’s a new one ready to take its place. And so, over the past year I found my all-or-nothing mentality creep into my wardrobe. As with all bad habits, it started off innocuously enough: with a sweater. A grey cashmere Le Kasha crewneck, gently oversized, it was the perfect slouchy knit. And so I wore it. And wore it, and wore it, until I wasn’t only wearing it almost daily but often nightly too – yes, as in to, and in, bed. I know, I know…
That sweater wasn’t the cause but the symptom of a shift into what I would call “deep casual” if I was being nice and “slovenly, adolescent lethargy” if I was being accurate. Casual isn’t bad, but predictably I took it too far, starkly illustrated when I answered the door to a neighbour at 3pm one day and they apologised for getting me out of bed. Given my unbrushed hair and bewildered expression, a fair assumption.
Embarrassed, trying to explain I hadn’t just woken up, I realised I had, perhaps, given up a bit. Besides, they weren’t entirely off. The past few years had been emotionally exhausting. I had gone through grief and heartbreak and solo lockdowns. But through it all, I got dressed – as in properly, face-the-world dressed, an advocate of the transformative joy of getting dolled up.
Then, well, it all got a bit much. Thanks to a collision of circumstances, including the London housing market and (to me) a humiliating professional snub, I ended up camped out at my parents’ house in Hampshire, freelancing and thinking “why bother?” The glamourisation of “goblin mode” – that is, unapologetically revelling in our most fetid, fugly selves – only backed me up.
But I don’t want to go through life sleepwalking. Nor, frankly, do I think I deserve to. There is something in “fake it til you make it”, and so I made the decision to get dressed each day as if I had an audience, and to rescue from my storage locker/wardrobes/parents’ loft pieces that belonged to my more go-getting self. Sitting at my kitchen table, typing away in a Chanel jacket or Balenciaga blazer might seem ridiculous, but my to-do list seems to get ticked off much quicker. Sloppy tees have been swapped for more galvanising shirting, anonymous murky-coloured puffers parked for the leopard-print Alaïa coat that always feels like a power move. I remembered, too, how emboldening a shot of red can be.
The gear shift jolted my mindset and reminded me that when you make an effort for yourself, that is when you find your real comfort zone. And as for that grey sweater? Still there, just not always there. Like I said, some habits are harder to kick than others.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.