Living in Brighton, I walk past streams of people that I recognise but don’t actually know—the woman who dresses straight out of the fifties, the man with all the piercings, the man/woman who wears full leather cat suits at the height of summer, individual people who all stand out of the crowd. Safe to say, I am not one of those people. Secretly, I have always wanted to be. Not in the leather cat suit kind of way, but I have spent years attempting to adopt a trademark- a quirky hairstyle, a recognisable style, I even experimented with a trademark ‘walk’ which was quickly faded out. No one has ever pointed at something in a shop and said ‘That is SO you!’- I want them to.
I like to think (delusional?) that I’m not a fashion disaster so I think that a large part of the problem is that I am just plain lazy- it is far easier to sling my hair up in to a ponytail or just leave it plain unbrushed than spend hours casually coiffing it. Likewise, with make-up: I have it down to a fine art of mascara and quick crayoning on of eyeliner which, at a push, I can do without a mirror.
Now, it is summer and I have bags of time, I have no excuses. More importantly I have spent forever wanting a ‘look’ without really knowing if I can a) Pull it off or b) Be bothered so it is time to commit, and for a week, I will try out a different look everyday in the hope that I will find something truly unique, and truly ‘me’.
I decided to start with what I think should be an easy introduction: hair. What is the first thing people notice about Amy Winehouse? The Hair. Which, from now on, will be my hair too- at least for a day. It should be easy. It defiantly isn’t. First I have to backcomb my hair to ‘create a bolus of hair that will act as the foundation’ for my hair to be pinned back onto. I begin, but it’s all rather painful, and I’m looking more scarecrow-esque than Amy. When I think I have succeeded I’m instructed to fold sections over it and pin it or spray it into place. I’m meant to do this until I have ‘created a freestanding mound that can maintain its shape.’ It takes a long, long time and when I am finished, not only is it lopsided in a slightly manic ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ way, but it is also so full of pins that no one could run their hands lovingly through my hair for fear of serious injury- not that they could anyway as it is a rock hard, hair spray statue. It is not a good look. Next.
I guess I better start somewhere easier. Make up then? Seeing as I do it everyday, albeit very quickly, this will be a piece of cake. Taking my inspiration from Dita Von Teese, I decide to go for the fifties look. Judging from my hair attempts, I am going to need some time, so I get up super early so that I can make it on time to meet some friends at the beach later. I cover my face in foundation and powder, I fully line my eyes, pencil my eyebrows very dark, struggle to apply false eyelashes (they stick to my fingers, my sinks, my nose, and finally my eyelids). Then the red lipstick. Lipstick scares me. It makes me feel about five years old, as though I have been allowed to play with my mother’s make up. I persevere and look like a child let loose on a pot of strawberry jam. I force myself to go out and for a while it is quite fun, like I’m in fancy dress- but soon I start having fun in the sun and forget to ‘maintain’ it. I return home, look in the mirror, and the Joker from Batman is staring back. It may be a look of sorts, but it is certainly not a winning one.
Maybe I should have started with the clothes instead. I look through my wardrobe and realise how eclectic it is- it shouldn’t be hard to pull together some ‘looks’ from this, should it? The next day, drawing my inspiration from Oxford no less, I begin with ‘geek chic’, although I am hoping that I will verge less towards the Ugly Betty end of the scale. Hello to high waist check shorts, tucked in polo shirt, braces, knee length socks and plimsoles. Topped off with some librarian glasses (clear lense) I head out. A hen party thinks I am one of them, and then swiftly realises our school uniforms aren’t quite in the same vein. I head to the library to find some fellows. Everyone is in jeans. I feel slightly alone. I take my glasses off, ping my braces and go back to start again.
I decide to be a little more grown up. The next day I try a pencil skirt, a high neck shirt, black tights, some very, very high shoes and a tonne of necklaces. I totter about for about ten minutes and then I get a heel caught in the pavement. I huff and puff, jank hard, and necklaces a jangling, I am off again. Until it happens again. I’m not very good at this.
I head onto the Internet for some inspiration. INstyle points me towards the bohemian look and I dig out a maxi dress that has not seen the light of day, some sandals, a whole load of bangles and a headband. As a look, I like it. Then I look out the window, and it is a scene reminiscent of Hurricane Hector. Fearing a duffel coat won’t quite complete the look I bravely head out anyway- within minutes my dress has soaked up so much water from the pavement that it looks distinctly tie-dyed and my sandals are causing me to do my best impression of a drunken rollerblader as I slip and slide all over the pavement. People are definitely noticing me- but only because my dress occasionally wraps itself round my ankles and I fall into them.
When I start trying to base a whole look around a hat (Oliver Twist chic?), I decide to stop. The problem is, that forcing yourself into a ‘style’ leaves you wallowing in a perpetual state of fancy dress. Style, I realise, is not about copying- and whilst I might want to stand out, replicating something I’ve seen on someone else just doesn’t work, at best it looks a little try hard and at worst, people will laugh… and point. From now on I will try a little harder, and at least, even though I haven’t found a look that is ‘me’, I know precisely what isn’t.