Outfits from my 20s

I’ve always blogged in some capacity of another. 

First there was livejournal – oh, livejournal – and then throughout my 20s a blog called From Wonderland with Love. (It’s long gone now, but there are still a few posts out there on the wayback machine, for those of you curious enough to look.)

I didn’t have much of an audience, or even do anything to promote it, but one summer I got really into sharing my outfits on a fashion site. Back then such platforms were still quite a new idea, and the role of the ‘social influencer’ was just beginning to take form. To my great surprise, I quickly and easily grew an audience.
Each month three users would be awarded a ‘style icon’ title and be sent prizes, and – quite hilariously, now looking back at these photos – I won that coveted title. I started getting some real traffic to my blog, and possibilities and ideas started opening up.

Then, I had a huge life upheaval. Split with my boyfriend, had to move out, and lived off bread and misery for the best part of a year. I couldn’t even afford wifi, never mind outfits to photograph and share, so my blog died a necessary death while I got my life back on track. I took on some work as a wedding photographer outside of my day job to make ends meet. Picking up my camera made me feel faintly sick with dread.

I never really thought of it as such, but looking back on it today, all of this was a definite precursor to what I do now. Once I’d moved in with Rory and fallen pregnant, I found a space in my life for that online activity, and a need to be creative again. And so, from there, my Instagram addiction was born.

Having recently stumbled across those outfits again, I thought I’d share some observations & thoughts.

Some observations

 

1. What a lot of tulle. And lace. And novelty hosiery. 
& actually, I’m quite glad about that. It was an era where I regularly flounced out for cupcakes in a vintage night dress on a Saturday morning, despite being painfully, achingly self-conscious. My rationale was something like – ‘everyone’s thinking horrible things about me anyway, so I might as well distract them with this SUPER PRETTY nightgown!’ Controlling people’s first impression of you is an effective, if exhausting, way to divert attention from the parts of you you’re hoping to hide. I don’t recommend it as a long term strategy, but it makes for fun shopping all the same.

2. FUN! A friend described my style as ‘urban fairy chic’ back then, & that’s a pretty good definition of me, even now – a somewhat fragile princess that got lost in the woods, and decided she kind of likes it there. Your twenties are supposed to be a time for experimentation and self expression, and I’m glad I embraced that sartorially.

3. Solid choices. For most of these outfits, I’d probably still wear them – just with a little less foof, and some more sensible tights and shoes. That said, in an attempt at wardrobe minimalism, I cleared out nearly everything a few years back, so it’s all long gone. I still have the yellow umbrella and a pair of boots, but that’s it.

4. You’re never as ugly as you think you are. I thought I was fat here – or at least, not skinny enough. I now see how ridiculous that was.

5. The power of a good photo. Fairly early on in my “fashion blogging” journey I realised that how good the photo was far more important than the actual outfit. That suited me as a) I’ve always thought in photographs, and b) I really have zero clue about fashion anyway.
I learned what worked and what didn’t in my pictures; what would get an audience response, what would make me, and therefore others, feel excited.

6. Composition. On a similar note, I look at these photos now and see the beginnings of my style of composition. I would plan whole outfit concepts including the backdrop and go out and shoot them specifically. I learned how to pose, how to compose an image, how to direct someone else behind the camera, and edit a bit here and there. All essential skills for what was to come for me.

7. Validation. That outfit site was my first real experience of the validation social media can bring. Getting a ton of likes, comments and follows on photos of yourself is a powerful experience, especially for someone who, as I mentioned above, was pretty shy and unsure of her own self-image. The boost I took from that buoyed me up to believe I could have a go at Instagram, when, poor and then pregnant, outfit pictures stopped being a possibility.

8. I could do it again. People often ask me how I think I’d fare if I joined Instagram tomorrow, or if another platform took over. And my answer is usually, ‘ok, I think’. Yes, the rules keep changing and the game gets harder, but my brain loves that stuff, so I’d happily dive in.
I don’t think I could mentor or teach my courses if I didn’t believe that is is still entirely possible to grow an audience online – be it on Instagram or whatever platform you choose. Humans are adaptable, and I am certain we’ll keep weathering the changes and building communities again and again. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve always done, since time began.

 What was your first foray into the world of social media apps? Got any outfits from your younger years to share? 😉

 

  • Really fun to see those outfits Sara, and also this post was a nice reminder that what happens/what we do throughout our lives generally always serves a purpose in our life’s journey (perhaps more than we think at the time). It was also nice to read about how you got started online, and has made me feel better about my own blogging journey.

  • Paula Solar

    I would like to have a time machine and go back to that young Sara and give her a massive hug. I want to tell her that everything will be fine, that she’ll manage, that she has potential and talent. I know that’s not the point of this post, but… well, sometimes people forget that who we are now isn’t necessarily who we were ages ago. That we are here because of where we were then.

    What I like about your outfits is that some bits and pieces can be saved, and used in a different way. I mean. It’s your style and it’s you and I love it. But it’s not really my style, actually I don’t know what my style is, but I can see myself wearing some items you’re wearing in the photos. Fashion is a game, and it can be fun especially if we overlook the current trends. The main goal, as on instagram (everything is connected!) is to find out who we are and what we like… and play with that.

    Last but not least I love the way how you associate your fashion choices/evolution and your progression on social networks/`photographic social networks and blogs. It was quite an interesting read.

  • Those were such cute outfits! I, too, doubted my looks when I was younger. Now looking back I’ve realised that was such a waste of time…

    My first foray into social media was journalspace, I think, then later on myspace 😀

  • holla from your biggest weardrobe fan! <3

  • “you’re never as ugly as you think you are”. i need to stick that onto my mirrors. lol.

    • Same. Except of course I don’t believe it about myself now. Just then. I’ll probably say the same thing again in hindsight ten years from now…

  • Rida Suleri-Johnson

    Such an interesting post. I’m going to look back and reflect on what I liked and looked like and how that’s shaping me now.
    I loved seeing Sara before Instagram but can totally see how your creativity shine ahead of its time even back then xx

  • Fi Cooper

    Good lord, I have no idea if there are any pictures of me still in existence from my late teens/twenties, it was a long time ago, they would be actual photographs! But I went around looking like Cyndi Lauper, then Strawberry Switchblade, from there it was a simple step into GOTH. I loved the clothes and the music, I still can’t hear She Sells Sanctuary without getting all nostalgic, still like a bit of dark makeup and a long black totally impractical coat, and a corset – my Dad used to call me ‘Cruella’. It guess was pretty much all about hiding behind a lot of makeup and hairspray – the 1980’s were very handy for this! So, I grew up without social media as it exists now, but was a fairly early participant in ‘newsgroups’ (they look very primitive now) and discussion forums.

  • I had one of these dresses! The flowery one in the field where you’re posing with the camera (I want to say it was from Topshop?!). I felt so pretty in that; it broke my heart when it didn’t do up anymore 😩

  • Oh Sara, you inspired me to journey back to look at my old chictopia page, I’d completely forgotten about it! So fun and so cringe-worthy!

    I used to love reading From Wonderland with Love, I was so glad when you started blogging again!