Unlocking her Style during Lockdown - A guest blog by Kelly Dwyer

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September 2020 News

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The Introduction

I completed my consultations with Maria during June and July. For me, the experience has been completely transformative. I enjoyed how individual and intimate the consultations were; the style analysis module is centred on your own personality, and how you can express every element of your personality through your personal image. The colour analysis is about understanding what spectrum of colours (clothes, jewellery and make up) looks best on you, and in what amounts.

The Background

I found that the Covid restrictions were certainly aptly named. They hugely restricted my ability to express myself. This is not a woe-is-me story. I’m very lucky and grateful not to have been adversely affected by Covid-19, but it’s good to acknowledge that it’s difficult when you’re stuck at home, particularly when that home is either a rented a room or a hotel room (I helped with Covid-19 test analyses, and was living in a hotel during that time). I hadn’t been home or seen any of my family in 6 months. When I did get back to my permanent job, my work pattern had totally changed so that I was desk-based for a long time instead of lab-based (I’m a research scientist, the lab is a very creative space for me), and my pastimes had become pretty much non-existent. By the time I went for my consultations, I was at a stage where my grasp on who I was, my feelings, my opinions, had become vague enough that I was beginning to struggle with understanding where I ended and the people around me began.

Issues around my understanding of my own personal boundaries were not new phenomena to me, and they certainly flared during that time.

The Consultations

Interestingly, my lack of self-identity was reflected in my clothes – as these largely comprised hand-me-downs. There’s nothing wrong with a good hand-me-down, if it works for you, but most of the hand-me-downs in my wardrobe were there simply because they fit – that means I am wearing someone else’s style. A lot of the time, I was actually wearing clothes out of guilt; I didn’t want to throw them out because there was nothing wrong with them. Literally dressing myself in guilt – how disempowering!

One of the elements of the consultation is to look at the clothes you already own. This exercise was eye-opening for me when I noticed the following:

·       Nothing fitted; though I’m fun, quite confident and a bit of a performer in a crowd, I also struggled with self-esteem. When I was growing up, I was bullied for being fat. I look back at pictures and I struggle to find where exactly the fat I was so self-conscious of even was? Though I no longer believed I was fat, none of my clothes, not one single item, was fitted.

·       Casual; I had too many casual clothes. Often these were a size too big as they were hand-me-downs. They were too casual for work, and I felt no pride wearing them. Casual clothing made up most of my wardrobe, despite the fact that I spend only 7% of my total time relaxing.

·       No work clothes; I am a career-focused person and work is where I spend 50% of my waking hours, and yet, I had very few clothes that were appropriate for work, and fewer that I felt confident in.

·       No pride and no purpose; there were few clothes that I felt I looked good in and few that spoke to me – Why were they there? What were these clothes saying about me? Honestly, I had no clue.

The Transformation

Through her wardrobe and personality analysis, Maria was able to identify parts of my personality which I had been hiding from my clothing choices. I was able to identify that I was doing this in life too. 

I am friendly, creative and fun; a performer. I am chatty and I have child-like qualities. In direct contrast to that, I also like structure. I am a go-getter, I love direct communication and a little bit of perfection, I have high expectations of myself and often of others, I appreciate a plan, time management and attention to detail. I had been suppressing my analytical nature. Generally, I had felt ashamed of this side of me, feeling that these were “uptight” traits and that I should try to be more easy-going. Being easy-going is also a part of my personality, but I had so often leaned too far into this side of me, forgoing my own boundaries, because I viewed this as my “good” and “likable” trait. Maria showed me that I can dress in a way that is both fun and organised. I can be all parts of my personality, all at once.

The Tools

The tools and lessons Maria imparts throughout the class are ones that I will have for the rest of my life; understanding where I spend most of my time and then filling my wardrobe accordingly. When I go shopping, I understand what colours and styles look good on me. I understand why each piece is in my wardrobe, and I know that each piece is working for me and that each piece will go with every other piece in my wardrobe. I know which colours look great on me when they in large blocks on me, and which are more powerful when only present in small amounts. Additionally, I was given some physical tools; a little wallet of colours that look best on me; books with the details of the styles which look good on me; a list of key words describing my style; and a list of shops in which my style can be found.

Life After

Things have really changed for me since the consultations. I have gained a strong sense of who I am, and how I dress portrays that. On any day where I am feeling that my energy is low and my boundaries are weak, I have a wardrobe full of clothes to remind me of who I am.

I have received compliment after compliment from my friends and colleagues. I never doubt that I look good; I have become so assured that I look good, every single day, that no one can tell me otherwise. In fact, the worst I look is good; I usually look great!

These days, shopping is a joy because I know exactly what I am looking for. I can run through a simple checklist in my head (colour – check, style – check, quality – check!) and decide in a minute or less if I will buy an item or not. I recently bought a cool, short, fun, red jumper that goes with everything else in my wardrobe. It has become my favourite piece. I have worn it three times already and get a feel-good buzz each time. I bought it for 20 reduced from 30 – that’s the other thing; I will buy everything on sale now, because I know what I want.

Looking at my wardrobe makes me happy because I can see how every item of clothing goes with every other item of clothing. I’ve thrown out two thirds of the clothes that I had, and only bought seven items since, and yet I have more outfits than I ever did before.

The way I view my body has changed. No longer do I feel like I’m fat or wrong if a piece of clothing doesn’t look good on me. I understand that everyone’s body is unique, not every piece of clothing is made to fit every body shape. I understand what styles and shapes look good on my body, so I can usually tell if something will look good on me before I ever try it on.

I used to shy away from dressing well at work. Now, I wear my best clothes and I am so confident. I’ve noticed that my energy is different at work. In the past, I had often felt like a child in adult’s clothes (mostly because I was often treated like a child at work). Though I have always known I am a talented researcher and a strong team player, I have felt that I haven’t been seen or taken seriously by the higher levels of management. Now, my inner monologue regularly tells me “no one messes with me!” (except my inner monologue uses profanity). And it’s true; because I am more self-assured, I can take authority now. When I have a job to do, I feel like I am an arrow or a train going a hundred miles on the track - and nobody gets in the way of that! In fact, the people around me – my team, my direct manager etc - want to get on-board and support me.

It’s weird because I still feel that the glass ceiling in my current workplace is there, but a glass ceiling isn’t going to stop a train that’s running directly towards it! I guess, though the situation is the same, it’s my perception of myself that has changed. The glass ceiling doesn’t bother me anymore, because I already know that it won’t stop me.

And finally, the most empowering tool that Maria gave me was the permission dress as myself, thus the permission to be myself naturally follows. I no longer attempt to be anyone else. Since I’ve had my consultations, I’ve noticed that dressing as myself works for me on two levels. When I dress for my personality, I feel that I’m literally stepping into my personality every day - so showing up as me, understanding my own boundaries, asserting myself is all so natural. I naturally express all elements of my personality. The other level is that the personal image that I display to people means that they have a better understanding of who I am before I ever begin to speak, and so they are more inclined to afford me the space I need to express. To better explain; I was dressing as a hippie before and then I was surprised when people expected me to let things go! Now, no one is surprised when I get projects done well and on time. And no one is surprised that getting projects done can be loads of fun!

The Outcome

·       Being myself doesn’t take anything away from anyone else.

·       It is more relaxing to me than it is to force myself into being someone else.

·       When I express my yang side, my yin naturally flows.

·       Asserting myself doesn’t mean confrontation or being unkind to anyone else. The opposite is more often true; asserting a boundary is also an invitation for someone to better understand me and treat me how I like to be treated.

·       When I look good, I perform better and I am afforded more space by others to perform.

·       When I dress as myself, I understand myself better. Honouring my own boundaries means more time and space to have fun.

·       It is possible to feel good and feel like I look good - every day.