While I was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival, I met a number of people who exclaimed "I love your new look!" and "it's a new you!" or a variation upon it. So, maybe this is a good time to write about some changes I have made in my life and why I have made them.
(Before we get started: I am a big believer in you do you. The following post contains my own reflections upon the clothes I make and the clothes I wear. I am not addressing other people's wardrobe choices. You do you.)
The above photo combines an image of me taken in 2016 with a photo of me taken in 2018.
I used to wear a lot of tea dresses. I'd pair them with a cute cropped cardigan and a lace shawl. My hair was dark brown with a blunt fringe - often worn in a high pony tail. I'd wear red lip stick, eyeliner and a pair of catseye glasses. This look was one of cute, quirky and soft femininity. I found it easy to wear and my everyday wardrobe revolved around a dress with a cute print + a matching cardigan + sneakers.
2016 was the year when world politics came into sharp focus, and I truly began to reflect upon what my clothes were saying. I am (and have always been) what is known as intentionally femme. The 2010s have not been kind to marginalised folks and, although I recognise my privilege in being a white cis-gender woman, I am also a differently-abled migrant woman falling somewhere on the rainbow spectrum. Until late 2016, I had never considered that my style choices fell into that sense of nostalgia for "simpler times" which fuelled so much of the turmoil in the world and which has already hurt so many people.
I simply asked myself: do I want to present myself as traditionally feminine? And I realised that there had to be other ways of expressing an intentionally femme identity that didn't subtly contribute to all the problems around me.
Since 2016, I have been trying to figure out what feels authentic to me. The journey began at the same time as I began working on This Thing of Paper. It influenced the styling choices I made in the book - my hair was shorter, for instance - and it allowed me time to reflect upon what clothes I wanted to make and wear.
Right now I am playing in a sandbox that I describe as mix of 1920s Bauhaus women designers, 1970s Bowiesque glam, and 1990s British indie with a dash of art school chic. It is a complex sandbox still rooted in nostalgia, but the nostalgia is empowering rather than confining. Instead of cute prints and a nipped waist, I am looking at fluid fabrics, exuberant geometric prints, and deliberate pattern clashing. The silhouette is simultaneously boxier and more slim-fitting. I am still trying to figure out where this is taking me, but it feels liberating and far more authentic to me.
I recently read an interview with Harris Reed, a second-year student at CSM, in which they said: "I am someone who needs meaning to be behind everything I do and that my designs are not just clothes, but an extension of who I am and what I stand for" and I can fully relate to that. I often say that "knitting is never 'just' knitting" and I truly believe that clothes are something more than just something we wear to keep warm. Clothes are communication and identity-formation. What we wear communicates something to the world.
EYF 2018 felt like the first time I showed up as myself rather than as an idealised version of myself. Some people told me they felt a bit confused about my new direction, and I understand that. I hope this post goes some way to explain things, and it is very important to note that I have not changed as a designer. I still believe in classic knitwear design; pieces that look amazing but are surprisingly straightforward to knit; femininity as strength and agency; making as a tool for change. I still prefer dresses to trousers (although I have a pair of brown brocade trousers with gold polka dots which I love wearing) and I still wear eyeliner & red lipstick. I'm growing out my grey hair somewhat disgracefully and I'm having more fun. It's all good.
Apropos of nothing, I've stopped being interrupted by men who want me to knit something for them whenever I'm out knitting in public. So there is that.