I’m going to make a little confession, and it may shock you. I really don’t like Summer.
Now that the sugar-induced comas of Easter have passed and Spring is in full force, my mind begins to focus on the fact that soon, it will be upon us. Summer is coming. Today, I looked up from my computer at work and saw that the little green buds on the branch outside my window have opened up into fresh new leaves overnight. They looked so annoyingly defiant and magical that I had no choice but to accept that cold mornings and wintery skies will soon be a distant memory. Sod off, buds.
I know I definitely started to notice it when I took Obi out for a walk around the Firehills over the long weekend – look at how Spring-like everything was:
Don’t get me wrong, I really love lots of things about Summer – the blue skies, hazy warm afternoons and fuzzy bumble bees. I love all the amazing music festivals and parties and BBQ’s that you get invited to. I like how nice and super pretty everything looks in the Summer – everything except for me, that is.
It boils down to this – I hate dressing in summer clothes. I loath it. I dread it – and have done for as long as I remember. Nothing strikes me down with more anxiety than hearing the weather man on the television say “a heatwave is coming, folks – and it’s going to be a scorcher!”.
One year, I actually refused to give up my usual clothes – that’s right, I went on a seasonal style strike, and faced a constant stream of comments from concerned colleagues, friends and family members.
“Catherine, are you not a bit warm there in your jeans mate?”
“Hun, what are you doing its like 28 degrees outside? Take off the jacket.”
Another year, I tried the opposite approach and blew a whole load of money on a new ‘holiday wardrobe’ and by the time I had finished, my clothing rail looked like someone had raided a Moroccan flea market. Sequins, beads, indie patterns, colour, crotchet waistcoats, tassels… throw in a couple of floral maxi’s and a nautical A-line skirt from Debenhams and you get the idea. Not nice. (FYI, I never wore any of it more than once and ended up giving most of it to charity shops).
How did all of this start, though? I know it’s weird and most people don’t get it but like most things, I’m 99% confident it came from my awkward early teen years. Either that or I was attacked by a sundress as a small child and supressed the memories of the traumatic incident.
Anyway, back to my awkward early teen years – I know I definitely developed a sense of style and awareness of appearance a little differently than other girls did. Without having a Mum in the picture to teach me how to be a lady, I looked to the next best thing – my friends, and their Mums. One particular school friend introduced me to two women who would change my life forever: Trinny and Susannah. Two mean-spirited and bossy control freaks who were predominantly marketed to middle-aged women in the early noughties, and made a living out of making people feel shit about themselves. To my 14 year old self, they showed me the secrets that everyone seemed to know about style and dressing. I remember my friend taking her What Not To Wear book out of her school bag on the bus (obviously given to her by her mother, who was probably staging an intervention and was trying very hard to get that scruffy weird girl to sort her appearance out in a subtle way that didn’t look like she was actually interfering) and I was hooked – I ended up buying all of the books for myself. I watched the TV shows, I studied the books religiously, and I think I actually had the DVD too.
Now a young lady in her late 20’s, I’ve certainly got a lot more confidence in what I wear. I love shopping, I love putting outfits together and I don’t worry about fitting into a certain trend anymore. But those Trinny and Susannah books have left their mark, and I’m insanely selective about what I buy. Unless something is totally right for my body shape, I’m not buying it. What Trinny and Susannah taught me is that I have one of those very rare body shapes which is kind of like a hybrid hourglass, cello, brick shape which basically means that every part of my body is awkward and unsightly and must be disguised using clever optical illusions and seams.
The list of dressing rules that I have in my head are endless. My boobs are massive so I always need a V neckline. I can’t wear any embellishment around my chest. My arms are big so I always need sleeves. My tummy isn’t flat so I need to disguise it. My waist is small but short, so tops always need to fit my waist and then skim out. My ankles are chunky so I have to keep them covered. Larger patterns will make me look bigger, as will lighter colours and chunky knits. This is just an example of what I have to deal with! For me, shopping is the equivalent of being on University Challenge – it’s difficult, I always need to stay focused, and the risk of getting something wrong and losing is massive. But the rewards when you get it right are better than anything – I’ve learnt that fitted skinny jeans and a nice blouse, or a tea dress with a pair of leggings or tights, are the best things I can possibly wear. Forget anything found in Topshop.
Now you can maybe understand why Summer clothes are scary as hell. I genuinely feel like I look proper awful for about three months of every year. Shorts, skirts and dresses are out, because I can’t wear them with tights or leggings. Floaty maxi dresses make me look pregnant. Strappy tops cut into my boobs and shoulders. And another thing, summer sandals cut into my feet and sunglasses cover up my blue eyes, which are one of my most striking features. It’s awful, and everyone else around me always looks amazing in the summer with toned legs and butts and arms everywhere you look.
Exhibit A: Summer of 2011, hoping that brightly coloured flowers will distract attention away from my brightly coloured maxi dress:
The funny thing is, last year I actually had a bit of a breakthrough. I discovered an actual outfit that I can wear when it’s sticky-warm outside, and this year I’ve decided to really go for it. I’ve already been looking online and I’ve found things that I want – this is serious progress for me and I’m excited.
I’ll share my discovery, for anyone else with a hybrid hourglass cello brick body shape – the answer is beach cover-ups.
I would never even look at them before – Christ if I can’t handle a maxi dress why would I ever consider bikinis and swimwear and their associated accompaniments. But these really are perfect, and I first stumbled across a great one last year in Zara of all places (another shop that I usually avoid, because my boobs burst through zippers in there). Basically, you wear it as a usual top, with a long vest underneath and a pair of light 3/4 length leggings et voila – a comfortable, cool and flattering summery outfit. Ok fine, the ankles are still on show but I’ve seen a pretty cool ankle contouring video on Youtube that I’m going to watch and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I still have to do a bit more exploring to find the right kind of summery shoes that I actually like, but overall I’m dreading the next few months just a little less than I usually would.
Here’s a roundup of my most favourite beach cover ups: