Lately we’ve been thinking about what we want to read and as much as we love learning about what the world’s coolest girls are wearing and what their go-to beauty products are, we felt there’s also a lot of value in getting to know about the varied yet equally interesting lives of the people around us. You know, everyday women like you and me. More than that, we wanted to get to know their wardrobes. It’s true that for most of us our wardrobes hold so many memories and far from disposable or meaningless, our wardrobes are packed with clothes that hold meaningful stories.
And yes, while sustainable and ethical fashion is increasingly our present and very much the future, there’s no denying that for many of us the values we now very much seek out from brands probably wasn’t as much of a factor in our past purchasing decisions. That’s not to say, though, that our wardrobes are not filled with pieces that we have chosen to hold on to for years now. As we see it, that in itself is sustainable and a form of mindful consumption, if you consider the prevalence of fast fashion in landfill sites and third world countries refusing to accept anymore secondhand clothing.
With this in mind, we’ve decided to launch our new series Wardrobe Memories, where we delve deep into the wardrobes of our favourite people, celebrating the pieces that bring them so much joy and hold so much value. The pieces that are packed with nostalgia and poignant memories that can be called upon as soon as they’re re-worn. Everybody’s wardrobe holds a treasure trove of stories; memories to be shared, to remind us that there is value in our wardrobes. Be it emotional or even financial, that should be cherished and held onto, or passed on to another deserving recipient.
Suyin Teo, Corporate Finance, London
‘When it comes to my style, I’d say I’m more bold in terms of how I want to get dressed up. Maybe it’s because I’m not a creative person—I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t act, and I don’t think I’m even creative enough to write a story or poem. But I do like to express myself through clothes and like my hair, I guess, I like to play around with it. Although saying that, before social media I thought, ‘okay maybe that’s my thing,’ but now with social media you start to think, maybe everyone uses fashion as a way to express themselves. For me, it’s definitely my outlet. But it doesn’t mean I’m creative per se. [Laughs]
I wouldn’t say I follow trends. Perhaps it’s because we had to wear school uniform and the fact my mum never let me wear make-up or dye my hair. So I always think of myself as a late bloomer, always catching up. Really it’s when I went off to university, moving away from home in Malaysia and living on my own in London and Glasgow. All these childhood memories that I wasn’t able to explore, well now it was all open to me and I guess I ran with it. I never had access to it or the opportunity to play around before, so I pretty much went wild. If you think about it, most girls play around with colourful makeup and hair in their teens but for me it came in my early twenties, and I guess I can’t help but continue this way. I’d also say coming at it later, a bit more mature, gave me the courage to explore and experiment a little more. Who knows! [Laughs] I guess we didn’t grow up with Zara or H&M so it wasn’t as easy to follow trends—which obviously is a good thing—but I guess it wasn’t exactly through choice back then. So yeah, I’m not into trends… more like particular styles. Take for instance babydoll dresses. I’m picturing Baby Spice in the 90’s. Even before the Spice Girls, I was around 15 or 16 years old and would watch period dramas, loving the cut and shape of their dresses. With the modern day version being the babydoll. So no—not trends. I see a look and I’m either drawn to that particular style or not.
Right now though, I’m quite obsessed with palazzo trousers/pants. It’s because I’d really like to be able wear bell bottoms but I’ve got bow legs and I’m super short so they don’t really work. But palazzo pants, on the other hand, they’re super flattering. I love them; I’ve got a couple of pairs and they’re my failsafe wedding guest outfit. They’re trousers but deliver a more elevated look. Andit makes you look tall! And super elegant.
I used to be really into fashion blogs. Probably more nosiness than for inspiration. Intrigue, I suppose. I wanted to see what other people were wearing—other girls were wearing. But to be honest, I don’t read them anymore. So I read the blogs when they were first coming out, like Susie Bubble and then there’s a few American ones; Fashion Toast was cool…now she’s a designer herself. And also Man Repeller. But the thing is, I don’t read any of them anymore. Even looking on Instagram now—maybe before it was new and fresh and rare—it feels like everyone is fashionable. It’s now quite difficult to find blogs or Instagram accounts where someone is doing something refreshing or unique. I still read Susie Bubble occasionally, but I guess it comes down to the internet and fast fashion making everything so readily available. Try identifying a unique dress sense nowadays and I bet you’d be hard pushed. God, I loved it when Lily Allen came on the scene with her ballgowns and trainers and gold jewellery. That was cool. It’s like they’ve all started dressing in a way just to satiate people.
I suppose that’s what makes fashion so interesting—the way it recycles looks and makes subtle iterations to present it to a new audience. But I just want to see more twists. More uniqueness. Just dress the way you want and put your stamp on it. What happened to your personal style instinct? It’s like they all follow the same style steps.
Day to day, I think what’s most important in my wardrobe is trying to find the right balance when looking for business attire. I work in a corporate environment and it can be difficult trying to maintain your identity as a woman, while still being business appropriate. Although, after a point, I’m like, ‘fuck it, what’s the worst they can do?’ You should judge me on my work and not on what I wear. Last year I just flipped a switch and dyed my hair blue. Nobody said anything; I’m sure some people might have commented behind my back. I didn’t feel like people were judging me, but maybe that’s because they’re just too polite to say anything. [Laughs]
I joined the corporate world a little later as I went back to university, so perhaps I was more established in myself as a person. Take a look at my very first work outfit, though. [below] I still have it but I don’t wear it anymore. I suppose I just thought that’s what people want. You watch TV and everyone dresses this way, so you think that’s the mould you have to fit into to be taken seriously.
What actually got me feeling more confident and feeling like I could let myself shine through was seeing one of the more senior female execs. She’s in a senior position in a bank but is still able to dress in a way where you think, ‘oh you’re still a woman and a stylish one at that!’ We shouldn’t have to dress unisex or hide our femininity to do well at work. I still want to be able to wear dresses like the one I’m wearing now. It’s floaty and feminine yet still respectable and professional. I got it from Anthropology and as soon as I put it on felt good. It hangs really well. I felt really feminine, but at the same time not too flirty. It just makes me feel good. I either wear maxi dresses or culottes or midi skirts with a top or shirt to work. A lot of my work wardrobe probably isn’t what you would class as corporate workwear, but it works for me. Some people would wear it to Sunday brunch, whereas I like to wear it to the office. I have to though! I work so much that I wouldn’t have time to wear all these nice clothes. I would buy them thinking I’ll wear it on the weekend, or on nights out with my friends, but I don’t do that anymore. [Laughs] So the only place I can wear them to is work. I think if I had to wear this [grey suit] to work everyday, I would die, right. Like, come on.
I feel like when I go to work a lot of people wear a uniform. Maybe to get into a mindset, or for ease so they don’t have to think about it. Like you get some girls who have six of the same suit in different shades—typical power dressing, I guess. It could be that to be taken seriously they need to put on as close to a man’s suit as is comfortable but should it be that way?
I’ve heard women defend it by saying, ‘it’s so it doesn’t detract from your work,’ but surely there’s a way to dress where you can still be yourself while also not detracting from your work. I’m not talking about showing up at work in mini skirts with your tits out. I think I can give more credit to my colleagues. [Laughs] I’m sure they can deal with hints of the female form or a pop of colour. Perhaps we’re just our own worst enemy—girls judging girls. Are we overthinking it all? Probably. [Laughs]
Of all the pieces in my wardrobe, my Givenchy bag holds a special kind of value for me. It was like my transition into adulthood. I don’t wear it that often anymore, and have actually thought about selling it but couldn’t bring myself to do it. For me, it took a long time to get here. And, while I’ve bought quite a few things since, it holds such sentimental value. It’s a good bag.
When I’m doing well at work, I like to mark it with something memorable and special for myself. Like my Chanel; I got it on a recent trip to Paris. Yes it’s expensive, but I plan on keeping it for the rest of my life. It’ll be like an heirloom.
When I’m thinking about the move towards sustainable and ethical fashion, I’d say it’s pretty hard not to be supportive of it. It would be like that douchebag MP who voted against the upskirting rule! Having said that, I do think the best thing we can do is just consume less. I’ve become much more thoughtful as I have too many clothes and still have the classic issue of what to wear. So I started to be more conscious about what I buy, trying to invest in better quality pieces that will match more of my wardrobe. Less of an impulse buy; definitely the case with Zara for me. I want to be that person who curates their wardrobe instead of stuffing it full of pieces I quickly grow tired of. I’m working on it!”
—as told to STATEMENTS
Suyin Teo photographed by Beatrice Mocci in London, in June 2018.