Time for intuitive dressing?

Could cultivating a singular sense of style be a form of self-care? Five intuitive dressers say yes.

It would seem we are in the midst of a spiritual renaissance. I can’t count the number of friends who carry crystals in every available pocket, who burn manifestation candles during all manner of crises and who blame relationship mishaps on the whims of the zodiac. And, if the torrent of TikTok tarot readings and manifestation mantras are anything to go by, the zest for the spiritual is alive and kicking far beyond the confines of my friendship group.

As an essential aspect of spiritual practice, connecting to your intuition is a trend on the up. Intuition is (by definition) tricky to define, but it could be described as a knowing that cannot be rationally explained; more of a feeling than a thought. Advocates of ‘going with your gut’ claim that it can help us to connect with our true selves and desires, which explains why it has cropped up in so many of the self-care trends en vogue. From intuitive eating, which encourages followers to ditch rigid diets and reconnect with their natural hunger cues, to intuitive movement – the practice of listening to how your body wants to move rather than forcing 20 thankless crunches – we are finding more and more ways to connect with our inner voice.

For me, intuition came knocking when the pandemic changed how we dress. Lockdown meant the practicality and physical comfort of pyjamas came up trumps over style. However, over time, I found that getting dressed – or not, as it were – was affecting my mental health, and I was far from alone. With many of us still working from home on the daily, without practical need to get dressed beyond throwing on the nearest sweatpants, many have been left feeling disconnected from their identity

The answer? Invite intuition into our wardrobes next. By paying close attention to what we feel like wearing – rather than what we think we should wear – we can become less connected to the perception of others and tune in with ourselves. Maybe people think our perfectly layered subversive-basics look or Euphoria-inspired neon eye makeup is too much for a morning walk. The trick is learning not to care.

I spoke to five people with a singular sense of style to find out about their dressing ritual and its role in their self care practice. From listening to music to get you in the right mood to dressing for celebration and refusing to be mediocre, here’s how to transform the ritual of getting dressed into a zen moment of self-discovery.

Genesis Fawn – artist and musician

How would you describe your aesthetic? 

I think it pulls from a lot of Gothic style, but it’s kind of a dirty version. I really like bog bodies – they inspire me a lot. Yeah, things that are super dark, but not just the colour black and pentagrams and traditional Gothic or even New Goth. I’m more like an earthy Goth, I guess. 

How did the pandemic change how you dress?

Before the pandemic, I was in such a routine of getting up and getting ready to go out every day. And then when I didn’t have to, it was kind of weird. I felt like I was getting ready for nothing. I guess it did make me question my relationships with clothes and dressing and realise what is important to me and made me think more consciously about the way that I dress and what it means to me. And whether I do still feel like myself when I’m just in pyjamas and sitting at home on video calls 

Do you feel like yourself when you’re in pyjamas? 

I think yes. And no. I know I’m a person. I’m in my body. But at the same time, I feel more like people are seeing me for who I am on the inside when I am wearing makeup or wearing my outfits, especially stuff that I’ve made or even just customised. I feel like I’m being the most true to me.

Do you think the process of dressing teaches you about yourself?

Yeah, definitely. Things that I’m drawn to become a part of me when I put them on. Especially with things that I’ve made myself, even if it’s just changing a couple of things when it’s something that I got in a charity shop.

How do you let go of societal norms and other people’s expectations when dressing yourself?

I definitely think it’s down to the individual. It’s like a mental unpicking of negative reactions. This is how the brain is wired. When you get a negative reaction, your brain thinks, ‘I shouldn’t do that’. I definitely think it’s something that you have to consciously do and meditate on or write down and really deeply think about and just focus on that. 

Was that a process you had to go through? Or did it come naturally to you?

I think both. When I was younger, I would always just be super drawn to certain things. I think everyone has that experience of being a little bit different when they were younger, and then an adverse reaction if you pick a pair of shoes or something and they’re considered weird. For me, it was a really colourful school bag. It’s something small – that’s the start of it. I think secondary school made me really change the person that I was and put on a mask and act like a regular person and not really be so eccentric. And then when I left that school, I was like, ‘Okay I have to consciously unpick why I don’t want to wear this and why I think this is weird or too much.’

Do you think dressing intuitively in this way can be a form of self care?

I definitely think so. Because I think that on days when I do dress up, I look in the mirror and see how I feel on the inside. It really affects how I feel mentally. So I do think it is self care in that sense. But some of the stuff that I squeeze myself into – I don’t know if that’s self care.

When you’re dressing for social media, does that process feel different from dressing for real life?

With my Instagram, a lot of it is just an expression of mental feelings shown in a physical torment way on the body. So they’re definitely dramatised. I wouldn’t walk around covered in ropes or anything. But I think that it’s still true to me because it’s an expression of the inward. And I don’t think of it as like a costume or a super dramatisation. I guess it’s just kind of trying to express mental feelings. 

Salomé – artist

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I dress like I’m always celebrating something in life but also reference being wounded or exiled because lots of my dresses are stained with paints and have holes. I find that quite liberating for some reason. 

How would you describe the process of dressing yourself? Has this changed throughout your life?

I pick out outfits by standing in front of my massive collection of dresses that I found in different places and imagine how I would look in them. It hasn’t changed much, but I think style takes years to nurture and develop. 

Do you think the act of dressing has taught you about who you are?

No, I think it’s the opposite— who I am has informed how I like to dress. 

How do you let go of societal norms and the gaze of others when getting dressed?

By accepting you are different and a unique individual, as we all are. 

 Do you think the pandemic and spending time away from others made it easier to find your style?

 It certainly made me reevaluate it. Coming out of it made me realise I am a completely different person now. Lockdown has been quite transformative. My wardrobe from before no longer resonates with me, so I’m selling lots of my pieces. 

Do you think dressing intuitively in this way can be a form of self-care?

Yes, it’s to break free from allowing others to define us and to be more confident with who we are becoming. 

How do you practice ‘intuitive dressing’?

Dress however you like to dress for any occasion and try to be comfortable with it!

CC – founder of Studio 1804 and journalist

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I normally go for French-inspired looks. I would describe it as ‘unkempt sophistication’.

Do you think experimenting with how you dress has taught you about who you are?

Definitely. When you dress up, you’re also putting on a show. It’s about self-reflection. It’s a projection of who you want to become – like an extension of your own character. And you have to be brave to embrace it. 

How do you let go of societal norms and the gaze of others when getting ready?

I put on my favourite music to get me into the groove. I treat it like a form of art. When the mood strikes, that’s when the fun begins. The rest of the world seems to fall away. It’s just me, myself and I.

Do you think the pandemic and spending time away from others made it easier to find your personal style?

Honestly, to me, you shouldn’t have to look for a personal style. Personal style is innate. Though it might change, it’s within yourself, whether you’re standing in the middle of a crowded room or stuck in a remote place.  

Do you think dressing intuitively in this way can be a form of self care?

Absolutely. When I dress, I dress for myself – not for others. Being able to dress up the way you want and go anywhere you want to in it is one of the greatest joys. 

Didier – Central Saint Martins student

How would you describe your makeup aesthetic?

I grew up under the influence of Nineties Japanese animations. I would describe my look as refreshing and colourful because I refuse to be mediocre. Naruto, Inuyasha and Cardcaptor Sakura are my top three favourite animations and my makeup at the moment is inspired by the characters in them. 

Do you think experimenting with makeup has taught you about who you are?

Makeup didn’t teach me who I am. But I understand who I am and what I want to be through makeup. My makeup principle is to enhance your best features and minimise your flaws. Because I have uneven skin texture it’s impossible for me to look flawless like a baby. I’m done trying to cover up my problems – I’ve learned to live with them. And I’ve learned to appreciate myself. My face features are naturally beautiful so I choose to enhance them instead of giving attention to my flawed skin. And balance – makeup is always about balance. When you camouflage your face with foundations but don’t put on any blush or contour, it’s a pure disaster. It basically shows how boring your personality is and that you’re defeated by life. 

How do you let go of societal norms and the gaze of others when getting ready?

I don’t. I want attention. With my face it would be a waste not to ask for that. However, I have no fucks to give about their negativity. Compliments matter. Criticism: bye bye. I know who I am and I know my worth. However, I sometimes feel embarrassed if I look too out-there or my makeup is flawed. But that’s not because I care what people think, that’s because I refuse to look ugly and I’m only sorry for underperforming. However, when I’m in China, my mum asks me to tone it down because Xiamen, my hometown, is not as advanced as Shanghai. I could put myself in an awkward situation, and I feel this too, so I tone it down. But only because it’s not worth putting such effort into my face for people who barely appreciate it. I hope they understand the glitter is not just glitter but Pat McGrath glitter. 

Do you think the pandemic and spending time away from others made it easier to find your personal style?

I actually lost my style during the first lockdown. During the second lockdown I was in China so I had no opportunities to practice my extravagance then either. I only went out to play mahjong and grab a bubble tea. My pyjamas were chic enough for that. On the contrary, I think spending time with people helps me understand my style. I know what I don’t like when I see ugly things, I know what I want when I see someone dressing cute. I know I want to do better when I feel someone’s style is outdoing mine. People around me inspire me. They are my mirror.

Do you think dressing intuitively in this way can be a form of self care?

Yes. During lockdown I obviously had nowhere to go and therefore dress for, but I occasionally put on my platform heels and my Loewe trousers just to maintain my sanity. Dressing intuitively is following your heart. Yes it could be an ugly outfit but maybe you’re in an ugly mood. You have to recognise it and own up to it so that you can eventually digest it. I always put on ugly outfits when I go to the gym. I want to be invisible. I don’t want people knowing I work hard for this body. I want them to think I wake up like this, whereas it took me hours to transform into Didier.

Do you think dressing or creating beauty looks for social media makes it harder to dress for yourself? 

Definitely, because there’s a specific thing you want to achieve and for this reason you have to meet not only the ‘standards’ of others but also your expectations. I don’t blame social media for the pressure I feel creating looks because I choose to do it. Besides, I’m social media ready 24/7. No bad photos of me allowed. In time, it made my style like no one else’s. 

Marko – stylist and creative director

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I would describe my style and aesthetic as ‘polished crazy’. So I like it to be a bit edgy and twisted and have something weird. But I don’t want it to be too much. Sexy, crazy but polished.  

Do you think the act of dressing has taught you about who you are?

It definitely helped me become who I am today. I consider myself first and foremost a human being and a person, rather than being defined by gender or sexuality or any any kind of form. So it’s definitely helped me to realise that I don’t have to put myself in any box, I can just be a different character every day. So that helps me in my personal development. 

How do you let go of societal norms and the gaze of others when getting dressed?

I don’t really think about it. I don’t really let that take over my style, my day or how I feel. I rarely care what people say – I just do it for myself. Maybe if I’m feeling super anxious or down that day and don’t want loads of attention I’ll tone it down a bit, but even that doesn’t stop me from dressing the way I want to. Sometimes people dress a certain way when they go out because they want attention. I never ever wanted attention. It’s just the way that I am. 

Do you think the pandemic and spending time away from others made it easier to find your personal style?

Yeah, I definitely feel like lockdown helped a lot with my personal style. It has definitely helped me become who I am today: staying healthy, becoming more free and caring even less what people think. I think it was a good time to kind of find out who you are – not just in personal style and work, but who you are as a person. We had time to reevaluate, to be better people. 

How do you practice ‘intuitive dressing’?

It’s a lot of working on yourself as a person and just letting go of what everyone else thinks and getting to know yourself more – just trying to be a better person in your everyday life and work life. And yeah, I feel like we should help ourselves by getting to know each other and getting to know ourselves. Only good can come from that and that it will help us in every aspect of our lives. 

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