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Thursday Connectors: Personality Of Clothing

By Farzana Hakim

Hi, all. This is your host Farzana, welcoming you to May’s Thursday Connectors. This month, I’m sharing writing around how our clothes can reflect our personalities – or not!

It’s often said that our appearance defines our personality and, in fact, the way we dress plays a significant factor in how others around us perceive us. Think about going for a job interview, or at weddings and social gatherings, even at the park. And most of the time, unfortunate as it may be, the way we are respected and treated is a direct result  of how we look.

I recently bought myself a grey Adidas tracksuit. But, as soon as I put it on in readiness for my trip to Tesco, I took it off in a huff of frustration, because my kids told me I looked like a chav in a hijab! My normal get-up of midi dresses with pretty, ditsy prints, or the long tunics and leggings I’ve been wearing since forever, were deemed to be more  appropriate.

Although I took my tracksuit off that time, I did go back on my decision to never touch it again and put it back on again as soon as  I got home. Deeming the confines of my own home to be the appropriate place for this particular outfit, I decided the kids would just have to get used to me in a chavvy tracksuit. I like it and isn’t that what matters most?

If I’m happy in wearing something, no one else’s opinion should matter. Not even that of  my adult kids!

Our Connectors today are all about clothes. Although our apparel is a layer we put on over our skin to cover and protect, our clothes and appearances should only matter to ourselves and not to others. No matter how old you get, you’re never too old to dress up or down, wearing whichever colours you choose. Wear what you want, whenever you want, that’s my motto!



Firstly, we connect with Clare Cooper. I found her account so relatable.

Hi, Clare. Let’s connect:


Last year, my partner and I underwent a massive clothes cull, as part of an ongoing major house contents cull. Inspired, in part, by two excellent decluttering programmes on TV (cheers, Nick Knowles and Stacey Solomon!) and, more practically, by simply not being able to cram anything else into our cupboards, as well as not knowing the half of what we already had lurking in their depths.

I likened it to going shopping in our wardrobes. Quite exciting, really; we even found items with their labels still firmly attached. Oops.

We halved my partner’s clothes and shoes (just like in those programmes) and then it was my turn. I went through my tops, trousers and jeans (I don’t wear skirts or dresses), finally turning to my jackets, while recalling the advice a friend once gave me: “You can never have too many jackets.” In fact, when she was made redundant many years ago, the first thing she splurged on was a designer jacket. It cost her £200, which was a lot back then, and I thought it rather reckless of her, given the circumstances, but it made her happy, so who was I to judge?

That’s it: clothes should make us happy! If we’re very lucky. They’re an expression of ourselves. What’s the point of having these things if we don’t enjoy wearing them, or using them? Stop saving things ‘for best’ and stop ‘making do’. We’re not here forever! I once knew someone who bought a pretty blouse to keep ‘for best’ but she never went anywhere, apart from the local shops, and it was still wrapped in a drawer when she died.

Growing up, we had a lot of our clothes made for us, as it was cheaper that way. Plus, it meant they were a little bit different; something I’ve always aspired to. As a teenager and young woman, my mother made her own clothes and even once made herself a pair of sandals!

At college, I had just a handful of clothes, and can still remember each item. We were all hard-up students, though, in the same boat, so it didn’t bother me overmuch back then. It was also the time of punk so, in theory, you didn’t need a lot of money to be fashionable: just some footless tights and a bin bag with strategically-cut holes for arms and head. I kid you not, although you’ll just have to believe me, since no photographic evidence is available (phew).

Then, when I started my career, I earned very little and had so few possessions, all the clothes and shoes I owned fitted onto just one small clothes rail. I clearly recall a visiting friend being appalled by my lack of clothes, asking me if I had any more stashed away elsewhere (nope). I knew people who wore different clothes every day. Imagine! How I envied them.

I must add, here, that I’d just bought my first flat with my then-boyfriend and we were very hard up at the time. We had next-to-nothing, so any spare money went on bills and furniture, not fripperies such as clothes or shoes.

One year, Marks and Spencer brought out some black suede slippers that looked a little like loafers, and I wore those as a much cheaper substitute for the real thing.

I’ll never forget the up-and-down look of utter disdain a colleague gave me as I walked towards her in the office, sporting my frayed and newly-patched cotton chinos. Unfortunately, this was long before the fashionably distressed look came in, and I merely felt embarrassed, scruffy and poor!

I often turned down social invitations and even, once, a friend’s wedding, as I simply didn’t have anything suitable to wear, and no money to buy anything new with, either.

Then, gradually, my career and finances improved and I met two lovely women in fashion retail, who were hugely influential in helping me sort out my pitiful clothing situation. I had completely lost confidence in myself and was uninspired by anything in the shops. These women introduced me to labels I’d never heard of before and guided me towards the brands that better suited my figure.

I gained more confidence and started buying clothes; lots and lots of clothes! It felt wonderful, after so many years of making do and trying not to mind, and I’ll happily admit I went a bit mad.

Fashions change, too, of course, and I’m lucky there are a lot more styles to suit me now; especially online, where I do almost all my clothes shopping these days. (I still fear and dread the changing room mirror.)

I have friends who shop entirely in charity shops – they’ve lost their old stigma and are now popular hunting grounds. They always look fantastic, but I rarely find anything I like, or that fits me.

Despite our major cull, I’m now in the somewhat ridiculous situation of owning more clothes than I ever did while working full-time. It’s wonderful to have such choice, of course, and it’s boosted my confidence levels no end, but I’m still unlikely to wear every item I own, however hard I try. Oh dear! Time for another cull, perhaps?

© Clare Cooper, 2024


Next up is Eithne, with a poem telling us how it so often is!

Hi, Eithne. Let’s connect:

Dress To Impress

Dress to suit your figure!
Dress to impress!
From the fashion pages
they tell you what fits best.

Hide a bulky tummy…that’s the one I choose –
A drape of fabric does the job
that way I never lose,
hold on just a moment…

Flatter your bottom and thighs
with clothes that skim your curves,
or cover awkward upper arms
with sleeves and wraps and scarves.

What’s this? Big boobs? That’s me too
and chunky legs as well.
Which trousers and tops will do?
Which one? Which one for me?

And when I am confused and dazed
I have to admit defeat
for all the options on display
at least I’m not petite!

© Eithne Cullen, 2024


Finally, here’s Lena, who reports back to us from the Royal Garden Party. Lucky lady!

Hi, Lena. Let’s connect:

The Emergency Hat

When I first started work in a bank back in 1986, I’m afraid to say I was a white stiletto and shoulder pads ‘Essex’ office girl. Commuters on the Tube to London from Dagenham Heathway were mainly office workers and you all went suited and booted. As the years have moved on, work wear has increasingly become more casual and, to be honest, it’s rare to see anyone dressed ‘office smart’ on the Tube. It’s also sad to see that no one really dresses up to go out, either: not for a meal, or the cinema or the theatre. However, how you dress still projects yourself to others.

I’m by no means a fashionista and I dress very casually in jeans and T-shirt for 95 per cent of the time when not at work and, since the pandemic, work dress codes appear less important in general, so now I wear more casual clothes for work, too. Dressing in smart office attire was my go-to prior to 2020; a work ‘armour,’ if you will. I used to dress to boost my confidence, giving myself a feeling of authority. When I started working on Pen to Print, it became more important, as I was forming new partnerships and was the lead representative of the programme, so l wanted  to portray myself as a professional person, even if I didn’t feel it. Suits and smart dresses were the de facto work attire. I still put on the ‘armour’ for important meetings and events. Although, the working from home dress code is sometimes pandemic PJs, when I don’t have any online meetings planned!

This leads on to my recent dilemma and I’m sure I’m not alone in panicking when getting a last-minute invite to a special occasion.

I was lucky enough to get an invitation to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and, of course, the first thing that crossed my mind was not: ‘How lovely’ or: ‘How exciting.’ It was: ‘OMG what am I going to wear?!’ With only two weeks’ notice and having a terribly busy schedule, it was going to be a challenge. I didn’t allow myself to believe I was going until the physical invite landed on my door mat, and I only received that less than a week before the event!

I’m not usually very forward-thinking when it comes to outfits, but when my nephew announced his engagement way back in 2017, I just happened to be passing a M&S in Manchester and had some time to kill, so set about looking for a ‘just in case’ wedding hat. I’m not a hat person and, having a large cranium compared to many ladies, struggle to find head wear that actually fits. However, the ‘hat fairies’ must have been looking out for me, as I found just the right titfer to buy, so I struggled back to Dagenham on a train and the tube with a huge hat box containing my precious millinery prize which went straight into my wardrobe in anticipation of the happy event. Well, let’s just say the date for the wedding was set for 2020 and, for some strange reason I can’t fully recall, it was delayed for a year or so. The new dates meant I couldn’t go to the wedding so, unfortunately, my hat remained in its box at the back of the wardrobe, unworn.

The next chance I got to wear the hat was my cousin’s wedding, which was a low-key event so, again, the hat stayed in the box. My daughter was next in line for an appearance of the hat but she banned anyone wearing black or white and my hat is… you guessed it, black and white! So, for my mother-of-the-bridal trousseau, I hired a hat to match the most expensive outfit I’d ever bought with the ‘just in case’ hat remaining stubbornly unworn. It did finally get an outing at another nephew’s wedding in 2022 and remained perched on my head  for the entire day. I wasn’t really expecting to wear it again, so I was making the most of it. But nonetheless, I’ve kept it just in case of an emergency.

When I got the unexpected summons to Buck House, I knew that  my ‘emergency hat,’ at least, was Garden Party-worthy. I just needed to find the rest of the outfit!  The dress code for ladies was ‘day dress and hat’ so I was sorted. I’d already bought a ‘just in case’ white jacket. Purchased pre-2020, I’d rediscovered it after moving my huge floordrobe to look for my ‘black and white just in case dress.’ It was yet to be worn, so all matched quite well. The next stage was to find the right shoes and bag.

I knew I was likely going to be on my feet a lot, so I went for the flattish silver court shoes I’d bought for the Pen to Print Awards (since I broke my foot high heels are a no-no), but didn’t have a big enough matching handbag to hold all the required IDs and other essential bits and bobs we ladies need. As I’m known as the ‘Imelda Marcos’ of the family, you might guess that my collection of shoes and bags is not insubstantial. In fact, I’m currently on a new shoes and bag embargo, imposed by the men in my household. But I decided to risk their wrath, purchasing a new and very inexpensive bag from Peacocks in the Mall at Heathway, rushing out to buy it the evening before the event. It didn’t match the shoes but with my watchword being comfort rather than style, silver shoes and a white bag would have to do.

Accessorised with my 30th wedding anniversary pearls and using items I already had in the wardrobe rather than a 100 per cent new outfit, me and my ‘emergency hat’  scrubbed up rather well.  I still feel immensely proud of myself and, along with many other representatives from our vibrant creative industries, had a wonderful day schmoozing with the King and Queen. Disaster averted!

(c) Lena Smith, 2024


Next month, I want to hear your stories about migration – particularly if you have a refugee background. Please write to me with your stories about how you’ve overcome negativity, or how you’ve adjusted to a new society and a new life here. I want to give you all a voice, so please do connect. Contact me via, or send you peace in via submissions:

In the meantime, take care.
Farzana x


Issue 20 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here.

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Wear what you want, whenever you want!