Credit: AJ Duncan

Looking bad and loving it

By Hailie Pentleton

Hailie Pentleton embraces leisurewear and looking less-than-perfect.

Freshers’ flu has done an absolute number on my skin, I haven’t gotten out of pyjamas in four days, and my hair is feeling very Tracy Beaker. All I need is to whip up a sourdough starter kit and crack open a copy of Normal People, and I’ll be transported back to the early days of pandemic pandemonium. As shitty as I feel, and as awful as I look, I’m enjoying not having to think about piecing together an outfit for a few days. This last year has changed my perception of style entirely. Not only have I actually developed my personal tastes beyond “it’s colourful, it’ll do”, but I’ve finally come to recognise that there’s nothing wrong with “letting” yourself go a little, relatively speaking. 

In my younger and more vulnerable years etc etc, I wouldn’t be caught dead in sports clothes outside of the gym. I had always been taught that to feel good it helps to look good. It’s well known that people will respond to you better if you’re attractive. It never crossed my mind that comfortable could look good. My rigid, literal way of thinking about most things has made developing my personal tastes an absolute nightmare. Exhaustingly, for me at least, I am the kind of person who needs to be told the dress code in advance. Is it formal? Is it semi-casual with a twist? What are you wearing, mum? Getting ready for things still makes me incredibly anxious. I hate the way hairdryers feel, I still don’t understand contour, bras were created to torture women, and shoes should never hurt your feet that much. Reader, I want so badly to be like other girls, but my god, I’ve never had the faintest idea how. 

I’ve pretended as though I know what I’m doing for the last few years, copying outfits from Pinterest, shopping in the same stores for things that were intended to match, and sticking to jeans and a “nice” top when all else fails. But when lockdown came around, I very quickly stopped caring about what I was wearing. Realising that I would only be seeing my partner for a solid four months, I gave up on concealer, threw my jeans to the back of the wardrobe, embraced leisurewear, and dragged my leaver’s hoodie from the depth of my drawers. When I was getting dressed up properly, I noticed myself becoming more mindful of what I was wearing and why I was wearing it. I’m now far less inclined to wear something if it isn’t comfortable. I kept makeup for special occasions and allowed my skin to breathe after not going a single day without foundation in well over a year. There was something so freeing about realising that you aren’t being perceived, that you don’t owe it to anyone to look good, except yourself. It’s an overstated cliche, but a truth nonetheless. Like most, I am far from being comfortable in my own skin (or in my own clothes), but I am learning to be happy with looking a bit shit from time to time. Looking good can really help to boost your mood, of course, but sometimes nothing feels better than just throwing on your joggers, slapping on some skin care products, and getting on with your day. 


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