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    I first realised I’d given myself fashion freedom when I purchased a royal blue bodycon dress from River Island. I remember trying it on in the fitting room, twirling in front of the mirror and thinking to myself ‘this dress doesn’t go with black tights, therefore if I purchase, its nude tights or nothing’. The thought of leaving my house the following Saturday evening without my safety net black tights made feel nervous as a single thought, but I was tired of having a wardrobe that revolved around covering my skin and knew that the next phase for me was getting comfortable and putting myself a little outside my comfort zone….

    I’ll be honest, I felt slightly uncomfortable. For me, nude tights was a new thing. In my paranoid little mind, as I admired myself in front of the full length mirror in the blue dress I ended up purchasing, the white patches on my legs were totally obvious. Forget the fact I was an inch from the mirror, my bedroom lights were brightly beaming and I was fully aware of what my skin looked like underneath the tights. I even had a layer of fake tan on my legs as an added precaution, but still my white patches were showing up through my tights….or so I thought.

    Despite the discomfort, I felt free. I was wearing a dress that that made me feel amazing. It sat comfortably on my knee, was fitted to reveal my petit frame and had some subtle cut outs around the waist just to add a little sexiness. I felt great….

    Rewind time back to my twenties, and my focus when it came to fashion, was to buy anything that disguised my skin. I had endless pairs of skinny jeans, skirts in dark colours that went well with black tights and tops that had long sleeves. I admired the fashion pages in Stylist, Vogue and Elle, but daren’t buy anything that they considered to be on trend, especially if it was revealing. My style was very defined, I wore what I liked and very rarely ventured away from what made me feel comfortable.

    As I entered my thirties, my shopping habits completely changed. I started to focus on the pieces I liked and gave little consideration to how much skin it would cover! Vitiligo took a ‘back seat’ as I started to own my style…here are the lessons I learnt that changed my wardrobe for the better…

    Lesson 1: Don’t dress to blend in.

    I was the ultimate blend in the background chic! I loved nothing more than owning a wardrobe that allowed me to camouflage myself against the crowd because I didn’t want to attract attention or be the one that didn’t get the ‘dress code’ memo. To avoid any hiccups, I’d downplay my choice of outfit. Now, I love experimenting with trends and creatively putting items together that reflect who I am and allow me to freely express myself. Of course, I still consider the setting when im getting ready, but I’m definitely more flexible and give more consideration to what I want to wear rather than what I ‘should’ wear.

    Lesson 2: Embrace being unique

    So… my unique quality is that I have vitiligo, but to me, it wasn’t unique…it was a nuisance. I wanted to keep it a hidden secret, which meant my style was based around keeping it covered.

    My uniform was very much skinny jeans, high necklines, jumpers, shirts with long sleeves and blazers to take my look from day to night. For me, it saved me from stares and if I’m honest…upped my chances of chatting to a guy without having to explain why my arms were partly white and partly mixed. When I decided that I wanted to give myself wardrobe freedom I knew that would also mean changing my mind-set and with that, learning to embrace my skin, because a lot of what I wanted to wear meant revealing my skin.

    Now I love asymmetric tops, bardot tops, cap sleeves and anything strapless. I’ve learnt to wear my clothes, my clothes don’t wear me. I don’t hide behind items that cover me up and when I’m out and ready to whip off my blazer to reveal a lace corset body, I do it with confidence! Part of allowing myself to wear such items was knowing that it was okay to show my skin and now, I can honestly say I don’t even notice people staring because im too busy feeling excited about what I’m wearing. I think sometimes we are so fixated on people looking at us, that we forget to be present. Now im present in every situation and give those around me who aren’t important, no amount of thinking time.

    Lesson 3: Be Confident

    There is nothing worse than wearing something that just isn’t you. Something you brought because the price had been slashed or just because it was an on ‘trend piece’. Wear clothes that excite you, suit you and reflect your personality….and do so with confidence! There is one key thing that I learnt; wearing clothes outside of your comfort zone isn’t about your personal style, it’s about your confidence levels.

    I recall times when I would force myself to wear a t-shirt in the summer. I was never very comfortable because as soon as I showed my arms, I automatically felt vulnerable and anxious. If you’re not ready to wear shorts in the summer or a t-shirt, then don’t. You’ll be ready in your own time and when you are, you honestly wont give your skin a second thought…

    Lesson 4: Makeup

    I’m not heavily into makeup but always admire when a girl has done a great job with hers! I use very simple products – a good quality foundation, eye pencil, a rosy blusher and a good highlighter for my cheekbones. However, when im feeling to make a little more effort, I often like to contour or use eye shadows that match what I’m wearing. Makeup doesn’t have to be fussy to be effective; sometimes a good lipstick or bringing some focus to your eyes can really complete an outfit…


    How I Changed My Wardrobe When I Couldn’t Change My Skin

    We’ve all been there! Those times when you slide open the wardrobe doors and stand back in anticipation as you ponder how the hell you’re going to clothe your body before deciding that you ‘definitely never, ever have nothing to wear’ (queue yet another shopping trip!!). My wardrobe made me feel defeated most mornings. I’d spend the first 30 minutes of my day feeling unproductive as I pulled items from their hangers, holding them up in disgust, like I couldn’t have been the one that had made the purchase a few weeks back. Fashion for me was never something I found fun or could embrace the way I wanted.

    Growing up, I had a limited sense of style, lacked any creative flair when it came to pulling an outfit together and often matched my top half to my bottom in ways that you weren’t supposed too! (I’m probably sounding a little harsh on myself now, but looking back that’s how I felt!).

    My lack of creativeness wasn’t down to lack of interest in my appearance. It was down to my first priority which was cover my skin. Having Vitiligo, especially during my teenage years, was a struggle. It prevented me from experimenting  with seasonal trends and instead drove me towards covering my skin and saving me from any embracing conversations.

    As a teenager growing up in the 90’s, I wasn’t into your typical mixed prints, cool dungarees or thigh high shorts that the girls would proudly wear in the summer. I loved the Spice Girls (cringe!) and their often outlandish but individual styles, but for me, having a style that felt individual to me, just wasn’t something I was comfortable creating. As a little girl, my parents dressed me in shorts, t-shirts and pretty little dresses which openly revealed the patches on skin. At the I didnt really understand what Vitiligo was, so letting everyone see my legs felt very normal to me.

    So what happened? Why was I no longer that little girl who thought what she was once ‘normal’?

    I became a teenager. A self-conscious, shy, paranoid, ‘desperate to fit in’ teenager. No longer did I want people to see what I looked like underneath the layers and so I quickly retreated within myself. I became obsessed about covering up. I developed a wardrobe full of ‘safety pieces’ in ‘safety colours’ because it allowed me to blend in. My staple pieces centred around simple tops with long sleeves, jeans, trousers and skirts only if they could be worn with thick black tights.

    I owned nothing striking, colourful or risqué because that would have moved me into a place of discomfort. For years, my entire wardrobe, whether it was summer or winter, consisted of long sleeves. The bravest thing I done during the summer was wear a top with ¾ length sleeves instead. Sandals, summer dresses and shorts were a ‘no go’ area.

    As I entered into my late teens, about to start college which meant I no longer had to rely on a uniform and realised I had to rely on the contents of my wardrobe to feel current. It was at this time that I realised I’d accumulated a wardrobe of mismatched items that had me feeling very uninspired. My clothes felt like ‘emotional baggage’ and I knew it was something that needed to change and so my ‘wardrobe overhaul’ began. Mum jumped on board (she helped with being ruthless!) and immediately we started packing up anything I hadn’t worn in 6 months and giving it to charity. I forced myself to let go of some of my safety pieces. I reduced what I owned in black and completely slimmed down my wardrobe ready to start again. The most unusual part of the exercise, wasn’t that I’d gained the confidence to change how I looked…..I hadn’t……but rather I had recognized it was something I wanted to change…..

    My shopping habits started to change. Gradually, I was able to refocus my mind by putting more thought into what I was buying, rather than impulse buying. I fell in love with maxi dresses, which kept my legs covered during the summer. Pastel colored jeans in pale yellow; lime green and baby pink made me feel summer ready, as opposed to typical denim. My caramel coloured skin came alive against citrus colours such as oranges, reds and yellows so I injected instant colour on my top half when teamed with black jeans. Before buying anything I would ask myself whether I genuinely needed it and if I had something in my wardrobe that would go with my new purchase. In order to make the changes, I had to be strict otherwise I risked adopting my past bad habits.

    I have a much better relationship with fashion now that i’ve given myself the freedom to experiment and wear those things I often envied on other women. Here’s how I changed my wardrobe and became more creative with what I wore….

    Look for Inspiration and create a mood board

    Popular magazines was what gave me inspiration and helped me define the styles and trends I was drawn to. I would cut out my favourite looks and stick them on a mood board which was a constant reminder of what inspired me. This gave me a sense of direction. It didnt necessarily mean I was going to run out and buy the exact same outfit, but it gave me a ‘starting point’ and enabled me to think more creatively when it came to putting something together that worked for my figure and suits who I was.

    Don’t be afraid to experiment

    I spent years stuck in my comfort zone because I didn’t have the confidence to venture past it! When I realised I wanted to be more open, I found I was able to have a lot more fun! Start by looking at items you would normally buy, perhaps in a different colour. So rather than opting for most people’s ‘go to’ colour of black try something in bold red or shocking pink. It will help divert your attention away from ‘safe’ colours and will help you to refocus your mind on being a little more experimental.

    Focus on what looks good on you and not anyone else

    There is nothing wrong with admiring a friend’s style or the girl in the office that can throw things together and still look like she’s emerged from the catwalk! But just remember, your style is unique to you. I was so paranoid about standing out, that I ‘played down’ what I wore, however, eventually,

    I started wearing t-shirts and vests with a cardigan over the top or fitted shirts, which was a change from a standard top with long sleeves.

    There’s more to fashion than showing your skin

    At school, I was convinced that fashion meant exposing your skin which of course it doesn’t! There were so many trends I could’ve embraced whilst remaining covered, but I had no clue what suited me. One summer, my Mum suggested I try culottes, much to my distaste! Who on earth wore garments that hung like skirts but were in fact trousers was my initial thought. But I gave it a go. A pleated black pair that I teamed with a simple white tunic….which worked because it accentuated my slim frame. I realised that fashion wasn’t about revealing myself. It was about wearing what made me feel comfortable and what made me and my shape look amazing.

    I’m by no means verging towards being the next Alexa Chung! But what I do know, is that I’ve found a place of comfort when it comes to dressing with confidence. I wear things that I like, I show my skin and I don’t consider whether anyone passing me in the street likes what I wear. I have fun experimenting with trends and putting things together that gives me a little uniqueness. I dress for me, even if it’s a risk, I’ve learnt that its one worth taking….