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I’m sitting at a beach cafe with a friend in the south of France and I’m sweating unnecessarily. I stumble whilst talking to two attractive French boys with my high school French “Non! Je n’ai pas chaud!” No! I am not hot! I fold back the cuffs of my long-sleeved cardigan in the hope of letting out some heat and hope flakes from my psoriasis don’t fall onto my leggings. This was my teenage life. Constantly trying to convince people that I was cold on the hottest days of the year. And trying to chat up French guys.
My twenties were not much better. I dressed more appropriately for the temperature, but I never felt quite like I was myself. I would look at girls in their cropped tops and shorts and ooze envy from my pores because I although I had body confidence, I just didn’t have the skin confidence. Instead, I dressed like my nan. It was not so much that I felt unattractive showing my skin, more that I dreaded being asked about it, or worse, asked to justify it. Other people staring as they try to decide if I am a threat, whispers between friends wondering whether it's chickenpox or eczema.
I have tried and failed at many things in my quest to feel like I was being true to myself when leaving the house each morning, and these are my life changing golden nuggets.
The three step strategy
1. Find one thing you like about yourself
Just ONE. Even if you're feeling pretty despondent there must be something - your hair, your toes, your wrists! Now you have a focal point. This is the part of your body you are going to draw attention too. Let’s look at a few ways we could do this:
● Toes - paint your toes a bright colour and wear open-toe shoes. The more extravagant the design on your shoes, the more likely people are to be looking at your feet than your scabby elbows.
● Waist - use belts to draw attention to your waist. A thick ornate buckle will really draw the eye although skinny belts on petite women look incredible. Buckles are also a great way to inject your personality into an outfit. Plus, your belt doesn’t need to be black or brown leather. I have apple green suede and flamingo pink suede belts in my collection. Bags can also draw the eye to the middle of the body and express a whole heap of personality.
● Neck - I often get a sprinkle of spots across my décolletage so I tend to avoid dangly necklaces and instead I go for chunky gold necklaces that frame my collar bone. This draws the eye away from my spotty bust and up towards my face where I prefer the attention anyway. Jewellery does of course work to draw the eye to the wrist and to the ear.
● Hair - wear your hair down, or up with some attention-grabbing clips. I used to wear my hair long to cover psoriasis on my upper back, so you can be strategic with this too, but now I’m older I don’t care so much and I tend to wear my hair tied back when it’s hot.
2. Know your personal style
I will let you into a secret. In my early twenties, I would cry when getting ready to go out for dinner, or to a party. The stress of not having anything to wear, knowing everyone else was going to look like they stepped out from a magazine corroded my self-confidence. I didn’t have anything to wear because I didn’t know how to dress for my body shape and my personality. I learnt to dress from my uber fashionable mother - think blonde Victoria Beckham. Unfortunately, I have the grace of an elephant, a bust and a ‘maternal’ hip.
When I turned up to my first session with a stylist, she was very kind and patient with a style ignoramus like me. Once she had decoded my style personality and while standing in front of her mirror, I suddenly understood why I felt so awful. Hareem pants with a bobbly knitted jumper…?
I have not cried getting dressed since. I love everything in my wardrobe and this past Christmas I went out for dinner in a sleeveless, low back velvet pantsuit with psoriasis down my back and arms and felt like a bond girl slinking up to the cocktail bar. How much of a difference knowing how to dress can make! Oozing confidence, I took the glances as complimentary.
Colour is critical too. In my teenage years I had paid £15 to a girl to do a colour analysis and she told me I suited muted colours, and here started a decade long season of drabness. It turns out when I paid someone who knew what they were doing, I discovered that muted colours were the worst colour for me and I was a paintbox spring. This means all of the primary colours in their brightest form make me glow. Think postbox red. Now even when I dress in a long flowy mumsy looking number because it has good airflow - I put on bright red lipstick and I feel great.
3. Learn how to use fabric
If you still do not want to expose a certain limb, or indeed any of them, then knowing which fabrics are breathable and soft is important. The classic is cotton. I don’t wear linen because it usually involves ironing, but linen is a great option - and when mixed with cotton chinos can look great on men and women. There are some fantastic sarong style trousers around at the moment that open up at the front of the legs as you walk and when you stand, they look like flowy trousers or culottes. These are perfect for knee psoriasis.
Cardigans are still an option in the summer - just make them longer cardigans in very lightweight cotton so they flow and air can still pass through them. Longer cotton cardigans are also a great option for the office (because not all summer dressing dilemmas happen at the beach!). You can wear a spaghetti strap top underneath which looks smart and allows the movement of air. Square necklines on a fitted vest top with a statement necklace that skims the collar bone can look very professional and stylish with a long thin cardigan.
I love crochet for a really hot summer day. The gaps are so huge you can see my psoriasis through them, but the eye is drawn to the repetitive pattern and not my skin. Texture is our friend, allowing us to inject style and personality into any outfit.
Silk is the ultimate. It’s expensive and does not mix well with emollients, so is not necessarily an everyday item, and yet - for feeling special for a date, a meal out with friends, and weddings it is a great solution. It’s soft, light and airy. It's very figure flattering, skimming over rolls and ripples and will give you an extra kick of confidence knowing that you look great. As silk is so expensive, I would recommend making very strategic investment pieces. Something as simple as a silk headscarf can really transform an outfit.
Long flowing cotton dresses are great for keeping cool and provide extensive coverage. Slits up the sides can increase ventilation, as can dresses with cut out panels in the shoulder and midriff. They are also the ideal canvas for belts colour, patterns and jewellery to draw the eye and boost the personality factor.
It’s all about youEven though this whole blog is about dressing with confidence in hot weather, it doesn’t matter what you wear. It matters how you feel in the clothes you have put on. If you don't know how to dress for your personality and body shape, then book yourself in with a stylist. It will be some of the best money you ever spend.
Article developed in partnership with LEO Pharma.
MAT-34774 May 2020