First there were the Minnie Mouse leggings. I was four (one, two, three, four sticky fingers counted and held up proudly to show my age). They were my first experience of fashion, and my first experience of love. A shouty shade of pink, they clashed with the orange curtains that parted around my chubby face. I paired them with an acid green t-shirt, accessorized with a half moon grin. I would like to think that my taste has developed since then (I got a haircut and ditched the Disney), but some things will never change.
My name is Libby and I am a colour addict. My wardrobe looks like a Skittle shower. It is colour co-ordinated like a rainbow with only two or three black items acting as a full stop at the very end of the rail. I hardly ever wear them. Dressing in colour is an important part of who I am and bright shades are like the anti-shadow that follows me wherever I go.
I cannot imagine my life without colour, and I cannot imagine my life without Sally. Sally is my mum’s name and the name of the nanny who helped look after me ever since I was two. Both women have been huge influences in my life and have painted it many different shades.
When I think of my childhood and my mum I think of a soft pink jumper she wore when I was little, a jumper that felt like falling asleep it was so gentle to the touch. I think of the powder green stalks of her favourite flower (tulips), her forget-me not blue Aga and her marshmallow pink fridge. All of these things and all of these colours sum up how I felt about her as a little girl: she was my safety.
Nanny Sally is the most colourful person I know. Red was and still is her signature, but if it is not red it is purple, or fuchsia pink, all accessorised with vibrant handmade jewellery and a personality as warm as the colours she wears. Nanny Sally’s love of colour extends into her home, where cereal is eaten out of rainbow stripe bowls and cupboards are painted turquoise and apple green. I didn’t know this was allowed.
My memories are punctuated by colour, like bright map tacs pinned into the collage of my life. A toothpaste green gingham dress marks my early school years. I saw in the millennium with dark green beads and a velvet skirt that felt soft and comforting to the touch. Bright tie-dye and a suede coat the colour of squashed blackcurrants signalled the transition into my early teens.
As I grew up my relationship with my mum changed: she wasn’t just the pink parent who fed me Calpol and put my school uniform on the radiator each morning, she was a poster for the kind of woman I wanted to grow into. And she was red. I would watch her put on her red lipstick or hug her through her thick red coat when she came back from work, and I would think to myself, “I won’t be a grown up until I can wear red.”
As I got older I also became more conscious of the clothes I wore. Now the first thing I think about when I wake up is what I’m going to wear. It is important to me, not because I want to look like a walking magazine (or think that I ever could) but because the clothes I wear have a huge effect on how I feel. Colour is a big part of this.
Last year I spent two weeks in two colours: one week dressed head to toe in pink and another dressed head to toe in red. I was interested in how colours affect my mood and the way people treat me, but most of all it was the one thing that fashion should be: fun.
People often tell me that I must be confident to wear such bright colours. Most mornings when I wake up I don’t feel sunshine yellow or confident cobalt. In fact I often want nothing more than to hide behind a mask of grey and black. But that is exactly why I wear colour. If I’m feeling blue I’ll put on blue tights instead.
I have always worn colourful clothes, but my wardrobe is definitely the brightest it has ever been. Earlier this year I became unwell. I spent six months in a glandular fever cloud. Most days I felt as though I had been on a treadmill for weeks and my body had turned to jelly. But I wasn’t just drained of energy; I felt like a deflated balloon with all the personality squeezed out of me. I spent several months in my pyjamas and developed a relationship with my duvet that was nothing short of possessive. When I eventually managed to escape the clinging arms of my bed I wanted to wear all the shadows of my mood. But instead I dressed like a sunbeam. Like a sunflower draws energy from the sun, I drew energy from the bright colours that I forced myself to wear. I still do.
The clothes you wear are the first things that people see of you. I want mine to smile hello.
Colour is my coffee in the morning and the person I want to be. But it is also my story. And although it may not be earth-shattering or twinkling with the sparks of fireworks, I think my story is more colourful than a little black dress. Isn’t yours?