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The Fashionable Nineties and Power Dressing

The nineties are making a comeback on the fashion scene. Here's what it taught me about power dressing.

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The nineties have made a comeback. Last year, as I walked into Zara at the Waterfront, in Cape Town, I saw this shirt dress made of flannel shirts. It was a long flannel shirt with what looked like extra arms to tie around your waist. The flashback to My So-Called Life and my teens was inevitable.

A week or two later I was in Sweden, going through my baby sister’s old closet and found her Doc Martens. She bought them in her teens because I had Docs. I had a beautiful red pair of Docs with yellow shoelaces. Wearing these Docs I went to the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, I waited tables in Paris, I walked around my high school in Sweden and I studied drama in London. When leaving London, some seven years later, I threw them out. Big mistake. I now had to beg my sister to give me hers. And they are black, not red.

I’ve been on a resurrection journey lately. A resurrection to my teens.

In my teens, I discovered I was what is labeled “an artist.” When I wasn’t waiting tables in Paris, I was sitting in coffee shops and parks writing poetry, or at home in our flat with the ghosts penning short stories.

I took dance and drama classes, I made charcoal drawings and quoted Trainspotting, I lived and breathed art. Then I set off for drama school and I got so caught in my studies I forgot to live that side of me. Sure, I did art. Every single day. Often until midnight. I worked my butt off. But it was a very strict school and I did not come home at night and sit down to write about the beauty of raindrops.

Then life happened. A myriad of jobs that I didn’t really like, while waiting for that elusive moment when I was going to be living my dreams. When that didn’t quite pan out, I packed my bags and moved to Africa to fulfill a promise of working with street children that I’d made in my teens.

At least I was suddenly living one dream. I also became a writer to pay the bills when overseas. I know, it sounds contradictory, but it actually worked out. Sort of. It was pretty hard to pay the bills, because I didn’t really enjoy writing certain things so they took forever to write and paid like $5 per article. I worked all the time, without actually getting anything done. I guess I have some form of ADHD that kicks in when my brain isn’t totally engaged. Which is like 90% of the time. With the years I learned to get better at that. Scatterbrained, yes, able to concentrate, yes. Sometimes. Better work? Oh yes.

Then, at some point, when I was ghastly tired of writing for others and a wreck from fighting for visas and raising kids from a township, I decided to take charge of my life and live again. I started writing poetry. I did charcoal drawings. I enjoyed the moment. Even if I was still fretting about visas and bills and adoption rights.

As I put on those Doc Martens I felt empowered. The girl with the big blue eyes who went to Paris on a whim and wrote poetry all day long, was back. In a better version. A less depressed and more mature version. A more confident soul. After years in Africa you can’t help but be more confident, because either that continent kills you, or it makes you stronger.

For me the Docs were the thing that did it — it was like power dressing in a matter of seconds. But other 90s trends have made comeback too. Like the biker jacket.

The one thing I kept wearing throughout the years, the thing I could not stand to give up on, was the little biker jacket. I got used to having a leather, or faux leather, jacket and I never could get out of the habit of wearing one. Sometimes I wore a slightly different style, but time and time again, I went back to my biker jackets.

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Now that the biker jacket is finally back, I am, sadly, without one as I happened to leave mine in a bathroom in Copenhagen airport(the one I bought in Zara when seeing the flannel dress) late last year and I haven’t gotten round to buying a new one. Instead, I’m sporting a Ted Baker coat I found in a second-hand store. It’s bright red. Like those Doc Martens that I used to wear and just as empowering when paired with my black hooker boots. Oh yeah, thanks Julia Roberts and Pretty Woman for shaping nineties fashion and thanks whoever brought them back!

Dungarees, denim jackets and skirts and shirts, the mommy jeans (that wasn’t me, seriously), chokers and crop tops are also back. Over knee socks are kind of back too, aren’t they? It’s now just a matter of sitting back and going through Clueless to figure out what’s coming next.

Maybe we should all have a think, not just about the fashion that’s making a comeback, but about what used to empower us? Or what would empower us today, by reminding us about a part of ourselves that we used to love, but have forgotten? I certainly don’t want to go back to being the teenager I was, but I do like to be reminded that I am an artist. I wrote over 400 poems in the last two years. I decided to use it as marketing for my brand, Magique. I have over 400 beautiful moments jolted down.

Today I also sit with film scripts, novels and drawings, that didn’t exist two years ago. I’ve started dancing again, too. Maybe not because I found a pair of Docs in my sister’s wardrobe, but it certainly helped.

So dig through that wardrobe of yours and find the equivalent of my Docs. Who knows? Maybe I’ll meet you at the Oscars thanks to a piece of clothing that inspires something.

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