One of the biggest issues when it comes to making the most of your wardrobe is wearing what is considered 'appropriate' for the occasion. This is a notion I have problems with, particularly as 'appropriate' seems to mean different things for different bodies, with some given the benefit of the doubt, while for others almost every possible outfit is liable to come in for criticism. Having a strict workplace dress code can mean you have to buy clothes that aren't really to your taste, resulting in unwanted purchases languishing in your wardrobe, alongside the clothes you really want to wear but don't get the opportunity to. I'm lucky that my workplace has a relaxed attitude and no specific dress code rules; I've established a personal style that is both comfortable and presentable and, most importantly, is 'me'.
So, what if you don't feel like you can be 'you' at work? I doubt you'd ever assume cosplay was the answer. But a couple of silly things I saw got me thinking, and perhaps it's not the daftest idea in the world after all.
I first saw this cartoon by extra fabulous comics on Tumblr and loved everything about it; from the woman dressed identically to her (male) boss, to the fact that everyone else in the office seemed to be cosplaying. And of course, there's this someecards meme: "My Boss told me: Dress for the job you WANT, not the job you HAVE; now I'm in a disciplinary meeting in my Wonder Woman costume" so I'm clearly not the first person to entertain the idea of cosplaying at work. For those who haven't heard the term, 'cosplay' is a hobby that involves dressing up as your favourite tv, film or book characters (in made, found or bought costumes), and perhaps taking on a bit of that character's personality too. Some people spend a fortune making painstakingly accurate costumes, others simply re-purpose things from their wardrobes.
For example, I love mid-20th century fashion, but I find some modern interpretations that focus purely on full-on pin-up glamour too much of A Look for work, so I've often based outfits around styles worn by Peggy Carter in Marvel's Agent Carter, or Peggy Olsen in Mad Men; both characters wear outfits featuring bold prints or colourblocking, which adds a modern twist to vintage styling, and I like the cut and structure of outfits that let both characters take up space when they are at work, rather than being made to look small compared to the men around them. I also love characters whose wardrobe has a real sense of drama; while the McQueen-inspired dresses worn by Effie Trinkett in the Hunger Games definitely aren't suitable for work, her more subdued outfits from the later films are a great style reference for a stylish spin on utilitarian workwear.
You don't just have to copy period or fantasy dramas either, there is some amazing contemporary costuming on TV at the moment. My dream work wardrobe is currently being worn by Lucy Liu as Joan Watson in Elementary (although I'd struggle to do anything, let alone some serious sleuthing, in her towering high heels), while Gillian Anderson and Caroline Dhavernas in Hannibal (a show so immaculately styled it makes cannibalism look disturbingly like it could be an Instagram-worthy lifestyle choice) both wear a series of outfits that walk a fine line between carefully studied elegance and pure melodrama.
Trying out an outfit based on a costume design can be a great way of trying out different ways to wear our existing clothes, rather than feeling compelled to buy new clothes to keep up with trends, and it can also work as a little psychological boost.
In difficult or trying times, I seek solace in a well-loved novel, or find comfort in the virtual blanket-nest of a favourite film or TV series. Immersing ourselves in fictional worlds isn't a pointless form of escapism, they can help us learn more about ourselves, give us hope and, most importantly, teach us empathy for people whose lives and experiences differ from our own. I wrote this article about how Star Trek's utopian vision of the future made it my go-to, feel-good show in the wake of the Brexit vote, but dystopias have their appeal too: relief that things aren't that bad, or an opportunity to reflect on how we can avoid ending up in the same situation (hint: right now, the answer is voting! We don't need to arm ourselves to the teeth or head to higher ground just yet).
A friend from my beginners pointe ballet class suggested that we should all dress as Wonder Woman for a class, using whatever suitable clothes we had to hand. I can't speak for everyone, but I definitely felt an improvement in my posture from dressing as someone so confident and self-assured, and doing something fun that distracted me from being self-critical of my painfully slow progress on pointe probably made me dance better that day.
So if dressing like your favourite fictional character could make you feel more confident, more capable or just help you to enjoy your day, embrace the things you love and the creativity they inspire in you and go for it!