In the last year, Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
When your whole life falls apart, it can become necessary to don armour. My life hasn’t completely fallen apart. Most importantly, my daughter is well, more, she’s thriving, I have family and friends that I love and am close to, and interesting work. But my marriage has. Fallen apart. My husband and I are separating.
As these things go, we have been fortunate. It is amicable and we co-parent excellently. Gwyneth would be proud. But there is no getting around it. When what you imagined, in broad brushstrokes anyhow, would be your life, turns out not to be, it is difficult. For a time, you’re so busy keeping it all together, like a duck, calmly (or so you hope) swimming on top, frantically paddling below, that all focus and energy goes on that. Other things go to the wall. Enjoyment of life’s fripperies. The will to eat particularly healthily, exercise much, or wear anything that isn’t lycra.
For a time, clothes became armour. A day-to-day uniform of black; gym gear and a voluminous puffa jacket, purchased specifically for its bountiful size. “It’s like something Kim Kardashian would wear,” a friend says of its extravagance. Exactly. Putting it on is as close to the comfort of wearing your duvet as you can acceptably get.
The cosiest garment I own is a full length, hooded, deep pile dressing gown from Marks & Spencer, which I take to sleeping under like a rug, but really, it’s a type of comforter, an adult blankie if you will. I can’t stop buying huge woollen jumpers, things you can burrow your chin down into. It’s a sartorial form of self protection. There’s a fur neckpiece given to me by the designer Roisin Gartland which becomes a sort of talisman.
Then, suddenly, I want to dress up again. Clothes become as much a celebration, a bit of fun, as they are a crutch. I buy five pairs of black high heels, at least one of which I can barely walk in, all of which make me taller than my ex, who is the same height as me. None of which I would have bought if still married.
For some reason, I find myself reverting to a more traditionally feminine way of dressing. Long floral dresses. The aforementioned high heels. My biggest influence is my three and a half year old daughter, who part trolls, part entices me, into all this.
For the first two or so years of her life I dressed her in boys’ clothes. It wasn’t a political stance. I simply preferred navy, green and grey to pink and purple. She began to have not-to-be-brooked opinions as to what she would wear around the age of two and a half and I wonder if she has been secretly punishing me ever since for those early years of Scandinavian restraint. Pink, purple, for a time only dresses would do. If allowed, she would have greeted each day dressed as if attending a Disney-themed wedding.
Occasionally I will arrive downstairs to receive a head-to-toe glance of appraisal. “Where’s your dress, mommy?” she will enquire. She has an unabashed joy in the accoutrements of being female. Make up, jewellery, dressing up. There’s a joie de vivre to her general approach to life that is infectious. Her attitude reminds me of my gran, a woman with a full appreciation for the decorative things in life: hair that was neatly brushed and plaited, a beautifully made dessert, fresh flowers, a well-cut garment.
A friend posts a picture of herself on Instagram commenting that she’s possibly over dressed for going out to dinner but isn’t the pleasure of dressing up half the fun of it. She looks beautiful, and inspired, I don my latest floral midi purchase and high heels for drinks with a friend in our local on a Friday night. Harry Byrne’s won’t know what’s hit it. I’m struck by a grief storm shortly before I leave the house which washes away all my carefully applied make up, so I arrive an odd combination of bare face, bleary eyes and floaty chiffon. Still though, it’s the getting ready and the making the effort.
Always put your best foot forward I will tell my daughter. And I will have got it from her.
Main image via Mango