How Susie Bubble found freedom in flashing a little flesh
The famous fashion blogger has shed the layers for higher hemlines
Susie Bubble on how motherhood changed her approach to fashion… for the sexier.
I was recently looking back through my archives, dating back to 2008, two years after I had started my fashion blog (remember those?), Style Bubble. There was one sentence that stood out, making me simultaneously cringe and reflect on its significance: ‘Let’s just get this straight: baring the flesh really isn’t my thing. Who wants to see flabby thighs, a round tum and pancake boobs?’
These were the sort of flippant sentences that 24-year-old me would frequently express to friends, boyfriends and, yes, readers. My blog was, after all, a place where I could freely express my love of extreme, oversized clothes and creative layering – an idea I’d take to the point where I would purposely look like an over-decorated cake (incidentally, that was my go-to one-liner for describing my style).
I even wrote a blog post about layering three skirts together as a body-obscuring badge of honour. As my way of self-expression was beginning to explode online, a niche part of the internet cheered me on, as did my life partner, who has always had a ‘you do you’ attitude towards the way I dress. This was supposedly style empowerment.
Of late, though, those sentiments have changed, and the layers have gradually been shed and replaced with higher hemlines. Call it an awakening of sorts, but 34-year-old, mother-of-one me now has a firmer steer of my post-baby, softened and maybe wizened body. A new-found realisation that I can still feel like me when wearing less has contributed to remarks from onlookers – both online and in real life – that I’m looking less like a girl and more like a woman.
Covering up my body was born out of cultural reaction and teenage notions of rebellion, as well as my own predilection for the sort of fashion that celebrated a ‘cerebral’ look. Growing up in London but frequently going back to Hong Kong (where my family is from), I was always exposed to a regimental body culture.
Whenever I see relatives in Hong Kong, the first thing they comment on is whether I’ve lost or gained weight. From a young age, it was ingrained in my mind that the ideal figure was one of the often-unattainable body types celebrated in fashion magazines – model stats that read 32-24-34in (chest-waist-hips) and veered so very far from my own slim, but not skinny, stature.
Every teenager can attest to exaggerating their own physical ‘flaws’ in the mirror, and I too saw my thighs, tummy and arms to be wider and bigger than they actually were. Fashion therefore became a form of combative armour. While my friends in London were going out, attracting boys in strappy, club-ready Miss Selfridge dresses (I’m really dating myself here), I hid away in T-shirts under vintage slip dresses over combat trousers – my three-layer go-to uniform.
On the beach, I’d avoid bikinis, favouring one-pieces, and maybe one or two cover-up additions. In my late teens, a geeky obsession with the Antwerp Six designers, Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons and London’s own anti-trend creative scene only served to cement a personal style that kept the body permanently covered in fabric.
People might credit my new, dare-to-bare attitude to a growing confidence – a life shift that supposedly comes with age. I’m personally suspicious of this generalisation. Mostly, I’ve just grown to care less about what people might think if I do on occasion bare my midriff. And when I became pregnant and had my first baby last year, the ‘I really couldn’t care less’ approach properly took hold. My tummy, which I affectionately call ‘Barry’, has been ravaged by stretch marks and no longer has the pre-pregnacy tautness of my twenties. And once you start getting your breasts out on a regular basis to feed your baby, you’re no longer fixated on their resemblance to fried eggs.
Perhaps my change in mindset has to do with a secret desire to branch out and be seen as someone with multiple dimensions. Reducing a night-out outfit to a slip dress and a pair of statement earrings often elicits ‘sexy’ comments from friends. That’s a word I’ve never really associated with myself in all my adult life, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to be seen in that vein, once in a while.
In fashion, there have never been more ways to exude sensuality in a nuanced way. Jonathan Anderson for Loewe and Simon Porte Jacquemus at his eponymous label have explored the power of baring erogenous zones, with both designers taking a more minimal, sexier approach. Even Molly Goddard, whose voluminous tulle dresses I have often worn, took a turn for the womanly with shorter hemlines and more body-conscious smocking in recent collections.
And the scale from modest to sexy has become even more all-encompassing, thanks to largely female-authored fashions. Whatever your own physical comfort zone, there’s an area that you can bare creatively, be it the shoulders through a Lisa Marie Fernandez seersucker swimsuit or a peek-a-boo hole on the thigh of a Simone Rocha dress.
Of course, my collection of figure-defying Comme still holds pride of place in my wardrobe; I will probably always turn to layering as a natural method of getting dressed. I often put on a pair of jeans and feel the natural urge to add a skirt – growing up doesn’t suddenly mean I’m a minimal dresser.
But as priorities of being a mother take over, there isn’t necessarily that half an hour to spend concocting an elaborately tiered outfit. And so my ‘flabby thighs, round tum and pancake boobs’ now do see the light of day, come holidays or occasions when a spectacular mini dress (I’m looking at you, Anthony Vaccarello and your Saint Laurent beauties) becomes available.
The body is still my canvas, my way of expressing myself. It just no longer needs to be weighed down with layers.
From: ELLE UK