Although Gossip Girl has been off the air now almost seven years (yes, we’re all old), Blair Waldorf continues to be possibly the most iconic of all television characters in the history of any teen drama. Maybe even of all television. Or of all time? Take that, literally any character Shakespeare invented. She taught us that no outfit is complete until it’s topped with a headband. She provided us with endless quotable lines, including one of my favourites: “Haven’t you heard? I’m the crazy bitch around here.”
She was also, “An evil dictator of taste,” who over six seasons constantly advocated for fashion, style, and the fact that leggings are not pants, even though she made some huge missteps of her own (especially her hair in the last two seasons – who did Leighton Meester piss off?). But my favourite quote of hers, and one that I think about a lot is “Fashion is the most powerful art there is. It’s movement, design and architecture all in one.” She then uses that as a jumping-off point to insult Dan Humphrey, which you know, classic Blair.
Fashion is often criticised for being vapid, frivolous and fickle and people who are interested in it are often labelled the same. Although the industry itself has a lot of issues – fatphobia, the damage of fast fashion, lack of diversity and enough for a whole other article – people underestimate fashion as a source of joy. There are wonderful, amazing designers who put their heart and soul into their brands and into making beautiful clothes. Others pour important messages into their clothing, taking a brave stance by putting their political views out into the world. I can’t say that I design clothes whatsoever (my high school textiles teacher will agree to that), but fashion and mental health are linked and it brings me an immense amount of joy to dress up and is a great coping mechanism for my depression.
Firstly, I choose my outfit for every day the night before. People meal prep to get ahead for the week to make sure they’re being healthy at work, I outfit prep. The time and stress in the morning spent trying to figure out what to wear for the day only to realise the shirt that would’ve paired perfectly with the skirt you grabbed is dirty – gone. My wardrobe is arranged by type (shirts, skirts, trousers, dresses, coats etc.) and colour, which means I always know where something is. Having something that’s so organised and rigid in place, when my brain can be all over the place, really helps me out in the long run. My brain genuinely thanks me for it.
Second, I wear a lot (and I really mean a lot) of colour. If I could go all Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, I would. Not that there’s anything wrong with wearing black – you do you – but I find it’s easier to feel cheerful when I’m wearing something bright. Also, it’s fun seeing people do a double take when you’re wearing something shockingly vivid on a drizzly London day (as an attention seeker, I really enjoy this).
(Fun fact! I got this dress cause Blair once wore it on Gossip Girl! Twas second-hand from eBay!)
Third, I buy things because I love them – not because they’re the current trend. As much as I wish I was fashionable and cool, I’ve admitted to myself that I’m not a trendsetter, and I never will be. The only thing I’m currently on-trend on are headbands, and that’s because I never gave up on the pipe dream they’d come back into style after Gossip Girl stopped airing. My personal style is Blair Waldorf meets kindergartener meets if a rainbow exploded everywhere. It’s feminine, over the top, and if there’s an opportunity to add a frill or bow – you bet your ass I’m adding it. I have glittery gold Kate Spade taxi shoes, a pleated shimmery skirt, a blazer that makes me look like a bedazzled American dollar bill – things other people may hate, but make me smile whenever I wear them. It’s okay to buy kitsch and buy something that you wouldn’t normally wear, purely because you love it. Indulge! Wear something that makes you resemble Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus if it brings you joy (to be fair, her wardrobe was amazing and would bring anyone joy).
Four, I (try to) buy from Depop, eBay and charity shops. I get a buzz when I manage to find something second-hand online, for a fraction of the price. It makes you feel like you really earned it! Shopping at charity shops is also great because you know your money is going to a worthy cause. I’ve found a suede French Connection skirt for £20, a coat Taylor Swift once wore for £40 (same exact style and brand, not the exact coat that touched Taylor’s skin), wool hats for a tenner and so much more. I’ve also seen Miista shoes for £38! They weren’t my size otherwise I would’ve snapped them up in a second.
When it comes to fashion and mental health, my wardrobe is a coping mechanism and it’s one that really helps. I dress joyful, to make myself feel joy. Is it the only thing that helps me with my depression? No, not at all. I’m privileged enough to have a doctor, medication, a weighted blanket, a SAD lamp and a sunrise alarm clock to help with it, along with supportive family and friends. I’m also privileged that I’m able to afford a gym membership, a meditation app and healthy food, along with enough time to meal prep. Last week, my mood was blacker than it has been in a long while. So, I wore a bright yellow dress (ruffled, obviously) with a perfectly coordinated headband. Did it cure my depression? No. Did it make me feel mildly better to put effort and care into myself on a dark day? Yes. Did the compliments I got from co-workers also make me feel a little better? Also yes. It can bring me joy on the darkest of days – and honestly, sometimes my outfits are so 🔥 that they definitely bring other people joy as well.
Quick caveat – this is something that works for me and my mental health. If you’re concerned about your own, speak to your doctor or a local mental health service to find a healthy coping mechanism for yours.
Words by Kate Edwina