Refinery 29 UK
The pandemic has shifted people’s priorities in many ways, from career changes to lockdown breakups. For some, suddenly being confined to the four walls of a cramped flat in the middle of an exorbitantly priced city had them seeking pastures new. There were those whose changing perspective found them new residents of bucolic villages and quaint coastal towns, while there were others who left their motherland to embrace the next new adventure abroad. The ultimate chance for reinvention, a big move offers the question: how much of what we wear is dictated by where we live? Does the character of a city – or the anonymity it provides – influence what you choose to wear each morning? How much does the need for practical, weather-faring pieces like wellies and raincoats have you tapping out of the trend cycle? Do you care less what people think when your new neighbours are farm animals, or do you embrace the eccentricity of your former city and make a statement in a small town? Read on to hear how 8 women’s personal style changed when they upped sticks and relocated. Ruby Redstone, a student, moved from New York to London “I’m a native New Yorker but I moved to London in September 2020 to pursue my MA in the history of dress at the Courtauld Institute of Art. On the whole my style is mostly Victorian-meets-1960s but in a Danish candy store colour palette – not to be too specific! I’m very passionate about fashion history, so I usually have an anachronistic cocktail of many time periods going on in any given outfit – lots of mixing and matching vintage. I’m quite feminine and love bows and pearls and all that, but I also try to temper those things with really bright, brash colours and doses of sportswear. In non-pandemic times, my life in New York feels busy, and I find myself trying to pick outfits that suit a wide variety of occasions so that I can run around throughout the day without stopping home to change. (I consider a single outfit that transitioned from work to taking my cousins ice skating to attending an opening party at the MoMA to be one of my greatest New York day outfit achievements). I also am strongly convicted that New York is the best place to try out looks that you might be scared to wear elsewhere. There’s so much going on at any given time that your outfit will be far from the wildest thing anyone sees during their day – it removes a lot of the pressure. Also, there’s a culture in New York of people just acknowledging when they like someone’s look on the street with a casual compliment or a knowing nod. It feels like everyone in the city understands the power of a great outfit. I do miss that a lot when I’m in London. I love that people dress up much more across the UK, though. I went to university in Scotland, and I loved the fact that everyone put on a proper outfit to go to the library and wore something relatively formal to class. That’s pretty much unheard of in the US, and students wear their pajamas around campus which I find simply terrifying – I mean, it’s so vulnerable! I love going into a restaurant here and seeing that everyone is a little bit done up in dresses and crisp shirts. It feels like a sign of respect, and I think that’s is definitely missing from New York a lot of the time. On the other hand, I think because of my borderline pathological need to rebel, I find that I emphasise the more American aspects of my style here. In New York I’m perfectly happy to be looking prim with a headband and a Simone Rocha-esque frock, but sometimes it feels like everyone in London is leaning into that look, and I find myself thinking ‘okay, I’ll wear the frock but I’m putting tracksuit bottoms and a tie dye t-shirt underneath’. I really like the challenge that I’ve kind of set up for myself here because instead of sartorially code-switching, I think that it is forcing me to ask myself what I need to wear to feel like myself no matter where I am in the world.” VV Brown, a musician, moved from London to a small village in the South Midlands “I lived in London from the age of 17 to 33 but have lived outside of the city for 5 years now. I was living in LA and New York. The main reason for leaving was because I fell pregnant. We wanted to raise our children in the countryside. We also realised that we got a lot more for our money leaving London. Living in a small trendy house in Peckham seemed impractical to us and we started to think more about having a larger space with a huge garden, being near Forest Schools and just generally being closer to other family members who could support us directly with our new family. I started off being into vintage clothing and it evolved into more flamboyant outfits for my stage performances. I was really into creating my own sense of style through second hand clothes. It was a bit more eclectic and experimental, and I must admit there were a lot of mistakes made lol. I was young and learning about fashion and it was all very intuitive in relation to how I wanted to express my music through clothes. I think since I have left London my fashion has become a bit more subtle, androgynous and utilitarian. I like menswear, and have fallen in love with cleaner lines and more simple pieces. I tend to choose clothes with a mindset of practicality and comfort these days. I am less outgoing with my personality and since motherhood and experiencing a quieter life I don’t feel the need to show ‘who I am’ so much with fashion. I am a massive fan of COS and everything is styled with a good wellington boot, a pair of vintage Nike Air Max 90s or a cap which I sling on cause I don’t have the time to do my hair with two kids under 5. When I do have time to style up I like to play with wigs, so when I go out I like to play dress up a little. I am very much into the 1920s. When I dress up I really love minimalism and simplistic touches. I thought I’d be wearing parrots in my hair in my coffin but life is funny and I think there is a less of a feeling that you have to give proof to the world that you ‘are someone’. You gain a quiet confidence. I am sure I will change again. I am really liking futuristic hip hop. I saw a bright yellow jacket with conflicting textures on a fashion blog, it was pleated cotton and silk, and I could feel a new interest pushing through. Maybe because of lockdown I want to change again and become a little more adventurous. I have new music in the works so perhaps that show off in me is coming out again – who knows?” Joanna Cresswell, a writer and editor, moved from London to Brighton “I lived in London for ten years or so – in various places, from Brockley, to Muswell Hill, to Stoke Newington and then Dalston – and, after moving to a village called Rottingdean just outside of Brighton for a few months over the summer last year, I’m now settled in a garden flat in Brighton, and hoping to move back out further into the countryside in the next year or so. A number of things contributed to the decision, but honestly I think it was just a long time coming, and this last year in and out of lockdowns without the possibility of much movement just finally spurred me to make the move. I’m a freelancer, and so for a long time I had been dreaming of living somewhere close to nature and the countryside, where I could walk or hike when I wanted. I’ve got the beach and the South Downs on my doorstep now and it’s both more inspiring, and more calming, for me to be around that kind of environment. I guess I would say I dressed somewhat ‘smarter’ in London – alongside freelancing, I worked in a gallery a bit and went to more events, so things like that have a hand in what you choose to put on in the morning. A lot more black too perhaps? I think I’m drawn to more colour now. My friends joked that I had a ‘uniform’ then – oatmeal colour jumper tucked into high waisted, straight leg black jeans and black leather boots from & Other Stories. And it’s true, I wore that ALL the time. Now, I wear looser, comfier and more practical clothing. More outdoor-wear in the winter and when going on hikes, and loose-fitting dresses and trousers in the summer for endless beach days. I would say that it’s hard to tell how much of that change is based on it being lockdown (and so just wearing comfy stuff most of the time because we’re not going out) and how much of it is based on the change of lifestyle and location, but I’d say it’s probably 50/50 of both. I never thought I would spend so much time asking my boyfriend to google ‘best hiking gear for women in wet climates’ and help me research, but here we are! (Turns out, hiking footwear by Keen and HOKA One are pretty superior, by the way!) Basically, anything with ‘gore-tex’ in its description pricks up an ear in this household. There are some great independents here too for lovely things – Our Daily Edit for womenswear is one of my absolute favourites, and I’d never heard of it before I moved here. I would have guessed my style would change, yes, because it needed to, to be practical to a much more outdoorsy lifestyle. But then also no in the sense that – I used to hate trainers! ALL trainers?!? And now I own more than one pair!” Georgia Burborough, a planning officer, moved from Dunedin, New Zealand to London “I’m from New Zealand and had lived there my whole life until 2018, when I moved to London three years ago. It was the classic move of following a man – we’re still together, so a very good decision. I think due to being a smaller population and having less shopping options (unless you wanted to spend an exorbitant amount on shipping and wait three weeks for pieces to arrive), in New Zealand there was a lot of meeting friends wearing the same thing as you! I’d say that I dressed a lot more sensibly and simply due to being a bit more outdoorsy and, again due to a smaller population, not wanting to make too much of a spectacle of myself. I definitely shopped more with local designers – faves being the classics of Juliette Hogan, Karen Walker, Twenty Seven Names and Ruby. In the UK, I probably dress a little more jazzier/European? There are more people here just doing and wearing whatever they want, and you have a wider range of choices, which means I’ve gone slightly more adventurous. I didn’t really think about how much my style had changed, but now that I’m planning on going home for a bit, I’ll definitely miss having such easy access to decent and varied shops and designers, from Scandi labels like Stine Goya, GANNI, Baum und Pferdgarten and Gestuz, to high street shops like & Other Stories, Arket and COS.” Jessica Morgan, a journalist and editor, moved from Essex to St Leonards-on-Sea “I have lived in Chalkwell, Essex, on and off at my parents’ house since 2005, after relocating from North London. I moved to St Leonards-on-Sea around two months ago as my partner grew up here, and due to lockdown it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to spend more time together. It’s even better that we’re both by the seaside, which we love. My personal style in lockdown in Essex really reflected my mood and the weather — usually I’d wear turtlenecks and a cute skirt with some heeled Gucci boots and a loud trench coat. I would also wear really lovely knitted dresses or floral maxi dresses with a black leather jacket, or jeans and trainers. Pre-lockdown, as London is so lively, I’d always dress for day-to-night because I knew that I would have plans in the evening and didn’t want to go all the way home to change, so I’d always make sure my style was suitable for both. Now, since we’re in lockdown, there isn’t very much to do in St Leonards other than go for long country or seaside walks. So I haven’t had any need to dress up in the Gucci boots or big designer labels. Plus I’m not going out to see friends at bars, clubs or restaurants, so my style has changed considerably because I’m mostly an outdoor babe now. Now you’ll find me in jeans and a warm fleece, a Berghaus cagoule and walking boots. Or very cosy knitted turtlenecks and a furry bucket hat. I didn’t expect my style would change, surprisingly. I do love dressing up even when I’m working from home, but I’ve gone from wearing loud pieces to being slightly toned down and practical. I quite like it, although sometimes I do feel like I’ve aged about 30 years. I think if we do end up moving back to London, I’ll still wear my cosy outdoor clothes but I’ll switch it up a bit. Although I do miss wearing heels! The pandemic has really changed how I style my clothes, too. Before, I wouldn’t be caught dead going for a walk in loungewear, but now it’s the norm. I often think if I’ll continue wearing loungewear or outdoor wear when we all return to the office, but I don’t think my heart is in it. The style in London is so diverse and being able to express yourself through fashion there is the one thing that inspires my daily looks when I am in the capital. I’m not saying that you can’t wear those loud and bold pieces out in the countryside or seaside towns, but you will see a few eyebrows raised. Sometimes I see people staring at us walking down the street, possibly because we do look like Londoners. We stand out like a sore thumb. But I don’t mind!” Alyssa Coscarelli, a writer, editor and content creator, moved from New York to Los Angeles “I lived in New York for 9 years and have been in L.A. almost a year. I moved for love, sunshine and palm trees, mostly. My personal style in New York was trendy yet vintage-inspired, and I was always down to try anything at least once. I wore Marc Jacobs, Frankie Shop, and vintage galore. Oversized blazers, chunky platforms and heavy-soled boots, vintage Levi’s, colorful sweaters, and floral socks. I was wrapped in a blanket scarf, or pairing a girly dress with “dad”-like trainers. I’d say it was experimental meets functional meets glamorous meets me. Now, I wear flats more than platforms or heels — sandals or flip flops, mostly. I’m in baggy jeans, stretchy things, and midriff-baring more than not. I own more sweatsuits than I’d like to admit, and many of my nicer shoes are sitting in my closet gathering dust. I’m wearing swimwear more regularly, not just on a once-a-year vacation. I live in Simon Miller and Mirror Palais. But I still try to let my personality shine through my L.A. style, and I’m not afraid to show my “New York-ish” edge through a unique haircut, statement handbag, funky accessories (chunky rings and retro sunglasses, usually), or fun pops of colour. I didn’t think my style would change so much, but I think the fact that I relocated to L.A. during a pandemic impacted that style change and made it happen more quickly and more drastically. I actually feel like people stare at me when I’m out grabbing takeout from a cafe or stopping for gas. It’s like they can tell I’m not from here, like it’s written all over my face/outfit. Typical L.A. style as we know it isn’t really my thing, so I’m okay with it, and I’m going to keep navigating this new sartorial chapter in a way that feels still authentic to who I am.” Megan O’Donnell-Bath, an art editor, moved from London to Deal “I lived in London for 6 years and have been in Deal for 4 months. I moved with my husband as we felt ready for, and absolutely in need of, a change. We loved our life in East London but were living in the teeniest little flat, so the sea, space and fresh air were a huge pull. The pandemic definitely inspired the move. We took a drive to the sea after the first lockdown lifted and were both so taken by how it made us feel. We’ve always wanted to live by the sea but it was never actually on the cards officially, so it was quite spontaneous! I would say my style has always been quite eclectic. I’ve never been trend-driven necessarily, but I definitely have certain looks and trends that I more than lean into! A friend of mine has described it as ’70s-tinged west coast folk with a mix of lumberjack and kitsch school girl lol. My wardrobe is mostly second hand – whether it’s a hand-me-down item from my nan or dad, or from a local charity or vintage shop. Having Brick Lane so close by was quite divine, yet a strain on my finances! I’m also a huge fan of Lazy Oaf, Monki, H&M, Bimba Y Lola and GANNI. I loved a tiny mini skirt, collared blouse, pull over and huge creeper boots or clompy Dr. Martens paired with silly hair clips and a fluffy bucket hat. Since becoming a Deal resident, my style has become a little more ‘sensible’ and comfort is now on the forefront of my mind. Charity shops and second hand shopping are still the way I’ll shop when they’re back open. I do admit I have purchased a couple of items from Mountain Warehouse for my blustery Kent coast walks and my North Face waterproof, which was never worn in East London, hasn’t been taken off since being here! Uniqlo Heat Tech thermal clothing is also a big thing in my wardrobe and I’m never out of a fleece. To be honest, I did see this change coming – I’ve more than leaned into the comfortable vibe. I definitely do miss running around in a pair of tights and boots, but I think I’ll keep them out of my life for good because they’re not worth the agg. I’m not sure if it’s too early to tell if my style has properly changed forever – it might just be a WFH thing. Deal seems to have a really great vibe in terms of fashion so I’m looking forward to being able to go out and socialise again so I can take off my walking boots and show off all my cute dresses.” Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder of By Rotation, moved from Singapore to London “I grew up in Singapore and moved to the UK for The Harry Potter series – just kidding! I moved to London for university. I had always wanted to study abroad and the UK gave my parents comfort given its ties to Commonwealth nations such as our own. Also the direct 14 hour flight was much closer than the 22 hour journey to the US…. As my parents still live in Singapore, it is very much still my permanent residence. I’ve lived in the UK for about 10 years now – 8 of which were in London and 2 in Edinburgh for work. When I lived in Singapore, I was always dressed in very light, summery clothing. The average temperature is 30 degrees Celsius and it’s very humid – not ideal for jeans or tweed jackets unfortunately! In London, when I was working in finance, I dressed very corporate – a smart dress or trousers and high heels everyday, and no loud colours (besides the occasional red nails). Now that I work for myself, I dress more like I would have done so off-duty: jeans, flowy, colourful and maxi dresses and more flats and loafers. I wear timeless and en-vogue brands such as Ralph Lauren, Rag & Bone, Acne Studios, Chloe and Jacquemus. On an average day in the neighbourhood you will find me in high-waisted flares, a shirt and some ballerina flats. There’s a saying: It’s always summer when you’re from Singapore. So the first time I owned a coat or pair of boots was when I went to university! From having worn summer clothing all my life, I was now wearing jackets, coats, tights (once I managed to find them in my skin tone) and even planning how my hair should look in winter vs summer (darker in winter, lighter in summer by the way). It was a whole new approach to style for me! I was completely taken aback by how little I knew about fashion and style before moving. There was certainly a large part of the London wardrobe that I had missed out on growing up in Singapore. I believe my style has improved considerably since I moved here; London is an incredible place for creatives and arguably the best-dressed city.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?