Whether you're obsessed with fashion or not, your personal style is part of your DNA, and the clothes you wear have the power to alter your mood and confidence. Two Refinery29 staff members, Georgia Murray and Jess Commons, have very identifiable personal styles: Jess dons head-to-toe black every day, while Georgia has a penchant for loud colours and floral dresses.
We challenged them to reconsider their style choices, to trade in minimalism for maximalism and vice versa, dressing each other for five days. Jess would have to wear colour and clashing prints while Georgia would wear nothing but black. How did they get on? Scroll down to see...
On their personal style...
Georgia, fashion and beauty writer: I’ve worn prints and colours for most of my adult life, from floral midi dresses to paintbox-bright outerwear, and retired the all-black look when I moved away from my teenage emo phase (what a time). I adore Gucci’s maximalism under Alessandro Michele, and anything vintage or inspired by the '60s and '70s is right up my street. I’ve always admired people who wear head-to-toe black – there’s something so restrained, sleek and adult about it – but I’m a baby who apparently needs constant visual stimulation, whether it’s prints and postcards all over my bedroom walls or my multicoloured wardrobe. I think my penchant for loud clothing definitely gives me confidence and lifts my mood. I’m nervous about looking like a pallid Victorian child in all-black but excited to see what having a uniform of sorts does to my relationship with clothes.
Jess, health and living editor: This summer, I bought a blue skirt with red polka dots on it. It was very nice – all silky and ruffly and Ganni-esque. Very on trend if I do say so myself. And I wore it a grand total of one time. Why? Because it wasn't black. Save for a few items I've been forced to purchase for weddings, my entire wardrobe is black. Go into my saved items on ASOS and find a sea of black material. Look at the fashion brands I follow on Instagram – black and all black.
I didn't plan to be like this. I don't think I'm doing that thing that Gok Wan tells women who wear all black they're doing – blending in. I don't want to blend in, I just want to wear black all day and pretend I'm Swedish. Or Rizzo from Grease. I was not looking forward to a week of wearing Georgia Murray-approved clothes.
G: First things first, deodorant and black clothes are not friends. I spent 10 minutes with a baby wipe getting that white stain out. Note to self, put antiperspirant on after you get dressed in the morning. I am feeling this outfit, but I would’ve gone for denim dungarees, a Breton top and red lip. I sneakily wore a pearl hair slide to alleviate some of the darkness, but when I arrived at work our editor said it was very much cheating. Damnit. I also feel like a burglar.
J: Things did not start off well – my colourful outfit allocated for today had totally disappeared this morning. It turns out that this was because it was SO un-Jess-like that my boyfriend had assumed it belonged to my friend and moved it to our spare room.
The reaction in the office is a little unnerving. "You look so different!" our editor Gillian shouts at me about three times during the day, and it's true: Every time I catch myself in the mirror, I do a double take – it's amazing how off-kilter you can feel when you don't recognise yourself in the mirror. Especially on a Monday. I don't like this experiment at all.
G: I’m into this look as it’s pretty much what I wear (frilled dresses, rollnecks, boots) but in black. I do feel like I’m wearing the same outfit as yesterday though... The joy of wearing different prints and colours is that every day feels like an opportunity to play, but all-black feels like a uniform I’m wearing purely because humans have to wear clothes in public. I like how my hair colour pops against the black though.
J: Little bit more comfortable in this dress. When I do wear (black) dresses, this is more my style, midi-length and with a cool (I like to think) twist (I love the ties on this one). The compliments on my dress keep me going throughout the day and all I had to do was wear it. Great return for minimal investment.
I host a panel in the evening and although I feel more exposed than I normally would speaking in front of 50 people on account of all the colour, I muddle through and have a mild success. No one laughs at me and calls me a fraud so I guess maybe I don't look that weird?
G: This is the most un-me outfit ever! Is it quite Jedi-like? I feel like I’m doing fancy dress rather than wearing an outfit. This hoodie is so comfy, though, like wearing my duvet to work, which is a bonus. I went to a breakfast to celebrate Danish brand Stine Goya’s 10th birthday this morning and looked around at everyone’s brightly hued floral dresses with longing. I do, however, feel cooler than I do normally, which is totally me internalising the view I have of sleek monochromatic fashion people. In reality, I am deeply uncool.
J: "Holy shit" my boyfriend says when I put this dress on in the morning. "Let's be honest," his mum (who's staying with us) says. "It's a nice frock, but it's not for going on the Tube." And she's right. This dress has an actual train which, while fabulous, is not London Overground-friendly. I feel very uncomfortable as I walk into the office, like I've got drunk and raided a very rich person's dressing-up box, then gone about my everyday life. But by midday my colleague has pointed out that I'm humming. By our photoshoot mid-afternoon I'm running around the park, frolicking in the leaves with all the exuberance of a sorority girl on her first pumpkin spiced latte of fall. It's highly unlike me. And I reckon it's the dress.
G: Okay, I am feeling this! I never, ever wear skirts, but this silky number is super flattering and with a T-shirt layered on top it feels more grungy. I love this velvet tux blazer, and I topped it off with a neck scarf for a little more flair. I had an important brand presentation this morning, so needed to look professional but 'me' enough to feel confident. 10/10 would wear again.
J: I LOVE this suit. I feel like I'm very important indeed. People in the office keep coming up to me and stroking my arm. Which is totally understandable. This is the most luxurious velvet I've ever felt in my entire life. During the morning, I have to give a presentation to a bunch of important people in a room that's hotter than the sun. And I find the suit's one flaw: it's HOT. With regards to the mustard colour though – when the colourful clothing in question is this good, I don't care how bright it is. I'm wearing the hell out of it.
G: I look like a vicar. That scene in Friends where Monica and Chandler meet the mother of the child they want to adopt, and she mistakes Monica for a vicar? That's what I look like. Gimme a white collar already. I'm totally over this swap now, I just want to wear my nice floral puff-sleeved dresses, my bright, fluffy Shrimps coat and my leopard print shirts. Sigh.
J: Nah, Georgia's gone too far with this one. I look like an on-duty children's TV presenter. I feel like people expect me to care about things. I feel like I should be really happy and perky and enthusiastic when in reality I'm a little hungover and it's raining outside. I wish I were in black.
G: Look, I understand the attraction of wearing all black. I get it, I do. Simplicity, understated chicness, a don't-give-a-fuck attitude to dressing. But I love clothes. For me, fashion isn't about seasonal trends, it's about opening the dressing-up box and deciding which version of yourself you want to be today. My colourful, frilly, textured, sometimes ridiculous clothes are fun. They lift my mood, they give me confidence, and they allow me to be silly and creative.
How many times have I squealed with delight at an electric blue mock-croc coat? A ruffled '70s prairie dress? Every time! A black rollneck and black silk trousers? Never. This week has taught me (a fashion writer who thinks about fashion all the time) just how much what we wear impacts our self-esteem, confidence and sense of identity. Now, let me at my much-missed wardrobe.
J: After this week, I have realised that I do wear black as a defence mechanism. And it's an incredibly childish one: wearing colour means you look like you've "tried", like you've put thought into your look, which therefore means you "care". Somewhere along the way I fell into the bratty teenager mindset of thinking it's cool not to care, which of course is not true at all. Who's happier? The person dancing like a fool in the middle of the room without a care in the world or the person leaning against the wall, watching in disdain? That's me. I'm the idiot.
Am I suddenly going to start wearing colour? Probably not. For starters, I can't afford me a whole new wardrobe and besides, I've got a style thing going now. I like how I look in black, regardless of the emotional reasons behind it. What I will try and do though is check myself, and remind myself that actually, it is very cool to care indeed.