Essay growth Non-fiction

GOODBYE TOPSHOP | Emily Tucker shares how a wardrobe clearout helped her grow up.

Non-fiction

by Emily Tucker

As a little girl I loved to shop for clothes. As the first born grandchild I was decked out in the finest fashions of the 90’s on a regular basis. Smarties Doc Martens, Disney trademarked Pocahontas outfit, Osh Kosh Dungarees covered in tiny horses, I had whatever my tiny heart could wish for.

But my early love of all clothes was blighted by a terrible curse.

Reader, I grew. I grew constantly. Many tears were wept when I tried to jam my toes into those Doc Martens one last time, and more when I found I couldn’t raise my arms in my Pocahontas outfit, despite only owning it a few weeks. I grew and I grew and I just didn’t stop. Bags and bags of my beloved clothes were sent to the many little cousins that quickly populated my family shortly after me.

Just when I thought I couldn’t get any taller, that mean old mistress, Puberty, came knocking at my door. She bought me a repulsive range of gifts in a terrifyingly small space of time, each one sorely lacking a gift receipt. Gone were my halterneck tops, gone were spaghetti strap dresses, gone were GAP kids bikinis. All were whisked away to cousins elsewhere, while I tried to find anything that would fit around the blossoming horror on my chest.

I begged my mum to tell me why, why did I have to keep growing? Why couldn’t I just stay the same, keep my clothes for more than 3 months at a time? We looked at my food, maybe I was eating too much? We planned healthy eating diets, I denied myself biscuits, I learned to say no to pudding.

And for a time, it worked. Aged 16, I finally stopped growing.  

I kept every piece of clothing I could, rejoicing in being able to wear the same thing year after year after year.

For ten whole years, I was free from the curse.

But just the other morning, having freshly turned 26, I was faced with a horrendous realisation.

It has happened again. I’ve grown. Standing in front of my mirror one bright summer morn, I try on outfit after outfit of my well loved clothes and sigh in defeat. What have I done wrong? What cardinal sin have I committed that has bloated me to my very bones, leaving me pulling , squeezing and breathlessly tugging myself into the clothes I so often slipped into with ease? What have I done?!

But now, you see, I’m 26. I know now that I have done nothing wrong. I’ve just grown. There is no midnight feasting to be blamed for this, I haven’t been accidentally eating pots of hummus in my sleep, neither have I been sneaking to Mcdonalds in the wee hours to gorge myself on Mcnuggets. In fact, the culprit for my new found growth is my absolute, complete happiness.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been, maybe in my whole entire life.

I love my job, I love my house, I love my friends, I love my boyfriend. I love going to greengrocers and selecting the best tomatoes for a nice ragu. I leap out of my bed every morning excited to see my class and teach some cool lessons about sharks and plants and Gruffalos. I even smile on my commute, when I get the chance to dive into a great book twice a day, not noticing the grumbling Londoners around me.

Maybe my body has grown to accommodate the joy that radiates from me from the moment I snap my eyes open until the second I fall contentedly asleep every night. Like a Pokemon, I needed to evolve into a larger shell to reflect my new found powers of happiness.  

So, faced yet again with a mass of beloved clothes that don’t fit anymore, here’s what I do.

I reach into the wardrobe and I pull out some things. I smile with the quiet serenity of Marie Kondo, and I bid my farewells to my clothes.

“Maybe my body has grown to accommodate the joy that radiates from me.”

Goodbye denim short shorts, I bought you for a festival when I was 16. It’s okay that you don’t fit me anymore, that was 10 years ago. I will no longer be kidding myself and leaving myself with angry red welts after a day squashed into you. I will set you free to find someone new. Thanks for all the good times.

Goodbye Topshop size 12 60’s style black and white dress, and actually, whilst I’m here, goodbye Topshop. You never bloody fitted me and I cried every time size 16’s in your shop didn’t come down over my head. It’s not me, it’s you and you need to buck your ideas up. Thank goodness I am now old enough to see the error of your ways. Goodbye Topshop, and good luck.

Goodbye blouses that snap open over my boobs. I loved your patterns but essentially you failed me. No longer will I safety pin you shut and face the peril of an impaled breast. Goodbye.

Goodbye to all of my ill fitting vintage finds. Just because you are old does not mean that I look like Joan from Mad Men when I wear you. In fact, you are often just old, and a little odd in the fit. Someone will love you and look wonderful in you, it’s just not me.

Goodbye to all of my clothes from sixth form. I don’t know why I still have you. I was very sad and stressed and didn’t really eat when I wore you. You made me look great even when I felt awful, and for that I thank you. The thing is, I’m not sad and stressed anymore, and you don’t fit my content body. Goodbye and thanks.

Goodbye pink corduroy flares… I just, well, I… goodbye.

Goodbye Primark swimwear. I am a woman who needs swimwear with both ample chest support and a sturdy gusset. You provided me with neither, and thus I must let you go. Goodbye.

Goodbye large, overshaped, minimalist dress from Cos. You were a present from a old boyfriend, and never actually suited me. I only wore you to try and look like he wanted me to. I don’t actually like you or your kind, I like colourful outfits with quirky logos and cuts that show the world what I’m working with. You belong on a skinny, androgynous art gallery owner somewhere, not on my fine round caboose. Goodbye.

Goodbye beloved pleated skirt. You are wonderful and always make me smile and actually you still fit. The sad truth is that one of my year 1’s drew a smiley face on you with board pen during a phonics lesson. I love you and we had a great time together, but I don’t really like looking like a human graffiti wall. You are going to be recycled and bring someone else just as much joy as you bought me.

Goodbye sequin boob tube. Oh how we partied during university. Oh the nights we spent strapped together, sparkling up the dancefloor! The bravery and strength you showed when restraining the twins through marathon after marathon of non stop dancing… it brings tears to my eyes. In fact. You know what little boob tube? You hop right back in that wardrobe, I’m not done with you yet. I hope I still wear you when I’m 80.

I sort and sort and make my goodbyes, folding and piling into bags for life destined for the Cancer Research shop on the high street. I stand back, hands on my proud childbearing hips, and admire my handiwork.

I scooch into my comfy mom jeans, slip on my all purpose trainers and throw on a Snoopy tshirt. I drag my heavy bags to the door, stop and smile.

I’ve just turned 26, and look how much I’ve grown.


Emily Tucker | @happyemily93
Emily is a North London based teacher desperately trying to get a novel written during the summer holidays. She needs to buy some new clothes. 

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