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    Updated on 31 Jan 2020. Posted on 16 Jan 2020

    I Live In Dresses And I Let My Ultra-Sporty Friend Dress Me For A Week

    Two words: Bike shorts.

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    When asked to talk about myself — somewhere between my hopeless romantic nature and addiction to cola — I will inevitably talk about my children.

    It’s natural to assume that someone with three young children would live in mum jeans and sneakers. Thing is, I live for defying people’s expectations of mothers and that definitely extends to my style.

    Ed Summerhays / BuzzFeed

    I am all about a slip dress, a fitted skirt, a classic button-down, a monochromatic palette. And there are few days during the week that I'm not in heels.

    Recently, my work friend Nat and I were talking about our personal styles and just how much they differed from one another.

    We decided to swap styles for three outfits: An office look, a casual weekend look and a night time look. Here's how the week went.

    BuzzFeed
    Mariela Summerhays / BuzzFeed

    Honestly, I’m pretty old school when it comes to dressing for work. Both my parents worked in corporate environments as I was growing up, and I watched my hard-working, successful mum leave home in a blouse, tailored pants and heels every day. Now that I’m a mum myself, I definitely feel dressing up, rather than down, helps creates a mental divide between my home and work life.

    BuzzFeed has a pretty chill dress code. Wear whatever encourages your best work. For Nat, that’s sportswear or streetwear-inspired clothing. There’s a particular Ivy Park cropped tee she wears with high-waisted jeans that I absolutely adore on her — but certainly would never think to wear myself. So when it came to the office look, I knew athleisure would feature.

    Bike shorts, guys. Of all things, she had me in bike shorts.

    I have to admit, I felt very self-conscious on the train ride into the city. Not only was I wearing lycra shorts — something that I’d previously only ever worn on Sunday morning coastal walks — but a very loose, oversized tee that disguised my figure. It made me feel...less womanly, somehow. And I love being, and feeling like, a woman.

    As the day wore on though, I could appreciate the ease that comes from being ultra-comfortable. There’s also a confidence you get from wearing something so trendy — like yeah, I’m bold enough to wear this. I’m bold and confident enough to do anything.

    BuzzFeed

    These Une Piece Original Hybrid Bike Shorts — which despite making me nervous at first, ultimately made me feel kinda rebellious for wearing to work.

    @une_piece / Via instagram.com, @une_piece / Via instagram.com

    I was puling clothing out of the bag, one by one — white tee, linen blazer, strappy heels — and wondering why everything was something I'd choose for myself.

    Then I got to these.

    Honestly, my mother would be mortified that I wore these to the office. I certainly was at first. However, these are gloriously flattering, being made from super-supportive UP50+ Italian lycra and featuring carefully-placed panelling — it basically does the work of hundreds of squats for you.

    I'm still mulling over wearing them to work again — I think I still have to get past the fact they're technically activewear. If I do, it'll be with a button-down shirt that I can at least half tuck in to accentuate my waist more.

    Buy for $89 from Une Piece.

    These Sportsgirl Claire Minimal Heels, which I loved from the first moment I saw them.

    Mariela Summerhays / BuzzFeed, Sportsgirl

    I am literally wearing these now at my desk, as I type this. Unlike my usual heels, these are so comfortable. Their block midi-heels mean I can happily walk around everywhere and their classic black hue and minimalist design mean they have slotted easily into my existing wardrobe.

    Ugh, they're just so pretty. I owe Nat one for these.

    Buy for $79.95 from Sportsgirl.

    This Sportsgirl Textured Soft Blazer in Natural, which is going to get a good workout these summer nights.

    Sportsgirl

    Right, so there's no more of these blazers in white. Fortunately, this natural version is just as gorgeous — my birthday is coming up and I'm feeling me in this, a white slip dress and gold hoops. Feel free to steal the look.

    I love the fine texture of linen and, of course, the fact I can count on not getting sweaty wearing it. However, I did find it crushed and crinkled, and as a mother of three, I try to avoid anything that takes time to ready (ironing, what's that?). When you get the chance to steam it though, it's definitely worth the effort.

    Buy for $119.95 from Sportsgirl.

    This classic white tee, which you ought to buy because I know you've been thinking it's time to replace your old, well-loved one already.

    Amazon

    I love a white tee. I'll tuck it into a form-fitting skirt during the week and a satin midi-length skirt on the weekend. So I wasn't concerned when I first saw this come out of the bag.

    Thing is, this particular white shirt isn't only loose, but it also has a dropped hem — qualities that disguise breasts, waist and hips. Everything I like to accentuate, if I'm frank. My tees are all ribbed and figure-hugging.

    Though not for me, I'm sure a bunch of you would be looking for your perfect white tee (because aren't we all?) and this might just be the one to end your search. So damn cheap, you ought to get it in every colour — of which there are 15.

    Buy for $16.99 from Amazon Australia.

    These Sportsgirl Levi Sunglasses, which I'm pretty sure my husband has been ~eyeing~.

    Mariela Summerhays / BuzzFeed

    A cat-eye sunnies devotee myself, I wasn't keen on these '90s-inspired oval frames when I pulled it out of the bag — and now? I'm still not 100% sure I'm cool enough to pull these off, but no doubt you are.

    Gold-toned metal frames hold smokey lenses, and really, given the time to come around, I might just steal them back from my husband.

    Buy for $39.95 from Sportsgirl.

    BuzzFeed
    Mariela Summerhays / BuzzFeed

    I’ve had a pretty complicated relationship with my body over the years. In particular, being pregnant in my early twenties, large and stretched out, while my friends were all...well, not, had something of a lasting effect on my self-image for a while. Now I feel like I’ve finally come back to myself and am appreciative of the curves my three pregnancies have given me. I feel most beautiful in clothes that show those changes off.

    So pulling out another loose tee (logo-emblazoned, no less) and baggy overalls, of all things, did not appeal to me. I appreciated that though Nat had given me sneakers, they were minimalist and stacked — and so still something I might choose for myself. But at first, the overalls and tee made me feel shapeless and underdressed. Plain. We are talking about a woman who wears a sundress and mules to the supermarket, after all.

    That Saturday, my family and I went to the beach. My favourite people and my favourite place. And I suppose I might’ve known it subconsciously, but it didn’t matter what I was wearing when in such a good mood — in fact, being so comfortable and not needing to tug at my clothes allowed me to focus solely on the moment.

    Also, I make a point of dressing for no one’s approval but my own, with one notable exception: My eldest daughter, Eleanor. I literally swoon when she tells me she thinks I look pretty. And she loved this outfit, so that instantly makes it a win in my eyes.

    BuzzFeed

    This Lee Billie Overall in Vapour Blue, which I will now wear to the beach over my bikini, evermore.

    Amazon

    These obscenely comfortable overalls have somehow wormed their way into my heart. Straight out of the bag they were waay too loose. Like, please, let's give me some semblance of a figure. Once I worked out how to tighten the straps — and look, I know it might be obvious to most people, but I haven't worn overalls since I was a foetus — I quickly got on board. Because POCKETS.

    Other than thrown over my bikini, I can see me dressing this up with a fitted, black turtleneck, black ballet flats and messy bun as the weather cools.

    Buy for $91.20 from Amazon Australia.

    This PUMA Rebel Reload Crop Tee, which gave me serious Nat vibes and if you want to emulate anyone, it's Nat.

    Amazon

    I grinned when I saw this one. It seems my going on and on about how amazing Nat looks in her branded, cropped, athleisure tee inspired my weekend look. Would I love one as much on myself?

    Honestly, for something I'd never choose for myself, I was so comfortable. It's constructed from mid-weight, pure cotton and sits softly on your skin, so you're not even conscious of what you're wearing — I may or may not be constantly pulling up fallen satin spaghetti straps and pulling down rising pencil skirts.

    However, I'm likely to retire this one, now that the challenge is over. It's that bit too athletic for me and though glad to have tried it, the loud logo is definitely more suited to those with Nat's boldness.

    Buy the PUMA Rebel Reload Crop Tee for $7.39(!) from Amazon Australia.

    This Superga 2790 Full Grain Leather Sneaker, which proves you can be a minimalist and sneaker lover.

    @kkasxa / Via instagram.com

    Never have I loved a sneaker more. I don't often wear sneakers outside of exercise — too many details, often obnoxiously branded. This sneaker was made for me, I tell you. Every inch in white, a simple round toe and a platform to boot.

    They're a welcome addition to my work day shoe rotation (I don't have to worry about stacking it on a crack in the pathway) — I love them best with a button-down, white shirt (in fact, the exact one I dressed Nat in) and coloured satin slip skirt.

    Buy the Superga 2790 Full Grain Leather Sneaker for $109.95 from THE ICONIC.

    Natalia Krslovic / BuzzFeed

    Look how cute I look. I look like I'm about to spend a night dancing in Havana, nothing but tequila lining my stomach. I should've had the time of my life in this outfit. The things I was seeing in the mirror that night — my unsupported, post-baby breasts and stomach, the black underwear under sheer pants — none of it should've bothered me as much as they did.

    Thing is, I have anxiety.

    I've had it my entire adult life. It doesn't affect my day-to day often — thankfully, I know when to step outside of a stressful situation, when to take a minute to focus on something familiar and comforting. However, that night, I was tasked with being in a busy social situation in clothes that didn't feel like 'me'.

    I wish I could've lasted the night and motivated myself to channel Nat's confidence. I admire that so much in her. In the end though, I had to change — my mental health had to take priority. There was once a time when I would've kept pushing myself until breaking point, and if anything, I'm so glad to have discovered I'm now strong enough to know when to keep going and when to call it for the sake of my health.

    BuzzFeed

    This BooHoo Floral Puff Sleeve Crop Top, which an extroverted, bold Mariela in a parallel universe would've slayed in.

    THE ICONIC

    Nat would've owned the night in this. She loves detail in her night looks and this here is laden with them. A multi-coloured, neon floral print on black, leg-of-mutton sleeves (that's literally what they're called), tied-to-close at back and ultra-cropped.

    In terms of style, this top sits on very furthest end of the scale from me. I live in subdued colours and minimal detail, so on a good night, this would've already been a challenge for me. On that particular night, it was impossible.

    Currently looking for an opportunity to wear this again — maybe a dinner out with my husband, paired with tailored, black trousers and black heels to subdue the look a touch.

    Buy for $20.97 from THE ICONIC.

    These Forever New Veronica Wide Leg Pants in Porcelain, which I adore for every iteration of flesh-coloured top I have in my closet.

    Forever New

    So, in completely unsurprising news — linen is really popular. The ones Nat dressed me in for the challenge are no longer available, but these soft, woven pants — also high-wasted and wide leg — still are.

    I've never before owned a pair of white pants myself, but am thrilled by this new addition to my wardrobe. I love a monochromatic look, so will wear with nude heels and my beloved, crisp, white shirt.

    Buy for $69.95 from Forever New.

    These Forever New Thea Asymmetrical Stiletto Heels in White, which are so sweet and ladylike, my mother would approve of them.

    Mariela Summerhays / BuzzFeed, Forever New

    I don't often wear a stiletto, kitten heel. I feel like if you're going to go stiletto, it's towering or nothing.

    Much like my office look, these shoes feature minimalist, dainty, asymmetrical straps across the toes. I love the ankle strap — the added support is such a life-saver. Plus, the white hue suits so much of my closet.

    I've yet to wear them again — when I'm rushing to work in the morning, I find my hands passing these for my ever-versatile, black heels — but trust that on my next weekend night out, I'll be wearing this with a dress, for sure.

    Buy the pair for $79.99 from Forever New.

    BuzzFeed

    I set out to have fun with this challenge — and maybe if I was lucky, I’d discover some of that bold brand of confidence Nat always projects. Maybe there’s something to a cropped, athleisure tee in the work environment?

    What I found was just how much of my identity is wrapped up in my style — much more than I anticipated. Being a mother my entire adult life, it’s so easy for strangers, even acquaintances to simply see me for the role I play to my children. And though it is the honour of my life, being my kids’ mother, it’s not all that I am — not by a mile — and living in satin slip dresses, fitted skirts and beautiful heels are a significant way in which I can express the other parts of my identity. After the first two outfits, I suspected that was the one lesson I would take away from this challenge.

    Then, as others who suffer from mental illnesses can relate, my brain had other ideas. Anxiety does not care about the plans you have for yourself.

    Though I had to stop the challenge mid-way through the night-time look, I inadvertently took a second lesson from this experience. Strength looks different from person to person — and I’m grateful for knowing mine better after this challenge.

    If you want to find out how Nat felt about the clothes I put her in, read about her story here. You can also watch our challenge in real time below!

    View this video on YouTube

    What should we swap next? Exercise routines? Daily meals? Let us know in the comments below!