3 Dream Outfits I Wish I Wore as a Teen

Pandora Sykes styles outfits like her teen self would.

I’m 31 years old and I dress like my teen self’s dream.

Call it an early noughties renaissance; suddenly Britney Spears’ and Justin Timberlake’s matchy-matchy Canadian tuxedos look — if not exactly doable, then the fun side of terrifying. I’ve been seeing, buying and/or re-discovering (from my own archives) all the stuff I spent hours scouring eBay or Urban Outfitters nearly 16 years ago as a good Catholic school girl: ruched tube tops, colorful beaded bracelets, A-Line denim mini skirts and super-sized flares; gold chain belts, cowboy boots, grunge-y florals and broderie anglaise frills; slip dresses, handkerchief tops, ribbed crop knits and Doc Martens. Even Lancome Juicy Tubes and ballet flats are back! Oh, and shell jewellery is everywhere. (Wald Berlin, Rebecca de Ravenel, Tohum, to name few participating designers.)

In a way, I feel a bit sorry for my teen self. I worked so hard to find and save up for the shit I loved. It feels grotesquely unfair that it is far more available to me now: my old faux leather brown cowboy boots from New Look (that I’d wear with a black rah-rah-skirt — its return is surely next) and chunky faux leather coin belt have been re-vamped for 2018 courtesy of Ganni and Kate Cate. When I paired my new boots and belt together with a floral maxi dress, I realized my contemporary (and somewhat elevated) re-occupation of my teen self was complete.

I am not, it must be said, particularly concerned that I am sartorially regressing because of some repressed issue. Fashion is cyclical and I have always loved grunge. (What I/fashion calls “grunge” is far from its origins; it is a prettified, fashion version.) I think a floral mini dress and black chunky boots is forever cool — with fishnet tights, should the weather call for them. In my early twenties, it was any number from Kate Moss x Topshop (still the most thrilling high street collaboration of all time). Now, said dresses are by Rixo or The Vampire’s Wife (their Liberty print dresses are the best), although my favorite of all is still this Attico one-shouldered one below, which remains the most expensive piece of fashion that I have ever bought.

This Kate Cate belt you see here: It’s exactly the kind of thing I imagine Sienna Miller would have worn (with her Ugg boots, of course) at Glastonbury in 2004. The red version — to be worn with a long black cotton dress from Flow and the very same cowboy boots, of course — is next on my list. These belts aren’t cheap, but boy do they transform an outfit. Think of them as statement necklaces for your waist. If I get cold, I’ll add a denim jacket. No surprises there.

When I had my baby, I quickly realized how impractical 90% of my footwear was. Even flats aren’t that comfortable for dashing around from park to desk. I have not taken off these chunky burgundy Chelsea boots since I bought them six weeks ago. I am even wearing them as I type. If you don’t feel like you can pull off the black lace-up style my younger self would have dug, these are a cool alternative. They make everything I own look instantly low-key and cool and have, in fact, allowed me to look at the more feminine side of my wardrobe in a new light. Most days, I pair them with a vintage denim skirt and a white cotton blouse from Martha Ward x Queen and Belle, but on my wish list are these shorts from Emilia Wickstead, which I borrowed for this shoot. On first sight, they are a pair of ultra-pretty party shorts and not my usual fare, but with a ruched top and Docs they became my favorite thing.

This blouse I’m wearing is from one of my favorite recent discoveries, Olivia The Label. She has a transparent supply chain (it’s literally just Olivia) and I love the designs. Olivia joins a coterie of women who make everything themselves (see: Maison Cleo) for very reasonable prices and simply open/close their orders in accordance with their availability.

Possibly the most exciting renaissance of all, however, is the handkerchief bandana top in its delightful, nostalgic bandana print. The gymnastics I used to have to do in order to get a selfishly small square red bandana around my boobs and tied in a miniscule knot at the back. I’m surprised I still have ribs. This silky Diane Von Furstenberg scarf top (red at the front! Pink at the back! Gold choker neckline!) not only does all the hard work for me, but you can also wear a bra with it — something that’s become increasingly important to me since I’ve started breastfeeding.

If capacious denim is your thing, there’s a lot of it around: Rejina Pyo, Ganni, Raey. My next order of business is finding a pair of low-slung denim bermudas (Daisy Dukes make my inner thighs feel exploited) to wear with my scarf top alongside trusty slides so that I can sail into the summer. Now pass me my bucket hat?

Photos by Eva K. Salvi; Shot in and around Phoenix on Golborne Road, London

Photos by Eva K. Salvi.

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes is a contributing editor at Man Repeller, freelance journalist, stylist and consultant of She is also the co-host of the weekly news/pop-culture podcast The High Low. Follow her on Twitter @pinsykes @thehighlowshow and Instagram @pandorasykes.

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