Sarah Guerra talked about the joy of dressing for herself in the last interview. This week, Emma Louise tells us how cancer – and Wonder Woman – influenced her style.
“I have a secret formula for shopping,” says Emma Louise at the start of our interview.
“It’s the £1 rule. I can justify spending more money on a garment if I know I’ll get the cost down to £1 per wear. My winter coat was over £300, but I’ll wear it at least 300 times. I’ll think twice about spending 30 quid on a high street top that I’ll wear once or twice.”
Here’s a woman who is all about practicality, comfort and value for money. But there’s much more to her and her unique sense of style.
“I’ve always been a bit quirky. I love clothes, but I’m not a fashion victim. I like Scandinavian style – simple, functional and with a bit of urban edge. I’m not into frills and ruffles.”
A few years ago, Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer. “In hospital, after my mastectomy, I started reading a style book. Before cancer, I had a very girly face and long wavy hair, so I juxtaposed my feminine look with simple clothes. Suddenly I was bald with no breasts. I lost a lot of weight during the treatment. Clothes became such a form of expression for me. They said ‘I’m still here! I’m still a woman.’’
She went into an ‘über-feminine’ phase during her treatment, choosing tutu skirts and floral prints. But as her hair grew back, her style revolved around colour and layering slim fabrics.
What do Emma’s clothes say about her? “I’ve never really arrived at a style. For me it’s more of a constant evolution. I’m always taking stock of who I am and what I look like.”
Her clothes also say that she lives in the present. “I remember a time when I was really unwell. One day I looked in my wardrobe and thought, life’s too short for wearing things I don’t like. Now I wear something that makes me feel good every day.”
Biggest wardrobe disaster? “It was my university graduation ball. I went to a second hand shop to buy my dress. It was royal blue silk with a sweetheart neckline and a full-skirt, perfect on an hourglass shape, but that’s not me. My legs are my best feature – I didn’t really have a waist and wasn’t very buxom. So that dress drew attention to the wrong places and hid my best bits. I also had my hair cut really short, and didn’t like it. I felt so uncomfortable all night with the wrong dress and the wrong hair. I wasn’t true to myself when I chose that look.’
Best outfit ever? “It was a fancy dress outfit at a work Christmas party. I’d just turned 32 and had broken up with a boyfriend. I went as Diana Prince, Wonder Woman’s alter-ego, wearing a 1970s suit and big glasses. Around 8pm, when everyone had a few drinks, I went to the loo changed into Wonder Woman, including bright blue hot pants. I had such a great night. I felt able to be bold and to wear something skimpy because I was in character.’’
Top tip for women seeking their own style? “Be aware (and honest) about your shape, age and lifestyle. Dress for who you are. Having cancer taught me to shop for who you are now, not for who you were, or might be someday.”