I’m at a bit of a career crossroads. Actually, it feels like I have lurked at minor intersections for much of my working life, but this is a big Spaghetti Junction in my career journey, so that I am still shifting the words around in how I describe myself. So, here goes. I’m an arts producer, a consultant, a writer and, more recently, a performer of poetry. I led the Cultural Olympiad programme Imove in Yorkshire for five years, I used to be Director of Arts & Business Yorkshire and I’m a Fellow of the Clore Cultural Leadership programme (2005). I’m Chair of Red Ladder Theatre company, I recently stood as a candidate for the Green Party in the local elections, and my work is increasingly about issues of social and environmental justice, political debate and burning issues. Sometimes it’s just about shoes.
My working environment is nowadays often home based - I can speak to important people on the phone wearing ridiculous slippers, though increasingly I have to think about my impact when skyping. It’s often in an informal arts environment, where people wear jeans, leggings, baggy jumpers, whatever. But this can also range to more formal academic environments, business and smart arts events.
My work has always worked across partnership borders between sectors and I have usually needed working clothes that have multiple narratives, and give me credibility in different worlds. I want to make an impact appropriate to my longevity in the cultural sector, and to surprise people (in a good way). I like, and probably need, to stand out in a crowd.
I’ve always had trouble getting clothes to fit for various reasons :
Whilst I manage in the leggings/ jeans/ vests/tunic zones of high street clothes, when it comes to tailored fashion it’s usually a disaster. I’ve spent literally thousands on clothes which I’ve persuaded myself fit me in the changing room, only to wear them out once , feel they’re not right and eventually send them to the charity shop.
With my diverse and portfolio career, I need to influence many different types of people. Artists, clients from all walks of life, arts leaders, funders, politicians, audiences. I’m still experimenting with the personaI transmission of image as a performance poet.
Gill has made me three dresses and is making a jacket. She also transformed a favourite coat by giving it a beautiful new gold lining. People have always commented on the coat, now they also add “… and what a fabulous lining!” . The dresses can all be dressed up and down, worn with flats or boots or heels. One is quite plain, and can be worn with anything, the other two are ‘statements’ with a vibrant colour combination and specific styling. These dresses in particular attract admiration in their uniqueness and flair, and help me feel confident and creative.
I know that nobody else has a dress like mine. As an older producer and performer in a world mainly populated by younger people, they have helped me achieve what I really want in my appearance, a style where age is irrelevant. They give me energy, which is a tremendous endowment.
Having things designed and made for me is the key to this. It comes from a combination of design, colour and fit. Design, in that its exactly the line you want to create ; colour, because as I’ve grown older I love, and am energised by, colours (I used to be a black/grey dresser)and Gill has been so insightful in helping me choose the right colours for me. And fit. I described the experience of wearing a dress made to fit me in a recent blog I wrote – having a dress that fits is like being in a new body, one without the constant tug-pinch-bag reminders of how one’s body differs from the ‘paradigm’ woman for whom off the shelf designers make clothes.
The whole process has made me think differently about clothes. It has definitely helped me make wiser and fewer high street purchasing choices, because I know what colours, fabrics and shapes will work for me, and what I do buy are bought with my YUWW look and feel in mind. It’s like creating, and wearing, your own personal brand.
It’s not only friends and colleagues who admire the dresses. The other day a complete stranger came up to me on the station and said “I love your dress”.
Read my blog about my YUWW experience and my boot obsession : http://www.tessagordz.co.uk/uncategorized/boot-up-the-body-talk/
Find out more about Tessa at;
Your Ultimate Working Wardrobe
Studio 1.08/1.09, Exchange Place Studios, Exchange Street Sheffield S2 5TR