Breaking Up is Hard to... Dress For

02/10/2012 17:14 BST | Updated 02/12/2012 10:12 GMT

Sartorial dilemmas are an inevitable part of life unless you are Karl Lagerfeld (and an unyielding devotion to stiff collars and tight tailoring probably brings its own problems - mostly health related I'd imagine).

Is this outfit too dressy for the party you're going to? Is it not dressy enough? Can you reasonably wear something this revealing to work? Do I need to wear something warmer? (actually, this is never a problem in England, the answer is most certainly yes.)

Working in fashion actually makes these conundrums somewhat easier as basically anything goes so long as it's not drab but these past few weeks I have found myself blindsided by an image crisis I had not previously encountered - dressing after a break-up.

My boyfriend and I split three weeks ago and unlike previous break-ups, this time I was neither so nonchalant I barely noticed, or so devastated I didn't want to get out of my pyjamas. But all of a sudden standing in front of the wardrobe in the morning started giving me a massive headache.

It's like a fine tight-rope act I find, getting the balance between looking like you're neither trying too hard or have let yourself go. Falling into the trap of either of those two means people are going to start asking questions, I remember one tragic occasion when I was seventeen being inundated with cries of 'have you broke up with Jonathan' because I happened to be wearing my best skirt (he had of course dumped me the night before).

As a teenage girl, your painful break-up is the only thing you want to talk about, but as an adult you'd hope it's not, so the problem is that you need to basically look exactly the same as you did before. Only now you're trying extremely hard to do that, which inevitably puts the whole thing off balance.

Going to the pub on a Saturday night was a personal minefield because I'd never considered before what my clothes were saying about me- I've always been fond of wearing buttoned-up shirts and tiny skirts but now I was worried they made me look desperate.

The worst occasion was when I met up with the former boyfriend, I fretted over that outfit for a while. I was worried that if I wore anything mildly glamorous he would think I was trying to get back together with him and if I dressed down he would think I was too upset to make an effort. I did not want to be either of those people.

And annoyingly, for a while I had been working myself up to getting a fringe, something which has now had to be put on the back burner thanks to the cringe-worthy association of break-ups with terrible new hair-cuts. I read recently that Olivier Theyskens, whose own locks have just gone from long to short, had wanted to do it for a long time, but had put it off after being first fired by Nina Ricci, and then hired by Theory.

He didn't want people to see it as some dramatic gesture to do with change. He just felt like cutting his hair. Similarly, when I finally take the plunge and get the fringe which will no doubt look god awful on me, I want people to know that I did it because I wanted to see if a fringe suited me and not because I miss doing the Guardian crossword with my ex.

I'm aware that this may come across as a little shallow - and this is as much a plea to find that I'm not the only one as anything else. But isn't finding yourself suddenly single and alone a time when you're going to become hyper-aware of how you look to other people? Other people you previously had not considered you might need to meet?

In any case, for better or for worse, it has proved a marvellous distraction...