“Your vibe attracts your tribe” Feel-good fashion

“Cover up” “Why do you wear that?” “Dress more mumsy” “Don’t you wear heels?” 

Growing up as a mixed race girl with separated parents, gay dads and a love of football, meant that I rarely ‘fit in’ to the societal norm so I was inevitably bullied at school. 

I would hide my curvy stature in combat trousers and a baggy jumper. It also meant I could run around playing football and doing handstands. My hair would be scraped back and I just wanted to fit in. Whether it be playing with blond haired Polly Pockets or batting a rounders ball, I just wanted to be ‘normal.’ Except I didn’t fit in. 

I didn’t dress like the other girls. I didn’t look like them either. I felt isolated and the bullies confirmed my worst fears of being a ‘misfit.’ 

As I crashed into my teen years and became a young adult I began experimenting with what I wore, I was still very “high street” but I was a lot more adventurous.

I had discovered a love of dance and drama so I loved experimenting in costumes and I had even started on a career in bellydancing. I had gone from tracksuits to coin cladded hip scarves and glitter make up with my hair down and in curls. 

As I blossomed into my adult years and my self-esteem increased, I gained more confidence to not fit a ‘trend’ and just wear what I felt good in… my own feel-good fashion style. 

Sophie Mei Lan aka Mama Mei with her bestie and fashion designer Jordan Wake

But the more I experimented and wore what I wanted to, the more I was judged on my appearance. Perhaps I experience this more as a freelancer juggling jobs, being a woman in business and especially since becoming a mum. I continue to wear lots of metaphorical hats. 

At first I tried to camouflage into whatever setting I was in. Whether it was trying to dress plain and look serious as a TV journalist, or dress in a suit jacket and pencil skirt when I had business meetings or even trying to be ‘in Vogue’ when I attended work events. I would hide the fact that I also bellydanced for my main income in case I was judged again. 

Then when I became a mum and I was judged on numerous occasions for not being “more mumsy,” I decided enough was enough and I would revert to my feel-good fashion ways and go one further I would dress exactly how I wanted because I realised I would be judged regardless. 

I wore big hoop earrings and a puffer jacket when presenting documentaries or whatever else I wanted to, as I run everywhere I often wore my ‘smart’ gym gear for business meetings and I was open about all my jobs and roles. It didn’t change who I was as a person but having the confidence to wear what I wanted to in all settings made me feel good. 

Sophie Mei Lan modelling a Wake Bespoke wedding dress for Wake and Simply Ladies

I scrapped the ‘Sunday best’ and found a church who embraced  me turning up in my football kit after playing a weekend match. 

I worked with people who loved who I was and how I dressed even if my clothes weren’t something they’d wear. 

Fashion and diversity

Then when I modelled in a ‘real women’ fashion show for Simply Ladies at Royal Armouries in Leeds, a couple of years ago, wearing a slinky boudoir wedding dress, I met some other amazing ‘misfits’ including the designer of the dress and the fearless collection Jordan Wake of Wake Bespoke who are based in Leeds City Centre. 

Our love of expressing our individuality as women, as ambitious business owners, and being multifaceted bonded our tribe of ‘misfits.’ 

She immediately became my go to ‘dressmaker,’ because it was much more than a shared love of sequins and sparkles, it is about allowing people to dress and express themselves however they want to. It’s about feeling good in your mind, body and clothes. 

Nowadays when I hear the comments on my appearance or what I wear, it no longer makes me want to cover up or ‘fit in,’ it does the opposite. I actually use the judgement to keep pushing myself to be unapologetically myself because diversity is divine. And I want to show that I am proud to be one of the ‘misfits’ of the society. I revel in it, in fact. 

My hoop earrings get bigger, my costumes gain extra sequins and the fire inside me is fuelled to be free to be me. 

And as TV Presenter Naga Munchetty said in response to a male viewer when he questioned her wearing high-heels on BBC Breakfast… “Because I want to.” 

https://www.instagram.com/wakebespoke

Sophie’s debut memoir: “Eat. Sleep. Control. Repeat” on her colourful career and finding self-love and acceptance is out now at hallgoodbooks.com 

Sophie also blogs at mamamei.co.uk / evokemediagroup.co.uk/ Yorkshirefamilies.co.uk