When I was 14 I read a book that I instantly fell in love with. I think you can guess where this is going. The book was Atonement. The writer, Ian McEwan. I didn't pick it up at random. Back then I already had an obsession with the 30s and 40s, with World War II, with England and yes, with large country homes and the drama that seems to inevitably go with them in the canon of their national literature. This was, really, the first modern 'grown up' book I read. Jane Austen doesn't count. There are things in it - words in particular - that were pretty exciting for a 14 year old, even though now they seem much, much less shocking. You know what I'm talking about. What was it about 14? I think I also saw Closer that year as well, dragged my mother to the cinema to take me because it was 15+, and bombarded her with questions afterwards. So it was all very thrilling, and then the movie came out. I remember so clearly - I was 16, going on 17 - and I wanted to know everything about it, I watched the trailer over and over again, I tried to find a pirated copy of the script, I forced my whole family to see it with me on my birthday, I cried, I fell in love all over again, I took the book with me when we went to New York and talked about it endlessly with my new friends there, who loved the same things that I did, were kindred spirits of the like I had never met before. They say you never love things again quite like you love them when you're a teenager. It's just all so important: it's a matter of life and death, it's a question of stamping your mark on something, it's a question of claiming it. I wanted to claim Atonement, I wanted to make it mine.
The point is: I love this movie. I had a version of Cecilia's first outfit that I wore pretty much non stop throughout 2008. It was a checked midi skirt, with a little slit - sadly, since lost, because I'd quite like to resurrect this skirt if I could - a sheer floral shirt with a silk slip underneath, tan sandals, self-cut (very, very poorly) bobbed hair. Flowers optional. I thought that first outfit was perfect. And, to a teenager who loved England and the 30s and Brideshead Revisited and flowers can you imagine how powerful those lush, watercolour-hazy Joe Wright production values are? Cecilia in her bedroom, painting her nails, ash trays simply everywhere and half drunk glasses of ice tea littering every surface... That to adolescent, dreamer me, were some serious life goals. Still are, really. Okay, the green dress was pretty special. And later on, the great coats and sensible sweaters and a-line skirts of the 'Keep Calm And Carry On' era were just lovely. But it was that first outfit that made the biggest impression on me.
Looking back now, it's a silhouette that I haven't strayed from in, oh, seven or so years. That look: the midi skirt, with something light and silky and semi-sheer on top, is probably my favourite thing to wear. In summer with sandals, in winter with a huge, oversized cardigan. It's evolved as I've grown up: the tops are ELLERY now, the feel is more relaxed than tucked in, turned out. Strangely, it's more Cecilia Tallis - Keira Knightley, luminously beautiful, aristocratically bored - than it was in the first place, now that's it's all a bit more unconcerned, degage. You find something you love, you stick with it.