NEW SEA­SON, NEW START Laura Craik ex­plores the in­cred­i­ble power of the Septem­ber start-again

When lazy sum­mer days roll into Septem­ber, we can’t shake that back-to-school feel­ing. But what if we chan­nelled the spirit of start­ing again into all ar­eas of our lives? Laura Craik re­ports on the cathar­tic power of the do-over

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How long since I left school? Honey, you don’t even want to know. And yet, how­ever many aeons pass, the school year’s dis­tinc­tive rhythm never leaves me. Maybe I don’t want it to – af­ter all, there’s a com­fort in rit­ual and ad­her­ing to the flow of the year. The ex­cite­ment of the Christ­mas hol­i­days; those hazy, care­free post-exam Junes. Most mem­o­rable of all, surely, is the de­li­cious an­tic­i­pa­tion of Septem­ber – and never more so than when you are a fash­ion lover. That the leaves turn rus­set is all very well, but the real chang­ing of the sea­sons is as much marked out in fin­ery as fo­liage. As well as the shops be­ing full of tempt­ing au­tumn clothes, Septem­ber is show sea­son, that breath­less four-week mael­strom when the lat­est col­lec­tions are re­vealed. For any­one who loves clothes, it’s like a new school term and, for that, you need a new uni­form.

Af­ter the lazy days of July and Au­gust, Septem­ber can be quite a shock – a life-af­firm­ing jolt of re­al­ness, but a shock none­the­less. Septem­ber is the time to ‘sea­sonify’ your life. It’s do­ing up your top but­ton again, and find­ing it a lit­tle tighter than you remembered. It’s wear­ing heels af­ter eight weeks in sandals. It’s jumpers, it’s lay­er­ing, it’s an­kle boots, it’s a new trouser shape, a dif­fer­ent colour pal­ette, new hair to go with the new clothes, a new lip­stick to go with the new hair. And then, just when you think it might be safe to en­ter the work­place in this get-up with­out invit­ing ridicule, you re­alise your hand­bag has aged even faster than your sun-kissed vis­age (you started with SPF50, but your in­ten­tions slipped) and a new one must be bought forth­with. That ‘clas­sic’ shape you in­vested in last sea­son? Hmm… it’s still clas­sic, but then so is the new Fendi Peek­a­boo you have your eye on. And wouldn’t it look fetch­ing with those new Saint Lau­rent boots?

Buy­ing shiny new Septem­ber ac­cou­trements is one of the sea­son’s big­gest joys, but to shop suc­cess­fully, method al­ways trumps mad­ness of the im­pul­sive kind. As a former fash­ion edi­tor faced with the prospect of pack­ing for a month’s worth of fash­ion shows, alas, I al­ways tended to­wards

‘Septem­ber is now es­tab­lished as the “think­ing per­son’s Jan­uary”. We’re ripe for re­ju­ve­na­tion and ready for change’

the lat­ter. Dur­ing the dog days of Au­gust, with less than a week to go be­fore New York Fash­ion Week, brain still fuzzy from too much di­rect sun­light (OK, wine), my modus operandi was best de­scribed as ‘run­ning around Sel­fridges or Zara cov­ered in glue’. No matter that I’d spent the hol­i­days ly­ing on a lounger vow­ing to buy only items I truly loved, the Septem­ber ef­fect would al­ways scup­per my best in­ten­tions. It’s easy to de­cide you need only a sim­ple white shirt and a well-cut pair of jeans from the com­fort of your beach-side idyll. New Sea­son Nancy (not her real name) isn’t in Naxos, sham­ing you for your lime-green tank­ini. She’s on Net-A-Porter, care­fully plot­ting her back-to-work look. We all know a New Sea­son Nancy. She’s the one who bags the Vete­ments jeans that were sold out be­fore they even hit the shop floor, and wears them to the of­fice on the first day of Septem­ber. That ap­pliquéed Gucci bomber jacket that’s more myth­i­cal than a uni­corn? She got the last size 38.

Why is the pres­sure to rein­vent your­self, or at least tweak the dreary bits, so over­whelm­ing at this time of the year? Surely the whole ‘sharpen your pen­cils – it’s Septem­ber’ shtick wore thin im­me­di­ately af­ter the sixth form? We are adults now, with more press­ing things to worry about than whether our jeans are too skinny/boot­cut/cropped/dark/unDemna-like to be seen in public. ‘It’s pre­cisely those new be­gin­nings that make Septem­ber feel like such a throwback to your school days,’ says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Linda Pa­padopou­los. ‘Not only is it a new sea­son; it’s the start of the sea­son, which presents the most sig­nif­i­cant leap. You’ve gone from be­ing re­laxed and com­fort­able over the sum­mer to “back-to-work” mode. As soon as your mind starts fo­cus­ing more on its to-do list, that idea of your iden­tity be­ing bound up in what you wear resur­faces. Get­ting clothes ready for the sum­mer hol­i­days is eas­ier, and more fun. Noth­ing much hap­pens in Au­gust, but in Septem­ber we tend to do a re­assess­ment. We think, “Right: we’re go­ing to work hard and get ahead.” So the idea of look­ing the part be­comes very im­por­tant.’

Ev­ery­thing starts anew in Septem­ber. Un­der­stand­ably, there’s an at­ten­dant pres­sure to feel ready for it. From block­buster ex­hi­bi­tions to the re­lease of the big­gest Academy Award-hyped films, when it comes to get­ting on top of all things cul­tural, it can feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. You swore you’d em­brace all the cul­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties your neigh­bour­hood had to of­fer, but that seemed more achiev­able on hol­i­day than it does now. Sud­denly, your itin­er­ary is packed. What were you think­ing when you swore you’d host a lit­er­ary sa­lon/vol­un­teer at Save The Chil­dren/do the busi­ness plan for your mate’s tech startup/launch your own pod­cast about how to launch your own pod­cast? As for those barista night classes, you’re too busy drink­ing cof­fee to learn how to make it.

Maybe it’s just me, but Septem­ber feels a shade more fraught than Jan­uary in this re­gard. Af­ter Christ­mas, peo­ple kind of ex­pect you to be a bit lethar­gic, and will nod sym­pa­thet­i­cally at your all-black out­fit and your wide-leg, draw­string trousers clev­erly dis­guis­ing those ex­cess mince pies. ‘Aah – a fel­low glut­ton,’ they will think. ‘That lady re­ally knows how to kick back and en­joy her­self.’ Septem­ber, on the other hand, bro­kers no such ex­cuses. Rosé now looks faintly repro­bate; there are char­coal juices to be drunk, and smart wa­ter fea­tur­ing au­tumn’s most mod­ish herb. There’s also posthol­i­day brag­ging to nav­i­gate. What, you didn’t do a yoga re­treat? You didn’t drop a dress size? You didn’t get a new hair­style? You didn’t even get a tan? What have you been do­ing th­ese past few weeks?

Lit­tle won­der that the cos­metic sur­geon Dr Michael Prager has iden­ti­fied a phe­nom­e­non he calls ‘school-gate para­noia’ and claims re­quests for pro­ce­dures at his London surgery rise in late Au­gust/early Septem­ber. ‘Women are nat­u­rally com­pet­i­tive and want to make sure they’re look­ing bet­ter and more rested af­ter the hol­i­days – even though it could have been a tough one,’ he ex­plains. ‘Sum­mer is a pe­riod where you spend time with fam­ily, re­lax and gen­er­ally fo­cus on other things. But in Septem­ber, as the hol­i­days come to an end, the pres­sure to look good re­turns. As soon as the tan fades, Bo­tox is the best way of look­ing calm and pretty.’

Not all women are com­pet­i­tive, of course, but even the most laid-back of the species would be for­given for freak­ing out at the prospect of New Sea­son Nancy, who ush­ers in Septem­ber with a fore­head as smooth as her new Cé­line shirt. Now I know why I don’t look calm and pretty: I’ve never had Bo­tox in my life. Clearly, buy­ing a new notebook isn’t enough to pass muster th­ese days.

Whether you face down Septem­ber with a shot of moon juice, a new Chloé tote, an an­kle boot with a heel shape barely dis­tin­guish­able from the pair you bought in March or a £2 rain­bow pom-pom pen from Paper­chase (just me?), Septem­ber is now firmly es­tab­lished as ‘the think­ing per­son’s Jan­uary’. A time when, fresh from the con­tem­pla­tive mi­lieu of our sum­mer hol­i­days, we are ripe for re­ju­ve­na­tion and ready to em­brace self-im­prove­ment and pos­i­tive change. There is some­thing lovely about strid­ing into the new sea­son and won­der­ing just what will un­fold. Maybe you’ll get a seat on the train. Maybe you’ll wan­gle the pro­mo­tion you’ve been af­ter. Maybe you’ll fi­nally man­age to pull off deep-red lip­stick. Maybe all de­sign­ers ev­ery­where will is­sue an edict ban­ning crop tops for­ever more. Our school days might be a dis­tant mem­ory, but the el­e­ment that made them some of the best days of our lives is still very much in play. What held true as a child still holds true as an adult: the best way to pre­dict your fu­ture is to cre­ate it. Septem­ber is your time.

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