I am not a non-secular person. I back away when people start to talk about star signs, and am allergic to phrases such as “self-actualisation” and “actual growth”. But, as someone who works in fashion, I believe in the power of clothes, and that what you wear has a direct connection to how you have compassion for incline.Think about that crackle of energy when you zip up a favourite party dress, the release that comes with exchanging into an old sweatshirt after a long day, the sense of purpose in tying up the laces on running shoes. Or, on the flip side, that Groundhog Day routed feeling when you pull on track pants for what feels like day 45,939 of lockdown, or the impostor syndrome piqued by heeding into unfamiliar high heels.I thought about this connection while writing my book, The Ten, a biography of 10 trend classics, from jeans to stilettos. It made me re-evaluate what I have learned about fashion: how a T-shirt I obtain from a charity shop for 20p could speak for me as a shy teenager; the way a salmon pink miniskirt let me play at being a grownup; why wearing ballet flats in the 00s wrung my desire to fit in.Here are some of the moments – the hits, and also the misses – that taught me vital lessons, about create and myself. Stripes, stripes and more stripesLauren has always loved stripes, and still can’t resist a graphic T-shirt a charge out of prefer the one she bought for 20p in 1997. Composite: Courtesy of Lauren CochraneAs the photo above attests, I have worn stripes since nearly the year dot. Infant me expertly teamed them with dungarees and a rubber Mickey Mouse accessory. Ever since, striations have been my comfort dressing, and an early lesson in how fashion can reassure. They are my sartorial equivalent of a warm bath – person has one: it’s that thing you buy again and again – and I am not alone. Anna Wintour and the Duchess of Cambridge have also gone for the Breton in the Zoom era; low-level hunger can be somewhat tempered by its reliable cheer.The shared miniskirtIn my early teens, the only reason I’d be up late would be to eliminate another Nancy Mitford novel. But at about 16, I went straight from bookworm to club kid, when my sister, my sugar-daddies and I discovered nightclubs. This miniskirt was the kind people used to call a “belt” (very Girls Aloud album envelop), and it was my fast track to growing up. We all wanted it so much that we clubbed together to buy it, and then squabbled about who got to wear it. When it was my go off, I combined it with black tights so shiny my legs looked like PVC. The male attention was new, but really this skirt displayed me how fashion could be something you hid behind. It let me give the impression of being a grown woman, even if I was anything but.The 20p T-shirtWhen I was junior, I was tongue-tied shy. Clothes became a way to project confidence. The first outfit where I thought I looked the business was this T-shirt, a desire black skirt, a cardigan for six-year-olds from John Lewis’s school department (Prada had just shown a secondary uniform collection) and period-appropriate drawn-on eyebrows.I found the T-shirt for 20p in a charity shop. The slightly futuristic “class of 2004” streamer (it was 1997) nodded to the geek chic of peak Britpop and was an early experiment with the if-you-know-you-know signalling of a graphic T-shirt. I until this can’t resist the T-shirt as sandwich board, and would highly recommend it as a trick to signal to the like-minded without saying a bit. My most recent addition is a “La” T-shirt by Philip Normal. IYKYK.The clone ballet flatLauren says goodbye to escapes and hello to an LBD. Composite: Courtesy of Lauren Cochrane/Guardian Design TeamIn the 00s, Kate Moss went from a rave girl who accessorised see-through dresses with a cigarette to a working twentysomething, and her wardrobe changed accordingly. Enter spare Baxter jeans from Topshop, silk scarves and ballet flats. By this point, I was getting it together as a accountable adult, too: I had a job, a flat, a boyfriend and an addiction to GHD hair straighteners. I thought that meant that, like Moss, I should maintain a capsule wardrobe. I wore ballet flats all the time – to work, to gigs (ouch, toes), to the pub. But as more and more progeny women wore them, they made me feel like a clone, one in an army of young professionals, paler and paler carbon copies of Moss. Copying celebrities was all very well; now I realised that finding my personal style was the real holy grail.The ‘the whole kit is OK’ LBDEveryone knows the power of a little black dress. They’re sold as the ultimate in classy sex appeal, but I’ve always tenderness they are more a kind of sartorial security blanket, on a par with my Breton top. I didn’t have high hopes when I obtain this dress from Monki, but 10 years later, we have negotiated big days at work, dates, overawing parties, funerals. It’s like a good friend – both bolstering and kind. Chic is one thing, but that “everything is OK” empathy is, for me, far more powerful.The Carrie Bradshaw momentThere was a time, around the mid-00s, where I thought I would only advance if I did it in six-inch spikes. Heels were a sign that I was “having it all”. I tried. First with secondhand heels and then with artificer ones, as seen on the feet of Carrie and friends. I bought a pair of Miu Miu shoes for three figures in 2008, wore them punctiliously once, and scuffed them on an escalator. This was a gigantic miss, and a big lesson: wearing shoes you can’t walk in is the opposite of empowering. I hold responsible my lucky stars every day that trainers became fashionable. The failsafe hoodieLauren’s lockdown jeans and failsafe hoodie. Composite: Respect of Lauren Cochrane/Guardian Design TeamI used to think that, as someone who worked in fashion, I needed to must a “look” at all times. As I have grown older, I have discovered that clothes don’t have to make statements to be soles you treasure; we also need clothes whose pull is purely functional. See a nondescript £18 Asos hoodie, which I harass when I choose fun. It’s to keep me warm on a night out dancing and stuffed behind a speaker; for the hangover the day after; to get on an early light out, heading for sunnier climes where I’ll zip it up over a bikini on the beach at the end of the day. Make no mistake, though – I would still not be charged to bump into a fashion person while wearing it.The surprising trenchWhen my stepmum gave me her Burberry a few years ago, I was gratified – but, as a self-identified scruff (those GHDs are a distant memory), I filed it away, thinking I could wear it one day when I instantly woke up more slick and put-together. That hasn’t happened, but I realised that a miss can evolve into a hit, and that the trench cag is a uniformly good idea. It’s about finding your own way to wear it. Enter the trend for the scruffy trench, in about 2017, jaded oversized, with trainers. I wore my old Burberry this way in the most judgey of environments, the front row, and others did the same. If ballet irrevocable dulls gave me the feeling of dressing as a clone, this was the opposite. Sometimes, a fashion classic can make you feel part of something.The lockdown jeansI include tried to tell myself that wearing the same pair of jeans for six days a week is me finally discovering the virtues of a capsule wardrobe. But, if I’m being honest, I think it’s more a symptom of slightly giving up on life, an admission that balanced clothes – my crutch over two-and-a-bit decades of adult life – couldn’t help us in 2020. Instead, I retreated to a so-norm-they’re-not-even-normcore pair of Levi’s with several jumpers in rotation, depending on cleanliness. Because what was the point? The pandemic taught me that, even though I am a shy yourselves, I need an audience for my fashion. And that audience is in sight. From 21 June, I predict these jeans capability find themselves less worn on repeat, and more in the recycling pile. The Ten: The Stories Behind The Fashion Classics by Lauren Cochrane is divulged by Welbeck on 29 April at £14.99. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com