‘Colour is about joy, but it can be healing too’

Styling herself with self-compassion, nutritional therapist Angelique Panagos talks to image expert Mandy Lehto about dressing with joy


'Colour is about joy, but it can be healing too'

‘My grandma always said you have to dance through life,’ says Angelique Panagos, 36. ‘My life is about laughter, gratitude, love and forgiveness.’

Her outlook is reflected in her wardrobe, full of bright pieces that celebrate life. ‘In my twenties, I was extremely overweight and wore black to hide. I decided I needed to lose weight but didn’t do it sensibly – I exercised obsessively and developed anorexia and bulimia. I still felt I never looked good – I just wanted to be invisible. I was so hard on myself.’

Angelique’s weight yo-yoed, and in her late twenties, she developed autoimmune hypothyroidism and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. ‘My lifestyle had to change,’ she says. ‘As I began to heal and forgive myself for what I’d put my body through, I started experimenting with colour. One of my first colourful purchases was a pair of yellow shoes,’ she recalls. ‘Now I want my clothes to say, “here I am!” I don’t want to hide any more.’

Tailored shapes and nipped waists suit Angelique’s figure. Vintage looks appeal to her, and she mismatches bold colours to infuse fun and uniqueness into outfits. ‘Colour is about joy for me. But it can be healing, too,’ she adds. ‘My husband and I suffered a miscarriage six months ago. It was an emotional time – I could have slipped into old patterns, cutting myself off emotionally, hiding in black clothes again.’

But she chose to trust her body. ‘I’m grateful that my body knows what’s right, knows what to do,’ she says. ‘I’m choosing self-compassion. I’m still wearing colours like orange and blue to remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.’

Playfulness, fun, healing and celebration are words that come up often as Angelique talks about clothes. Her wardrobe is symbolic of her emotional release – what she calls ‘losing a lot of emotional weight.’ She says she’s not immune to corrosive self-talk when she looks in the mirror some days. ‘I’m still on a journey of improving my relationship with my lumps and bumps. They’re there, but I’m choosing not to fixate on them. I want to look like a curvy, healthy woman. That’s how I want to dance through my life.’

How to dress with self-compassion

  • Don’t compare your shape (or your experience) with anyone else’s
  • Add colour slowly – try it with shoes
  • Try a personal shopper to learn what suits you
  • Clash bold colours, orange and blue; hot pink and purple; lime and navy
  • Choose a timeless shape, then give it a fun twist
  • Don’t fixate on the bits of your body you consider less than perfect
  • Self-compassion and a sense of humour are great styling aides
  • Play with vintage pieces, like brooches, on a modern dress

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price