Style Sex & Relationships

Sunday 16 December 2018

The good breakover guide: Shed your old look while also offloading some baggage following a split

As Cheryl Cole and Una Healy reveal new looks, Meadhbh McGrath considers how women reinvent themselves after a relationship ends

‘Revenge body’: Khloe Kardashian
‘Revenge body’: Khloe Kardashian

Meadhbh McGrath

If Hollywood is anything to go by, the traditional response to a breakup is to hole up on the couch for days, wearing scruffy tracksuit bottoms and working methodically through pints of chocolate ice cream.

But in the real world, women tend to take a more practical approach to the end of a relationship. Instead of wallowing (alright, there may be a small bit of that), they seize the moment as an opportunity for reinvention, embracing a new look that's all about 'me', not 'we'.

Lisa O'Hara, a psychotherapist and couples' counsellor with Mind & Body Works, says the end of a relationship gives us a chance to "pause and reflect".

"It's a time to ask, 'Who was I in that relationship?' And it's usually based on who you thought that other person wanted you to be.

"In relationships, quite often we shape ourselves in order to fit the dynamic," she adds. "If you're in a relationship and that ends, you're left with that feeling of 'why wasn't I good enough?'. But in fact you may not have been showing up authentically, you may have dimmed yourself down. When a relationship ends, we get another opportunity to take back the missing bit of ourselves - we become ourselves again."

For some women, the relationship they are in can have a huge impact on their personal style (see Kim Kardashian pre- and post-Kanye West, for example). So the 'breakover' can be a form of emotional catharsis: as well as shedding your old look, you can offload some of the baggage you're carrying from the split, and it helps to focus the mind on the future, rather than dwelling on the past.

Cheryl Cole, who split with former One Directioner Liam Payne in July, shocked fans last week when she posted a picture to Instagram revealing a new punk look.
Cheryl Cole, who split with former One Directioner Liam Payne in July, shocked fans last week when she posted a picture to Instagram revealing a new punk look.

"At the end of a relationship, there will be a mourning period," says O'Hara. "Once we've done mourning - and it's not something that has an on/off switch, it's something that happens over time - we're also going, what now?

"We can carve out space for ourselves to be the person that we actually want to be, and in that way, perhaps there is something about becoming the person we really are, and that may have been very limited when we were in the relationship."

A post-breakup makeover functions as your statement of intent for the new you, signalling to the world and to yourself that you're in charge.

Here, we count down the ways women break up with the old and find joy in reinvention.

Una Healy
Una Healy
Ben who?: Una Healy went blonde weeks after announcing her separation from husband, Ben Foden

The wardrobe

Cheryl Cole, who split with former One Directioner Liam Payne in July, shocked fans last week when she posted a picture to Instagram revealing a new punk look.

Gone is her usual polished styling, replaced with inside-out denim hotpants, a cropped hoodie and thigh-high buckled boots.

The petite popstar looks tougher and grittier than we're used to seeing her - a potent visual statement as reports fly around of her being "devastated" by her ex's alleged new fling.

Angelina Jolie has also revamped her look. Amidst messy divorce proceedings with ex Brad Pitt, the one-time "bad girl" has reinvented herself, opting for draped neutrals and a touch of royal drag - she executed some near-perfect Kate Middleton cosplay at a recent ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral, complete with fascinator and gloves. The sophisticated new look could be read as a sartorial declaration of maturity and stability.

"I think a makeover is something that can be very beneficial, when it's done for the right reasons. It can serve as a huge pick-me-up in regard to confidence," says personal shopper Natalie Svikle.

"A lot of women come to me with the point of view that they've been in a relationship for 10 years, other things have been a priority, and now it's time to put my best foot forward and make the most of myself.

"The best place to start is figuring out how you want to feel, not how you want to look. It's not really 'I want to look like Kate Middleton', it's 'I'm going to feel more sophisticated, more put-together, I'm going to come across more confident and self-assured.'"

The hair

The dramatic breakup haircut has become a cliché, but it doesn't have to be as drastic as a Katy Perry pixie cut. Following her split with husband Ben Foden last month, Una Healy revealed a new look, swapping her signature auburn for light blonde.

Similarly, after breaking up with Channing Tatum, her husband of eight years, Jenna Dewan unveiled a sleek bob a month later. By losing a few inches, she made a striking statement - and it's one many Irish women have been seeking to emulate, says Norma Jean, senior stylist with Brown Sugar.

She says it's not uncommon for women to end up having the same hairstyle for years, particularly if it's one their partner likes.

"Maybe they've been stuck in a rut, maybe their partner or husband prefers them to be a blonde - you get some women coming in and saying, 'my husband wouldn't like that'. But maybe being a blonde doesn't suit them and something as simple as making it a little more golden or more ash is going to make such a change for them," she says.

"Changing your hair can be scary - your hair is a comfort blanket," she adds. "But something like a fringe can change the whole look without cutting all your hair off. It's all about a fresh start and giving you a little pep in your step."

The routine

Khloe Kardashian has made a brand out of her "revenge body" - the result of a dramatic fitness routine she adopted after her divorce from Lamar Odom. Now, she works out four days a week with a trainer, and presents a reality series offering 'Revenge Body' makeovers.

O'Hara warns against the 'revenge' plot: "If it's starting to define you - 'I'm only as good as my figure' - then you're really saying the rest of you isn't worth anything. But feeling good because you take care of your body, you eat well, that's a very important part of self-care." Without going to 'revenge body' extremes, exercise and a healthy diet can help to ease the pain of a breakup.

"It's a perfect time to make a change," says personal trainer Karl Henry.

"It will make the process of the breakup easier, as it gives you something positive to focus on, keeps you away from the ice cream tubs and it's good for your emotional health.

"Exercise is an endorphin-boosting, mood-improving and body-shaping way to get over an ex and you never know who you might meet in the gym." He advises making a plan and setting some goals before embarking on a new routine, and taking care to make sure you're not doing too much, too soon.

"Aim for balance with the 80/20 approach, which means being 'good' most of the time with the odd treat, and ensure you're having a rest day too."

The glow

Breakups can be emotionally and physically draining, particularly if it's a long, drawn-out split like that of Hollywood stars Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Shortly after their separation, Garner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, looking like a ray of light with radiant skin.

The Neutrogena ambassador credits regular facials and a good skincare routine for a naturally healthy glow.

"After a breakup, you haven't been sleeping, you may have a lot of stress, so your skin is really sluggish, it can look puffy, it loses its pallor and sometimes its tone," says skin expert Jennifer Rock, who runs theskinnerd.com. For instant results, she advises Korean sheet masks for brightening and hydrating the skin.

"Vitamin A will bring that healthy dewiness to the skin in the long term, and help to heal the skin. While other products offer a quick fix, this is a long-term investment in skin health. It's like vegetables for your skin."

Rock also likens getting a facial to the biannual dentist check-up, and like Garner, advocates treatments such as the 40-minute hydra facial for "a real VIP, red carpet finish".

Irish Independent

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