ELLE Talent Competition 2017: The Winning Entry

When we launched this year's annual writing competition with the brief to pen a memoir about 'The Outfit I Will Never Wear Again', nearly 1,000 aspiring writers entered. Here is our chosen winner.

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Sat cross-legged in front of the wardrobe's mirrored door, I struggle to pull a plastic brush through my damp hair.

It's the same old routine, the same place I've sat hundreds of times before. My millennial mind wandering, distracted, my eyes settle on the suit jacket in the reflection.

The cropped, coral jacket is typical of my mother's work attire: smart, tailored and strong. Reaching for the coarse woollen material, wafts of familiarity engulf my nostrils. Chanel No 5, of course.

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The scent left on my pillow after she kissed me goodbye in the hazy dawn of every early start and trip away. It's overpowering and heady. But it's her.

Some would say that this is a sad memory.

The cropped, coral jacket is typical of my mother's work attire: smart, tailored and strong

They'd know she'd missed countless everyday moments of childhood adventure, even some birthdays.

There were times of frustration; longing, perhaps. But these were rare as I grew older. I was neither starved of love nor attention.

Her working life did not lead me to embody the dismissed, distressed child that so many films would have us believe.

Rather, I began to marvel at her capacity to fit incomprehensible amounts into the same 24 hours we each get every day.

Her brain whirrs to the speed of a computer, her focus lets life drown into the background. Friends would raise their eyebrows, saying 'You're too old for this.'

But I admired her.

Soon, her jacket will enter this wardrobe and most likely never re-emerge. In a handful of months, she'll live out the most difficult decision of her life: retirement.

For some, an eagerly awaited moment. For her, a dive into the unknown.

Her drive is her best asset and her worst enemy.

Within this strong woman there is fear. Fear that stepping back equates to failure, leaving her mind susceptible to growing older, to facing the possibility of her memory fading, like her own mother's so cruelly did.

Her drive is her best asset and her worst enemy

She'll hang her Chanel-infused jacket among the rest, and tentatively close the door on working life.

But rest easy, for you have accomplished more than you know.

You have made me want to strive, to achieve.

You have made me independent, strong and driven.

In moments of self doubt, and I'm sure there will be many, I will remember the words you penned to me in my twenty-second year: go into the world and make a difference.

And when I do take on the world, I'll smile and blame you.

Beth Crane is an SEO executive from Oxfordshire and writes a blog with love, b. She and five runners-up (Caitlin Black, Sian Norris, Angela Locatelli, Lily Peschardt and Victoria Richards) each receive a monogrammed Smythson notebook from Selfridges.


This article originally appeared in the August issue of ELLE UK, on sale now.

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