People Show Us What They Wore When They Got Dumped

Everyone always plans their outfits on a first date, but what about when you're preparing for a breakup?

by Zing Tsjeng
Nov 15 2016, 3:52pm

The last time someone dumped me, I was dressed for a fancy dress party in a red top hat and a mismatched leopard print leotard that spent most of the night insistently wedging itself into my crotch. In many ways, it was an appropriate outfit to end a relationship that had consisted mainly of confusing, half-hearted sex that still resulted in me developing several UTIs.

Sadly, not everyone can get dumped as a slutty circus jungle cat, and not everyone can end a relationship in a "fuck you, I'm fabulous" outfit. Breakups can arrive suddenly and out of the blue; even if you're the one doing the dumping, the sudden impulse to say "fuck it" and run can strike at the least expected time, when the last thing on your mind is what you're wearing. It's only after the traumatic split that you may realize that your most expensive sweater has acquired new and distressing memories, or that it might not have been a good idea to wear your favorite white top and ditch your overly dramatic girlfriend while she was holding a glass of red wine.

In the spirit of bad breakups, good breakups, and stylishly dressed breakups, photographer Alice Zoo asked a few brave men and women to show us what they were wearing when they were getting dumped or dumping someone.

Clare, 20, Leyton

What were you doing when you broke up?
I went over to their house because they said they wanted to talk. You always know what "we need to talk" means because it's the biggest movie script cliche. So the fact that I wore all black felt like a coincidental premonition; that I knew what was coming.

Do you find it tough to wear these clothes now?
It's a pretty basic outfit in many ways, so to not wear it again just because of what someone did to my feelings once would be a massive waste of clothes.

Read more: People Show Us The Outfits They Wear to Get Laid

Do you wish you'd been wearing anything different at the time?
It would have made no difference.

Have you worn this outfit since it happened, and why?
Sometimes I realize I have this combination of clothes on again, and I remember that these clothes were fully present in a really sad situation at some other point in my life. But I just find that funny.

Is there a perfect outfit to break up with someone or be broken up with in?
There is nothing perfect about either situation, so no.

Frank, 28, Wokingham

What were you doing when you were dumped?
I was at a football match in November. It was Argentina vs. Brazil but the game got cancelled because there was a massive storm and the pitch was flooded.

Do you find it difficult to wear these clothes again?
No, because I have too many happy memories of Gabriel Batistuta—who's on the back of the shirt—to have it ruined by being dumped once in the shirt.

Does the outfit remind you of your ex?
Sometimes. Usually no, occasionally yes. It reminds me mainly of the time I spent living in Argentina, and the experience with my ex is part of it, but by no means all of it.

Have you worn this outfit since getting dumped, and why?
Yeah, loads, because it's the best football shirt that I own.

Flora, 22, Salisbury

What were you doing when you broke up?
It's complicated. It was like a breakup, but we continued the relationship. We basically decided we had to be completely different people to be together, and that's what we did. It was like 2 AM and we had this humungous argument. I was literally crying bent double—it felt like I was crying to mourn this relationship. He was being a total dick, but I probably was as well, and he went to sleep, and I was like, "I can't be in here."

So I put on my trainers, I put on this big coat, and I was living in Camden at the time, so I walked up to Primrose Hill. It was completely dead, and I sat at the top of Primrose Hill, which is so beautiful, looking across the whole of London. There were a couple of people there smoking weed, chatting shit, and I was there heartbroken! I was also going through a really difficult time in myself as well, so that was the moment where I was like, "I need to, selfishly, focus on myself and let go of all this relationship and all the feelings that I have, all the pain that's going on, and just move on. And whether or not that's with this person, it doesn't matter, but I just need to move on."

And that's what I did: I went back, and he was asleep... The next morning I got up, and decided to put on nice clothes again, put on makeup again, and just be like: "Fuck it, I'm just gonna be me, and you can come along for the ride if you want to, but I'm just gonna go on my own way." And that's what I've been doing ever since.

If they were horrible, I think I'd want to look amazing, to be like, 'Fuck you!'

Do you find it tough to wear these clothes now?
No, I love this coat! I love it so much, it's my favourite. But these jeans are completely different to how they were when this all happened. I didn't buy them ripped, that just happened—and I put them in the wash with a red dress and they got dyed pink. So it's weird to put them on now and think about it how it was when I was wearing them at the time.

Is there a perfect outfit to break up in?
I guess it depends on the situation. If they were horrible, I think I'd want to look amazing, to be like, "Fuck you!" [But] I think something like this, actually, practical; that you can think in.

Diego, 27, Mexico City

Did you plan to break up with your girlfriend and pick what you wore accordingly?
It was back in 2014, it was March. I broke up with her because we were trying long-distance and it wasn't working. I didn't choose the outfit especially, but it was mid-March so it was rather chilly, and I was wearing this coat and scarf. It was pretty heartbreaking because it was in the parking lot of the airport while I was carrying my luggage to the entrance, and I was just thinking of the best way to tell her that I didn't think it was going to work and I couldn't keep up with moving from one country to the other. It was rather difficult.

Is it difficult to wear these clothes now?
Not particularly. This is a really old scarf, so it's seen a lot of things. I'm quite comfortable with them now.

Have you worn this outfit since it happened?
Yeah, a couple times. It doesn't get that cold in Mexico but yeah, a couple times.

Is there a perfect outfit for breaking up with someone?
No, there's not, these things happen randomly. I'm guessing that if you plan it, if you're actually planning even what to wear, it's probably because you're doing it in a kind of malicious way, and that's not how breakups happen. It just unfolds naturally.

Merit, 20, Germany

Did you plan to dump your boyfriend, and if so did you plan your outfit accordingly?
I did plan to break up with him. We met up at a cafe. I wasn't sure what to wear—I was in front of the mirror for ages and then I just went for black pants, black T-shirt and a leather jacket—can't go wrong with that.

Do you find it difficult to wear these clothes now?
Sometimes, I guess. Like if I went for the exact same outfit—well, I probably wouldn't do that—but if you mix and match then it's fine.

Is there a perfect outfit to break up in?
I feel like the perfect outfit would be sweatpants and a T-shirt, at your place or at his place. That'd be my perfect outfit: Just look like shit.

Ian, 26, Guildford

Did you intend to break up with your girlfriend, and if so, did you pick your outfit appropriately?
I didn't plan the breakup and so I didn't plan the outfit.

Is it tough to wear these clothes now?
Yes. But I find I'm generally unhappy with all the things I wear, so it's difficult to distinguish these from other clothes.

Do you wish you'd been wearing anything different back then?
I wish I'd been more business-like.

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Does this outfit remind you of your ex at all?
Yeah, because she really hated it when I wore white shoes. But I love wearing white shoes, and that was always a point of contention.

Have you worn this combination of clothes since it happened?
Yes, I have, most days. I thought it might help me to digest the situation.

Is there such a thing as a good break-up outfit?
As I said, something business-like, so a suit. Dark and funereal. Not too jazzy a shirt.

Genevieve, 19, Switzerland

What were you doing when you got dumped?
I was chilling with my sister, and he kind of broke up with me online since we have a long-distance relationship. He was trying to move to London, but it didn't work out, so he moved to Sacramento and he basically broke up with me and said he wanted to move on.

Do you find it difficult to wear these clothes now?
No, because I really like the dress. It was new when it happened.

Have you worn this particular outfit since the break-up?
I wore it once, just because even though we've broken up we're still on good terms. This outfit might remind me of that day, but if anything it's a good thing because we had a long-distance relationship for so long that—if anything—it's kind of relieving to start fresh.

Is there ever a perfect outfit to dump someone in?
I mean, if you're breaking up with someone, I guess you'd wanna look good! I don't know if there's a perfect outfit though—it depends on who you are.

Stefan, 25, Northern Ireland

What were you doing when you broke up with your ex?
We broke up because I was moving away. It was a mutual parting. There was no other way of it happening; changes of circumstances sort of dictated the breakup. We were walking home on this bridge across a river, talking about life in general, and it kind of built up to that, and we parted ways after that.

Is it tough wearing these clothes now?
Um, no, because although that's one experience in them, life in general changes and you also have great experiences. I wear these quite often, I quite like them, and it's a build-up of different experiences. Life goes on, really.

I'd say if you're breaking up with someone in a formal environment you wouldn't go in a bikini.

Does the outfit remind you of your ex?
Possibly at moments, maybe... Well, we've all moved on, so it's happy memories. There's nothing bad about it. It's one of those things where you know you're not meant for each other, so there's closure and longevity there. So I suppose there're moments where you can think about who you were as a person a few years ago, and how you've moved on, and things like that.

What's your idea of a perfect break-up outfit?
I suppose it depends on the circumstances. Maybe there's more appropriate outfits in certain environments that you're in; I'd say if you're breaking up with someone in a formal environment you wouldn't go in a bikini, or whatever. Overall, it's the same outcome, so it's not hugely important.

Mui, 24, London

Did you plan to break up with them, and if so did you choose your outfit accordingly?
I didn't specifically choose it, it was basically... I just moved out and I guess this was like stuff I hadn't really packed yet, so I just threw it on.

Do you find it hard to wear these clothes now?
No, I enjoy them.

Do you wish you'd worn anything different?
No, I don't think it would have affected the gravity of the situation. I was done, and I think I'd been done for a very long time, so I think my mind was already elsewhere by the time we broke up.

Does the outfit remind you of your ex?
A little bit... A little bit, yeah. But not enough for it to bother me.

Is there a perfect outfit to wear when breaking up with someone?
It depends. If it ended on bad terms, like you didn't like them anymore, I'd want to look as amazing as possible... Bring out the bloody ballgown and look sick.

Henry, 19, Ipswich

Did you plan to break up with them, and choose your outfit accordingly?
No, I didn't pick it [for the purpose]. I had been planning it, but over time I felt like things weren't right. I never really think about what I'm wearing.

Do you wish worn something different?
Not really. The shoes are quite smart, I think I was dressed appropriately for the occasion.

Read more: People Show Us The Worst Gifts They Have Ever Received From Their Exes

Does this outfit remind you of your ex at all?
A little bit, because it's one of my favourite jumpers so I wore it quite a lot when we were going out, but I wouldn't say I have any bad memories attached to the clothes I'm wearing.

Have you worn this combination of clothes since the break-up?
No, not together. It's the first time since. But I never really plan outfits—I think it's just by chance.

Is there ever an appropriate outfit for break-ups?
It's relative to the situation. Depends where you are. If you go looking shabby, like you don't care, you maybe give off the vibe that you don't really care about them. So you wanna look respectfully nice.

Correction: This photo essay originally featured a rug that had a similar appearance to a prayer mat. The likeness was unintentional and we regret the error.