There are some fashion mishaps that are going to happen no matter what you do.
Like the time when early one morning I left a boyfriend’s house in the clothes I went out in the night before only for my stiletto heel to break off on the way to the tube station. He lived in North London, I lived in South London, never has the divide felt so great. A taxi was out of the question so the only answer was to style it out. I figured if I acted as if nothing was amiss then nobody would notice it was. If you’ve never tried walking with one virtual 4 inch heel (and why would you?) I wouldn’t recommend it. By the time I reached the safety of Clapham Junction, my right leg had done such a work out it felt as if my calves would never be symmetrical again. It made me less paranoid about the slept in mascara though.
I’ve lost a heel to the city pavements twice. I wear heels most of the time and I live and work in London so I suppose the chances of this happening are high, perhaps it’s even surprising it doesn’t happen more often. Of course if you add the likelihood of treading in dog poo to the mix, it’s a treacherous business just putting one foot in front of the other, even in sensible shoes. The odds aren’t particularly improved by putting on flatties whenever the need to travel arises, but really, who has the space in their handbag for a pair of knee high boots anyway?
It boils down to risk. That’s why Kate Middleton always seems to get it right because she plays it safe. The one thing I’m less of a risk taker with is patterns. Never has the eye-catching print had quite such a presence on the high street as right now. I envy those who fearlessly experiment with outrageous fabrics. Again, I learnt my lesson the hard way. Kitted out in a lovely lilac floral tea dress from Gap one summer in the 90s, I walked into town feeling full of the joys of spring and very pleased with my new girly dress. Within ten minutes of leaving the house I had passed not one but two women in the exact same dress. This is my idea of a nightmare. I was horrified and wanted to go home to change immediately and I never wore the dress again. It is a good rule never to buy a print from a high street chain that has a branch in every town. Marks and Spencer and Gap are the most dangerous; you’re safe with a black dress or a pair of jeans but venture into florals or Aztecs from either of these brands and you are one of hundreds or possibly thousands buying the same thing all over the world.
I once got chatting to a fellow guest at a friend’s wedding. I made reference to a conversation we’d had earlier on in the day. There was a pause before the lady said, “That wasn’t me, I think you must have been talking to the other guest wearing this dress”. It was a gorgeous spotty prom dress from Debenham’s and they both looked lovely but even on opposite sides of the marquee they looked like pink and white book-ends. It’s funny when it happens to celebrities who are wearing an extortionately priced designer frock chosen by a stylist but for us mere mortals it’s toe-curling. It’s not on the same level as revealing a nipple or getting your skirt caught in your knickers but if it’s enough to put you off wearing the outfit again then it’s a horrible waste of money.
We probably take fewer risks as we get older, learn from our mistakes and hopefully identify what suits us best. The general consensus is that the most cringe inducing episodes come courtesy of those extraordinary things we wore in our youth, the garments that seem so obviously ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight. Chocolate coloured lipstick, boiler suits and acid coloured lace, snow wash denim, the list goes on and on. These things all come back eventually, oh wait a minute, look at that, they already have, we must be getting on a bit. Sigh. Our turn to sit back and make annoying comments to the young and reckless about how “Doc Marten’s? Oh I did that trend the first time around”. Actually we thought we looked the bee’s knees at the time so what we’re really thinking is that it just doesn’t look as good in 2013. I’m still a bit (OK, a lot, I have dungarees) of a fashion victim despite my job and I think it’s a shame not to try new things once in a while. You could discover something fabulous along the way. After all, once upon a time statement necklaces and skinny jeans would have seemed quite ridiculous.
I once knew a girl who at the ripe old age of 17 always had a spare pair of tights in her bag. I imagine she’s now the sort of mummy who never forgets to pack emergency snacks. I’m sadly never going to be that organised but there are some things I do advocate along with lengthening mascara and the multi-tasking wonder that is baby wipes. These are them:
Steer clear (or at the very least be wary) of print fabrics produced by the high street, unless of course you don’t mind bumping into your mirror image at a party. I’ve explained this one but P.S. This will also stand you in good stead if you know someone who likes to copy your look. I once had a pair of red shoes with a kind of mosaic effect (I’m not making this up) and my best friend at the time went out and bought a pair too. We looked like we were in Bucks Fizz or something and I was furious with her. Jumping quickly onto my second disaster-avoidance tactic while the memory of Tess Daley on last weekend’s Strictly Come Dancing results show is fresh in my mind…
Don’t put all your goods in the shop window. In other words, if you’re doing mini then go demure on top and if you’ve got the girls on show then cover up more of your bottom half. You may have an impressive bust and great legs too (yes Tess, we know, now put at least two of them away) but you don’t have to have the whole lot out there at once. Whatever your age, you will end up looking like something from The Only Way is Essex. Leave something to the imagination, that way no-one will accuse you of having all the best bits in the trailer with nothing left for the main feature. And talking of blondes…
If you are fair, (or anything other than a ‘winter’) there is always a more flattering option than wearing black next to your face. Black will never make you look younger, healthier or more glowing and no-one will ever say “Oh wow, that black looks great on you!” It may possibly make you feel slimmer but if it’s not the right cut for your shape then it won’t even do that. Controversial I know.
Finally, don’t get dressed in the dark. It sounds obvious and yes at the moment it’s almost impossible not to, but remember artificial lighting can be deceptive. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t looked down in the cruel light of a rush hour work-bound train and had a mini heart attack at the sight of navy blue tights teamed with an otherwise black ensemble? They may be saying navy and black is now acceptable, stylish even, but it so isn’t.
I’d like to think I’d never go on a date with the half price tag swinging from the back of my dress again. And if my knee length boots decide never to conjoin themselves at the zip while my legs are crossed again, it will be too soon. But that’s life isn’t it? We can only do our best and avoid spare ribs at cosy dinners and wearing white to weddings where we are not the bride. And one day, who knows, maybe Kate Middleton will accidentally pop all the buttons on her Whistles blouse or get lipstick on her teeth. We live in hope.