I noticed in the shops earlier this summer a return of navy. There it was, in all its blueness. While I lingered over a few navy garments, touched some, avoided others, I had to come clean with myself – I loathe navy and don't want ever to wear it again.
Don't get me wrong, I love it on others. My husband looks good in it, so do my children, and my mother-in-law wears it very well. But for me, it is dead and gone.
My home town, Pietermaritzburg, was once the South African Wasp Capital; just brimming with navy-wearing Wasps both of the male and female variety. I was schooled at the feet of my mother and aunts and came to know that navy is a very good basic. I also learned that it goes with almost everything, but definitely not black (Sienna Miller, take heed). The most important thing with navy, though, is to get the shade right. If you are mixing navies, they should preferably be identical, but if not, you should try to match the shade. Oh how we loved navy: navy jacket, navy skirt, navy bag, navy shoes, all finished off with a lovely navy velvet Alice band. And so good with pearls!
I veered away from navy in my student years and enjoyed the freedom of grunge. Those were the days when my mother, bless her, didn't like to walk down our town's main street with me and famously told me that my clothes were an insult to people who couldn't afford to buy clothes. But then I got a job, and had to buy a working wardrobe, and sadly, I reverted to form. I bought a nice navy uniform, with some crisp white blouses, as we loved to call them, and was set for the corporate world. I even dumped the afterwork grunge and invested in some lovely navy skirts for the weekend. Oh the shame, the shame.
The nadir of my navy life came when I met some friends after work for the opening of a huge art exhibition in Johannesburg. They were all in more interesting jobs than me: they were curators, scriptwriters, film people all colourful, vibrant and sparkling. And I was Navy Miss. As the evening progressed I felt duller and duller and sincerely regretted my choice not to have gone home first to change. Even once it dawned on me that they were all sparkly not just because of their great clothes and even better personalities but because they'd snorted up a ton of talcum powder before they'd arrived, I still felt very, very boring.
The last time I bought a business suit was in 1999. I recently dusted it out, thinking I might just need to wear it, and there it was, all navy. It was bought in London and about a thousand times more expensive than my first businesswear, but it was still navy. You take the girl out of Pietermaritzburg, but you can't take Pietermaritzburg out of the girl.