Now that I am a mere red-talon’s flick away from forty, my thoughts turn now and again to fashion. (Serious readers avert your eyes here: extreme frivolity lies ahead.)
I am by no means a high-maintenance Frau: any manicure, pedicure and waxing activities take place in the safety and security of my own bathroom; I only require a bi-yearly visit to the hairdresser for highlights and a trim, and I make no investment purchases whatsoever. I don’t see the point of spending money on a handbag, boots or a coat that cost more than a good holiday. Now that there are three children to consider and one and one-twelfth of a salary, I can’t justify any designer purchases.
This aside, I do like to look good, taking my height (short) and my shape (hourglass with wobbly bits) into consideration. I really don’t want to let go and not care and slump around in tracky bots, but neither do I want to be challenging the local teenagers in wearing ten trends all at once. I want to refer to trends but not drip them. Whatever cocktail I do actually achieve, I need to credit any wisdom I have to two gurus who have taught me the tips and tricks that I apply on a daily basis.
The first is my friend the lovely G. When I lived in London she would phone me and say, “Get thee to a Gap this minute. There’s a black broderie anglaise skirt that is screaming your name.” I would obey, and guess what, four summers later the skirt is still in service. The other guru is a duo, England’s equally maligned and admired Trinny and Susannah. To me, they are goddesses of style, who are on earth to help us mortals look just a tiny little bit better, if only we listened to their advice.
So what follows here – in no particular order – is an amalgam of G and T and S and me:
- Combine fun or junk jewellery with real. What happens when we gals turn 30 is that we think we must now be grown-ups and wear only our “good” jewellery. So we do the pearl necklace and pearl earring thing, or wear only gold. This is terribly aging and frumpish. By all means, wear a pearl necklace but combine it with some cheap as chips chandelier earrings. Or wear your diamond studs, but put them with strands of beads.
- Tapering trousers are your hips’ worst enemy. Cigarette pants and skinny jeans are only for skinny bums. If you are the proud owner of a bottom, and indeed some hips, straight-legged trousers or slightly flared boot-cuts are the only way to go. Also, if you have thighs, ignore the high-waisted pants that are haunting us this autumn – they are just not flattering especially if they get pulled up too high and emphasise, ahem, the family jewels. (I was just too shy there to mention what all good fashion magazines this autumn are calling the camel’s foot.)
- A denim jacket combined with a pair of jeans is known as the Shakin’ Stevens and is an absolute no-no. Shades of the aging rocker, what? Wear your denim jacket with cords or chinos or linen pants of any hue, but nevaire, my dears, with your denim trews. A denim skirt with a denim jacket is just as bad. Just add some rhinestones and start baah-ing quietly.
- Black is good with white, with brown, with khaki, with pastels, bizarrely (although I was taught the opposite back home in Pietermaritzburg) with navy, but is shockingly, terribly bad with hot pink or bright yellow. The hot pink/black combo is is a fashion crime I committed often until I came across T and S and they mentioned Olivia Newton in Grease. While both are fine colours, the combination looks apparently – and sadly for me – cheap.
- If you are short and can wear ’em, then heels are the way to lengthen legs. I keep trying with high heels but find them impossible. I have just bought a new pair in England (purple suede with stacked heels and five quid on the Asda sale, they look like something Dorothy Parker would wear) and I love them them so much I want to put them on a pedestal, but I just can’t walk in them. In my life, I need practical shoes that I can run in to prevent toddlers from wandering into a river, or abseiling down the stairs. However, at night, when I don’t have to walk very far (a party or a dinner, say) then out come the trusty heels.
- Every girl’s BEST FRIEND – and I mean this sincerely – is the wrap dress. I own two, one black with white polka dots and one purple. They are the only two items I have ever tried on in a shop OVER MY OUTDOOR CLOTHES and said, Good God, I look fabulous. They are totally forgiving of any extra Speck that might be lingering around the middle, and over trousers, and with heels, they look a million dollars.
- Trousers should err on the long side. Cut too short, they only make short legs look shorter.
- Avoid too much matchy-matchiness. This is lesson I’ve had to learn only recently, so well-schooled was I in matching my shoes to my belt to my bag. I’ve just realised that too matchy is frumpy: clash a little, combine colours that you normally wouldn’t for an altogether less neat and tidy look. This season’s trendiest colour combination is grey and brown – not a marriage that would have gone down well in Pietermaritzburg, but a funky look in the autumnal northern hemisphere.
The thing about fashion is to have fun. I did mention frivolity, and that’s all it is really. I regret dressing so seriously in my twenties (too much bloody navy) and not having more fun when my body was still in its pre-baby heyday. I don’t want to look back when I’m in my sixties and think “I was so YOUNG! Why did I have to dress like an old lady/frump/rhinestone cowgirl.” That would be almost as sad as my wearing skinny jeans.