Yesterday, I went shopping in Heidelberg, looking for the ultimate summer dress. Then I got cross and went home. What is going on with fashion? Dresses are either ground-length maxis that are tentlike at best, shrouds at worst, or ridiculous little miniscule shifts in which one can neither ride a bike nor stride along a street without revealing to the world one’s position on women and hairiness. Being short, the maxi style makes me look like a traffic cone, and being curvy with thighs, the mini ain’t an option. And don’t even say “leggings” to me. I’m with the Fug girls on leggings: hate them on anyone over 20, unless they are dancers or Kate Moss.
As well as the Sixties maxi/mini mindset, there’s this ridiculous love-affair with Eighties fashion going on. I’ve done bib-fronted, frilled Victoriana already, I did the sweater dress look at 12, I’ve seen the racer-back come and go once before and I’ve worn jumpsuits. I did baggy pinafore dresses to death in my teens and I don’t ever want to wear one again. I want to wear a dress that emphasises my shape, not one that disguises it. I’m also hating the smocks – I both look and feel pregnant in them – the big clunky beads sewn onto everything and the ugly neon colours.
My other moan of the day is that German high street fashion is so generic. Not only do the three main high street brands – Esprit, Mexx and S.Oliver – all look identical to each other, they seldom move from their formulae. This year’s Esprit summer look (sporty pants, T-shirts, and stripy shirts) looks pretty much like last year’s Esprit summer look. Boring. At least in H&M, you find some healthy Scandanavian madness, but yesterday it had come over all Eighties neons so I flounced out as quickly as you could spin me right round, baby.
So my search for the ultimate summer dress, the dress that would be neither too long nor too short, that wold flatter the good bits and hide the imperfections, the dress that I could wear out at night or to the pool with my kids? Came to naught. I was tempted to buy two things: a black maxi skirt (until I realised I have one already) and a silver-grey wrap dress printed with white butterflies from H&M (until I realised that I have two wrap dresses and a third, while it might be pretty, would not in any way be Ultimate). Instead I picked up some new bistro-style glasses, a couple of photo frames and stopped off at the nursery on the way home and bought potting plants for the terrace. Who needs clothes?
Today was Mother’s Day, the day I would have liked to worn my ultimate summer dress, given that it was an exquisite day and we cycled to a restaurant in the next village for real, Italian, crispy-based pizza. I wore a dress that is two years old. While it is black and as my husband kindly pointed out, smacks slightly of Sicilian nonna, it was just the right length for cycling, clung in just the right places and floated in other places. Thanks to my darling family, who woke me with home-made presents and spoilt me with their love all day long, I felt fabulous. Like a really fabulous Italian grandmother. New dresses are clearly not essential to my happiness, but my four darlings certainly are.
And a little bit of sunshine helps.