As I may have mentioned I will be going on a date in the next week and on close scrutiny there is very little in my closet suitable for such an occasion, so I took it upon myself to hit the High Street in search of something with a certain je ne sais quoi...
I had quite the sartorial shock when I arrived in Oxford Street. I don't get out much so I must have missed the day it was state mandated that every garment in W1 must either be shimmery or extremely revealing. My tastes run more to simple, black, classic and understated. I sensed I may have to expand my horizons. I took a deep breath and selected a fabulous 20s esque fringed top from Warehouse for some flapper chic. None of the double digit sizes would zip up. Blaming a rogue fringe in the zipper, I backed away hastily and went in search of something less challenging to get in and out of.
This proved somewhat trickier than you'd imagine. I don't wear dresses. I am not a dress kind of girl. I rarely look sleek or chic in a dress, more like a sullen child primped and preened in her uncomfortable Sunday best. So of course the entire High Street is awash with dresses. Even the few tops I could find were long enough length to obviously be aspiring to being a dress. I lifted a few dresses only to be struck by how short and tight they all seemed to be. My mind boggled as to how average women wear them...I'm 5' 2 and the majority barely covered my mid thigh. Did I miss another memo where women stopped feeling the cold, never lift their arm above hip height and don't mind exposing naked flesh to seats on public transport?
Feeling immeasurably prim, I retreated to the petite department where theoretically things would be a more suitable length for my delicate sensibilities. I immediately spied several promising tops and made a beeline for them. A hovering sales assistan appeared as by magic, shot out an accusing hand and said 'these items are for petites madam' as I tried to pick one up. I informed her that at under 5' 3 this was kind of the point, she disagreed with my height and told me the top would be too short for my tummy. I'm not entirely sure what she meant by this, but I'm doubting it was a compliment. Fearing a hanger related tragedy in petites, I flounced off and went to H&M instead.
You don't expect customer service in Hennes, so I figured I was safe. But only from thinly veiled insults apparently, as every other sensibility was shocked to its core by the gratuitous ugliness of all their clothes. There were sequins on everything, jostling side by side with 80s-esque lamé and foil fabrics in shades of rainbow garishness and interspersed with fun fur. It looked as if Liberace and the Muppets had been hunted down and hung on the walls like camp taxidermy. It frightened me slightly.
But it's a big shop, surely I could find a fairly plain black top? After much rummaging, I found 3 tops that seemed to fit the bill. One even had a little bit of gold lurex to show how down with the young folk I am. All seemed well until I tried them on and realised I had missed another fashion diktat of the past while. All items of clothing that aren't specifically body-con must be empire line...
Being not very tall (despite what random strangers tell me) and blessed with a pair of ribs a grasshopper would envy, empire line is the least flattering style possible on me, despite my apple shape. Since my ribs are not the narrowest part of my torso and I have a bust, the gold lurex vest with a cunningly disguised waistband made me look like a Spacehopper dressed as Studio 54 for Halloween. The classic black tops made me look a good 6 or 7 months pregnant. I don't date enough to have any date outfits in my wardrobe, but even I know that turning up looking like you might be on the hunt for a new daddy for Little Johnny probably isn't the wisest move on a blind date.
Leaving Hennes didn't improve matters much. Every other store was crammed with similarly short, tight, gaudy garments often with equally eye popping price tags for what you get. Structured shoulders and cocoon skirts abounded screaming "I'll be so out of fashion in 3 months' when you looked carefully. Everything was so fucking sparkly Robert Pattinson could hide from even the most rabid Twihard in Topshop. Most clothes looked like they wanted to audition to be Cheryl Cole's outfit on the X Factor. There was a decided self consciously trendy air about everything.
Feeling frumpy, oddly shaped and mightily pissed off, I gave up and went for a drink instead. But if you're in your late 20s or early 30s and don't want to dress like Grazia magazine threw up on you, where the hell do you shop in the UK? Everything is so damned fashionable, but what if you want classic, stylish and flattering without looking like a dedicated follower of fashion? What's a girl to do?