Fashion faux pas no laughing matter: Michele A'Court

OPINION: If this whole writing-and-telling-jokes-for-a-living stops working out at any point, I'm pretty sure one career I won't be able to fall back on is "stylist".

Not that I don't enjoy getting dressed of a morning – and even more in the evening when it potentially involves something sparkly with heels – it's just that every now and then, you get the message you might be doing it wrong.

My eyes are irresistibly drawn to "lifestyle" articles about how to wear clothes.

Are you an apple or a cello? A goblet or lollipop? Then this is how you should dress! 

I fall at the first hurdle, unable to define my body type any more specifically than "recognisably human-shaped".

I am equally at a loss with those graphics instructing where I must place my blusher given the square, heart or oval nature of my face. Nowhere is there an option for "pudding". All I can say with certainty is that I have a generally face-shaped face.

I suspect what they're selling is anxiety – that you yourself have no freaking idea, but if you spend more money on different stuff, you might get it right. Meantime, it is possible that behind its hand, the world is laughing at your failure.

A commercial ruse, then, against which I should be immune. I come from a long line of women who share a passion for matching shoes and handbags. Old family albums are filled with photographs of great-aunts out for afternoon tea in town sporting hats, pearls and fur.

One of my proud childhood memories is of my mother turning up for school sports looking like Jackie O and one of the other kids whispering to me, "Is your mother a model?"

Which was, in a small rural town, acceptable for a grown-up but less admired in a kid. My face still burns when I remember a crushing moment at the annual A&P show day when I was 12, wafting about in a red dress (bought, not homemade!) and matching platform shoes, feeling fabulous – finally wearing the clothes I wanted rather than the ones my long-suffering mother could manage to whip up from the Butterick pattern catalogue. 

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"Who do you think you are?" one of the cool girls in Levis and Bata Bullets sneered. 

"A model?" There was some group laughter. Crushed, just like that. Spent the rest of the day barefoot, hiding under a cardie.

Thankfully, when you are not 12, you are resistant to judgement. To some extent. 

Last Saturday night I hosted a delightful recycled fashion show (of course I did). The stylist dressed me in a blue sequinned hot-pants jumpsuit that I wouldn't, in a million years, have picked for myself off the rack. Tremendous fun.

I brought my own shoes to complete the ensemble ("models own") – a much-adored pair of gold sequined heels purchased in foreign parts. Sparkle called for sparkle, right?

As I offered them up, the stylist looked as disapproving as a girl in Bata Bullets. She found something more "on trend". I still don't know why her choice worked and mine didn't. The rules remain, all these years later, a mystery.

Coco Chanel's rule was this: "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory." I'm still running with the rule my daughter first adopted aged 3 when getting ready for a day out.

"What shall I wear? Everything!"

 - Stuff


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