A few days ago I stood in front of my wardrobe, stared blankly at the clothes looking back to me, and uttered those famous words:
‘I have NOTHING to wear.’
The difference between this time and every other occasion on which I’ve uttered that phrase (usually after two glasses of wine on a Saturday night, red in the face with every dress I own screwed up in a ball on the floor behind me) was that for once, it was true. I had nothing appropriate for the occasion I was attending – and this seems to be occurring more and more. The problem? I just don’t know where to shop anymore. I cannot seem to find a shop on the high street that caters for a working girl of 28 (by working girl I mean a girl with a job, not a prostitute, which would actually be much simpler).
All the way through university and my early twenties, this problem never reared its ugly head, because I shopped primarily and almost exclusively in New Look and Primark. If I couldn’t find it in one of those shops, it could be reasonably assumed that I didn’t need it; excepting unusual occasions like summer balls, which would lead me to awkward moments in the Debenhams dressing room pulling yards of chiffon over my head. I liked a lot of denim, short dresses with cutouts and anything that looked vaguely like a tiger had got at it. That was fine, because so did everybody else; but at 28, I feel like I don’t always want to wear a top that is so low cut my boobs fall out every time I bend over. I feel as though I have grown out of these places; I know they aren’t the best quality, and I want something a little more long lasting, something more – dare I say it - mature. But where can I find this?
I like shopping in places like Hobbs and Karen Millen, but I am aware that I enjoy it exactly as I would have at sixteen, if only the shop assistants had treated me as they do now, rather than hovering beside me watching with eagle eyes lest I leave sticky fingers prints on a silk blouse. Now, I realise somewhat bemusedly, these same assistants have been fooled by my age into believing I might actually buy something; they are complimentary, they make suggestions, they proffer shoes to try on with dresses in softly-lit, carpeted changing rooms. I like to try these dresses on, to briefly pretend I am another person entirely – a woman who not only has somewhere to wear a linen, knee length tea dress in off white, but who also is prepared to pay £139 for the pleasure. I admire this woman, but I am equal parts afraid of her and her presumably suburban, alarmingly calm existence; and besides, my fiancé would murder me and I would only spill ketchup on it anyway. I put the dresses back with a lame excuse (so inexorably British I cannot possibly just hand them back and say ‘No, thank you,’ – I have to add something insane, like ‘I don’t have a hat to match,’ or ‘I just don’t have the shoulders for it’) and run to New Look to recover and feel young again.
Some girls look blank when I explain my conundrum, and tell me they buy all of their clothes in Topshop. If you are one of these girls I have two questions: firstly, do you have a job? Secondly, if you do, what on earth do you wear to work? Surely you don’t all work in cool, designery-fashiony jobs where pin striped shorts are considered appropriate office wear? Unless I lived at Glastonbury, I cannot conceive how I could possibly shop exclusively in Topshop – all the clothes, apart from being invariably tiny and making me feel like a gigantic elephant for being a size 12, have cut outs in peculiar places or a ruffle stuck where you don’t want one or a giant zip down the middle for no fathomable reason. How anybody could only shop there and not spend 99% of their lives looking completely ridiculous is beyond me.
Zara is another one everyone talks about but I have never bought anything from Zara; it’s as if I have a gene missing or something, but none of the trousers will even go round me and everything else seems to be made out of cheesecloth. Is there a secret? Do I need to whisper a code to the salespeople and then they’ll get all the good stuff out? Please, show me the way.
Shopping online is the obvious answer but I can’t work that out either, without spending a huge proportion of my time in the post office sending things back and roughly half my wages on next-day delivery costs (because I am not the organised-Hobbs-woman who realises she has three weddings this year and buys one investment piece that can be worn to all three; I am the disorganised moron who realises on Wednesday that she actually wore that blue dress to the engagement party so she can’t very well wear it to the wedding on Saturday; and oh god is Wednesday-Saturday ‘3-4 working days’ or not? Better pay next day delivery, it’s only £6.95, and I'll have to get it in three sizes to ensure it fits, which in the great scheme of things is…mental).
And therein lies the rub; I am out of options. If you can enlighten me on how to dress in a way that is appropriate – not too old, not too young, not too ‘borrowed this from a tramp,’ then please do let me know. I’ll be in New Look.