The fashion industry: Just how fucking awful is it?

February’s issue of Glamour features an interview with the fashion designer Jonathan Saunders. It is, shall we say, illuminating:

“It’s reactionary,” says Jonathan, of the process of designing a new collection.

Too bloody right it is.

“Last season was about a very prim, buttoned-up, put-together woman.”


“That smart woman is still at the core of what we do, but she’s now showing more skin. And I think she’s a little younger.”

Hmm. So Jonathan Saunders designs for an imaginary woman who ages in reverse. Brilliant. And yes, I suppose it’s just a “look”, not a person. But isn’t that the whole problem? It’s not about people, and yet there’s this discomforting pretence that it is, that it could even be about you, if only you weren’t so crap. Continue reading


Mummies! Ever get the feeling we don’t yet have enough “mummy stuff”?

Becoming a mother has brought with it many unexpected perks. I get my own special “mummy” porn. Proctor & Gamble are proud sponsors of me. And now, as an added bonus, TV presenter, classical musician and Hear’say survivor Myleene Klass is designing clothes for me. Honestly, will the treats never end?

Introducing her new clothing range for Littlewoods, Myleene explains that it’s “designed by a mummy for mummies”. Thank heavens for that. I am so sick of forcing my mummy-shaped body into all these “normal” clothes. Finally, someone has listened to the voices of mummies everywhere and catered to our highly specific needs. Continue reading

Oi, Courtney Cox! Wanna go halves on a pashmina?

Hey everyone! Did you know that I look like Courtney Cox? I didn’t, at least not until today. This perhaps because I’ve been suffering from low self-esteem. Alas, others have yet to see the ressemblance, presumably because they’re all suffering from low me-esteem. But they will work it out, eventually. Once I stop wearing crap clothes and looking like a clown.

This morning I received a free Colour Me Beautiful image consultation as part of an employment “health and wellbeing” day (the alternative option I could have taken was a free BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure check. Er, bo-ring!). I arrived at the stand, my consultant sat me down and promptly opened a book to reveal a massive picture of Ms Cox, while exclaiming “that’s you!”. For the record, it isn’t actually me. I’ve not been in Friends or Scream or some ongoing series about how I now need to shag younger men cos I’m in my forties and it’s liberating or something. That’s not me. I think what the consultant meant is “you look like her!”. But not in the sense of “you’re really pretty”. More, in the sense of “you and her share the same colour type” (perhaps I will tweet Courtney later and see if she fancies swapping clothes).

There are six colour “types”. Me and Courtney are both “clear”. This means we can wear full-on, in-yer-face shades without looking like total clowns, or rather, to be more specific, we need to wear full-on, in-yer-face shades to avoid looking like clowns (our own colouring is so “high contrast”, y’see). Indeed, the “clown effect” was mentioned several times. I found it very illuminating. I used to think people didn’t take me seriously because of what I said and did, but no; it’s because I’ve been wearing pastels.

The consultation lasted half an hour (perhaps it lasts longer if it’s not free). Much of it involved sitting in front of a mirror and having various cloth samples held against me so that I could see how the different shades affected my complexion. To be honest, I pretended to notice the difference more than I actually did. It would have been rude to say  “sorry, I wasn’t concentrating on which bit of cloth you were holding when. I got distracted by how old I look and was wondering whether the lighting here is particularly harsh”. Still, now and then, I could actually see the consultant’s point. Yes! I can wear red! (As long as it’s ruby and hence completely different from all of the reds I actually own.)

Obviously all of this is scientific fact and in no way meant to get you to buy more clothes, especially not the Colour Me Beautiful pashmina in the appropriate shade for your colour type, £24.99 (perhaps Courtney will go halves). It has made me want to buy more clothes because all of the ones I have right now are wrong and make me look like Krusty in the Simpsons when I could be looking like Monica relaxing with Chandler and Rachel in Central Perk. But the really funny thing is, overall this has made me feel quite good, regardless of whether I get new stuff or not. It has given me a boost, if only because I’ve realised that finally, I don’t give a toss about not looking like someone off TV. When she said “that’s you!” I just wanted to laugh, but in a good way. At long last, I think this feminism thing is finally starting to work (but Courtney, I mean it about the clothes share. I bet you don’t have any Primark. I’d see you right).

PS Isn’t Colour Me Beautiful an awful, awful name? Nothing should be called Colour Me anything after Colour Me Badd topped the charts with the dire “I wanna sex you up” in 1990. Since then, any phrase starting with Colour Me… is just plain wrong.

Dream jobs: The “twatting about” columnist

Every time I’ve watched Sex and the City (i.e. once) I’ve marveled at the sheer implausibility of Carrie Bradshaw’s job. She spends a week or however long it is twatting about in “the city”, has some vaguely philosophical musings about the “meaning” of it all, throws in a few rubbish metaphors (similarly to how one throws a pair of Manolos into the walk-in wardrobe after an evening on the martinis) and then gets paid to write it all up. Women’s magazines are vacuous, yes, but surely they’re not quite that bad.

Well, turns out I’ve been wrong all this time. The “twatting about” columnist role not only exists, but over at Marie Claire it’s out-Carrie-ing Carrie (which deserves some sort of pun on “carry out”. Probably linked to those “carry-out” boxes of Chinese food people eat in offices in American TV series because they’re, like, too intense and on the job to go home and cook some fish fingers. Can’t get much further with that one, though, so I’ll leave it for you as a “self-assembly” joke. Which won’t even work anyhow because the correct term is “take-out” and not “carry-out”…).

Anyhow, the “twatting about” columnist supremo turns out to be one Lindsey Kelk, who in her “The girl can’t help it” piece (pp. 89-90) really shows us how it’s done (mind you, Linz, I seriously think you can help it, but let’s leave that for now). Should you not believe how bad it is, this, I tell you, is the actual opening paragraph:

For the past, ooh, seven years, I’ve been so busy, I’d completely forgotten what it meant to take it easy. Between working, writing, moving to the US, dating inappropriate men and making sure to test-drive every cocktail New York City had to offer, I really hadn’t given myself a chance to breathe. And so I was more than a little surprised to find myself at a loose end this month. My new book was finished, I was single, I wasn’t scheduled to travel anywhere, to move apartments or, really, to do anything. It was strange. I didn’t like it.

Hmm. I believe you, Lindsey. Honest, I do. And okay, look, I’ll be straight. I read this and I do feel a twinge of envy, and regret. I haven’t always been the way I am now. Once upon a time I too was single, jobless and childless. Alas, instead of seizing the day, as your column goes on to suggest, I stuck to claiming JSA and feeling a bit lonely, what with having no money to spend at the pub. And then when I did get my weekly payment, rather than blow it on cocktails, I managed to get myself further into debt paying the phone reconnection fee and buying Tesco Value pasta. Let’s face it, I’ve been a fool. So perhaps I should live my life vicariously through you.

And boy, does our Lindsey carpe that diem! At one point she even tells us “you would have been proud of me”. I am, Lindsey, I am. You are one brave woman, getting up off that sofa and grabbing life by the bollocks:

When I ventured outside, the sun was shining, Park Avenue’s fur coats had gone back into storage and I didn’t need my tights any more. Exciting. And so, armed with my Chloé shades (I’m an expert at online sale shopping), I tiptoed out into New York City to see what she had for me.

And crikey o’reilly (did I just make that up?), did New York have a lot for our Linz (and, indirectly and vicariously, for us):

Any opportunity that came up, I said yes. […] [I] now know how to navigate an Italian taxi strike without speaking a word of Italian, interview Vivienne Westwood, play blackjack, successfully sell meth (theoretically) and wear coral. And quite frankly, until you’ve started your evening singing I Touch Myself in a karaoke bar in Hicksville, New York, and ended it in a hot tub in the snow with a lovely cup of tea, you’ve never lived.

I, it appears, have never lived. Although I can wear coral. And I can sing I Touch Myself in a kitchen in Gloucestershire, so it’s a start.*

This is of course a glossy magazine and it’s all “aspirational”, so columns such as Lindsey’s are hardly worth getting in a tizz about. Except then comes the bit when it’s extended into a broader, philosophical point about how we should all, each and every one of us, just sodding well go for it. And that’s when it really starts to get on my M&S bra-supported tits. We all need to say yes to everything! We all need to make the most of the opportunities which we apparently all have:

Even when things look like Breakfast at Tiffany’s to the outside world, you might be feeling more Big Mac at Accessorize. But who can eat a Big Mac every day and feel good about themselves? OK, who can eat a Big Mac and still feel good about themselves without ending up on The Jeremy Kyle Show?

Well, actually, Lindsey, isn’t it about time you gave the little people a break? I can take fluffy, boastful, aspirational columns full of designer labels and “casual” references to how ace the over-privileged author is due to her incomprehensible ability to not only be granted amazing opportunities but to also take them. I can take that. What I can’t take, in the same column, is sneering directed at Jeremy Kyle Show guests, people apparently “feeling good” on their Big Macs and not in fact ground down by the fact that they can’t afford to buy their kids new shoes, let alone afford martinis in Manhattan. I mean, seriously. Fuck you.

Ahem. Perhaps I’m being unfair. After all, Lindsey’s column isn’t all about boasting pointlessly. It’s about helping us work out what to buy next, should we not be Jeremy Kyle Show poor. What we all need, girls, is a Tangerine Tango bag from The Cambridge Satchel Company**:

The way I feel about this Tangerine Tango satchel leads me to believe that I will, one day, be a fabulous mother. I love it.

Lawks-a-mercy! (That’s a good exclamation, too). I am, right now, looking at my sons. They are nothing like Tangerine Tango bags. Perhaps I should put some fake tan on them or something. Would that make me “a fabulous mother”?

Actually, I’ve come up with an idea. You know those pretend electronic babies they give to scummy Jeremy Kyle girls while they’re at school, to convince them that “actually, love, it might look like you have no other opportunities, but don’t have a baby. You can’t even hack that”?  They should give them a Tangerine Tango bag instead. Then the girls can take the bags away for a week, and when they come back they’ll say “hey, I don’t want to be a mum after all! I want to be a “twatting about” columnist with a Tangerine Tango bag!”. Then the careers advisor will smile and take the bag back off them, saying “actually, that job does exist. But it’s not for the likes of you.”

* I love myself, I want you to love me, when I get down, I want you above me, I lose myself, I want you to find me, I forget myself, I need you to remind me... Quite impressed with myself as I wrote all of that from memory. The Divinyls would be proud of me!

** General tip for life: Never purchase anything from The [something retro and twee] Company. It’s overpriced and the company’s run by twats.

Style blogging hits the school run. Bugger.

I’ve always been rather fascinated by ‘style bloggers’ (not fascinated enough to ever follow a style blog, mind. But fascinated nonetheless). What really interests me are two things: first, how do you end up with a perception of your wardrobe that’s so totally at odds with how most of us see ours? Because, let’s face it, the vast majority of us think our own clothes are shit. And yes, we might have chosen them, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’re crap at this sort of thing.

The second thing is, how is being a style blogger remotely sustainable? How can you ‘rock’ a different look day after day, even if you’re using the whole “accessories totally transform an outfit” fib? I mean, if I were a style blogger, you’d notice straight away that I’m wearing the same jumper I wore yesterday. It’s fine; I’ve sniffed the underarms and everything. And my pants and tights are clean on. But still, you can’t tell that from a photo alone. If you were checking my site on a daily basis, you’d just think “wow! that woman may take some style risks with the whole 2010 retro vibe, but if you ask me, she’s just a little bit, well, unsavoury”.

The latest thing in style blogging is, apparently, “school-run” blogging, whereby mothers give an update on what they’ve worn to drop off their kids. Personally I find the specificity of this a bit weird. Do these women keep these outfits on for the rest of the day? Are they only ever seen first thing, when they’re saying goodbye to their offspring? And if so, rather than blogging away, shouldn’t they be reading some Marilyn French and breaking the chains of domesticity? Perhaps leaving the house to do other things every now and then? Just sayin’ (or maybe the “what I wore to Tesco’s” and “my post office catwalk” blogs are still a work in progress).

Whether or not it’s the tip of the iceberg, I find this whole phenomenon pretty damn depressing. According to the Daily Mail (always a bad way to start a sentence):

The new online fashion gurus — often stay-at-home mothers — draw their inspiration instead from the High Street and friends, blogging their thoughts when the children are at school or in bed. Their blogs feature tops that are on-trend, washable and affordable, heels in which you can push a Bugaboo and jeans that won’t reveal an unbecoming eyeful of underwear when you crawl around the floor at playgroup.

Give me strength! If I could afford a) a Bugaboo and b) to be a stay-at-home mother, I’d probably still go out to work and buy designer clothes instead. Only kidding. I haven’t a clue what I’d do (run for the hills?). But please, in the meantime – there’s realistic and realistic. And none of this sounds like, um, the realistic one of the two realistics which I just proposed.

So there I am, the scummer at the gates. The woman who looks a prat at work and now, it appears, a prat outside of work as well. Just how many sodding uniforms does a woman now need? Can I not just have one of those pink housecoats like my gran used to wear and keep that on for everything? No? And while to some style bloggers a top for £50 apparently engages with the “harsh economic realities” of being a mum, it seems a bit pricey to me. My imaginary, never-going-to-happen style blog would just have just one link: Ebay, Ebay, Ebay. Ebay’s fucking brill for clothes. Mind you, sometimes when you get them in the post, they pong a bit. Evidently the former owners don’t always sniff the underarms like I do.

Spanx, but no Spanx*

Triumph for feminism alert! The founder of Spanx is a billionaire at 41! And she’s a woman, which means that whatever you think of cramming your fat arse into some tight beige mesh till you can barely breathe, this is A GOOD THING.  High fives all round, sisters!

To celebrate this, this week’s Woman includes a special in which three women who feel crap about their figures (god knows where they found them) get to try out some glorified girdles, sorry, “shapewear” to see if squishing all their wobbly bits together will make them marginally less repulsive. The result is an article so depressing it makes you want to have liposuction on your own brain (does the brain have fat in it? I’ve no idea. But if it does, yours has too much, fatso).

First there’s Lorraine:

When I look in the mirror I feel happy with some but not all of my body. My shapely legs are my saving grace, but I loathe my stomach.

Did you get that? She uses the verb “to loathe”. Pretty extreme, eh? But hey, it’s normal. Nothing a bit of “support underwear” can’t handle.

Then there’s Lindsay:

I’m your typical yo-yo dieter. I’m a size 14-16 and, no matter how well-fitted my underwear is, fat rolls over the top of my knickers and squidges over the sides of my bra.

So, Lindsay, you have learned two things: 1. diets don’t work, and 2. clothes tend to squeeze your body a bit otherwise they fall off, but that makes things bulge out at bit at the edges. Believe me, control underwear will not make (2) any better, and as for (1) – isn’t it about time to say stuff it? (No, says Lindsay: “I’ve dropped a dress size but I still have a long way to go”. Meaning that, at the time the article was written, the yo-yo was on its way down, but right now it could be anywhere).

Then we have Donna, who makes me feel saddest of all:

I don’t like much about my body. While I’m not overweight, my love handles around my belly make me feel very self-conscious – so different from the size 10 I was in my 20s. My body changed when I turned 35. My metabolism slowed down and, suddenly, I couldn’t indulge in pasta and potatoes like I used to.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about “indulging”, it tends to bring to mind champagne and chocolates, not the kind of foods which posho lifestyle magazines would patronizingly dub “peasant foods”. Donna has got older and her body has changed – big fucking deal. Who told her that the logical response is to no longer eat normal, filling food?  I mean, for Christ’s sake, this woman is not even overweight, but she is punishing herself for nothing.

The point isn’t really that these women all feel bad about their own flesh – that, depressingly, is normal. What really hurts is the jolly tone of the article. “Three women discover whether support underwear really does make a difference.” A difference to what? To how shit they feel for NO REASON WHATSOEVER? Of course, they don’t just get some new pants. They also get handy advice like “choose high-waisted styles to avoid the dreaded muffin top”. The dreaded muffin top. I mean, is this where we are right now? We’re seriously talking about the flesh that pops out a bit over the top of waistbands as a source of dread? (Hey, I wonder how that happened…)

Well, anyhow, you shouldn’t really be listening to me, since I do in fact own some Spanx. They do exactly what you’d expect ie make some bits of you thinner by pushing whatever’s in there to somewhere else, where it then pops out unpleasantly and painfully, since obviously it’s not meant to be there in the first place. Moreover, you dread going for a wee because it’s all such a faff to get the things off and on again. And you look marginally flatter overall but not much, and certainly not at the expense of feeling physically crushed (although it depends how much feeling mentally crushed by the pressure to look like someone else is getting to you).

I will say one thing, though: Spanx is a good brand name. Sounds a bit saucy, even though these are the least saucy things you’ll ever (or hopefully never) wear. But I don’t think that’s why Sara Blakely’s a billionaire. That’s entirely down to women feeling like crap.

* Could we just pretend that no one’s ever used that pun before, cos I quite like it?

Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!

Why I am a crap feminist, Reason no. 27: I own too many shoes

Every day

You must say

So how do I feel about my shoes?

Accept yourself, The Smiths

How indeed? Well, unlike Morrissey, I do not possess shoes that “make me awkward and plain”. Au contraire, I possess shoes that make me a superficial, self-indulgent, air-headed parody of womanhood. And what’s more, I possess fucking loads of them.

This is not intended as some thinly-veiled boast. Ooh, hark at me and my great shoe mountain! Just goes to show you can still be a feminist and a SATC-inspired tosser at one and the same time! The truth is, I hate owning this many shoes. Or rather, I hate myself for owning so many (obviously, if I hated the actual owning so much I could give all the shoes to charity. But I won’t. They’re all mine and no one else is getting their feet in them. So there).

Of course, we women are meant to bond over shoes. They’re like the female equivalent of football, only boring. Nothing actually happens. They just sit around being shoe-y. Or you put a pair on (you can only actually wear one pair at a time) and if they’re proper women’s shoes, they hurt your feet. Then you can get bunions like Victoria Beckham and appear in the Circle of Shame in Heat (obviously that’s only if you’re famous. If not, you just have sore, deformed feet).

Womankind’s love of shoes also provides a great reason not to like women very much. Because see, it just proves how frivolous and superficial and self-centred we are. Men don’t faff around debating the virtues of kitten heels over wedges. They just drink their lager, watch their footie and generally lark about being being simple, honest chaps. Whereas us, we’re just so selfish. A few years ago the chick-lit author Marian Keyes even produced a piece entitled A Woman’s Right to Shoes. Geddit? It sounds a bit like it’s to do with abortion rights, but actually it’s all about footwear. Because that’s what women’s liberation was all about. Gaining access to higher-paid jobs so we could buy more shoes (yes, I am aware this is going off at a tangent somewhat…).

Anyhow, all I’m saying is, I feel bad about my shoes 😦 But at the same time, I feel pretty pissed off about all the crappy things shoes are meant to say about women. And the extent to which we’re meant to like them when in fact, we just buy them because we’re told to. We don’t actually like the fuckers. Hell, I don’t. They take up way too much space in the bedroom and what’s more, they physically hurt us. That’s not what feminism’s about.

Anyhow, I have lots of shoes. Let no more be said about it.

Gucci at the gates

Ever since my eldest started school I have wondered why the very concept of “doing the school run” makes me feel like an honorary upper-middle class twat. Thankfully, a copy of Easy Living I nicked from my mum’s has finally provided the answer.

Therein I have uncovered a regular feature called The School Runway. I know it’s a regular feature because you, too, can have the opportunity to appear in it, providing you submit a photo to Easy Living  and enough people “like” it. That said, when I say “you too”, chances are I don’t literally mean you. You’re probably too poor. And you probably don’t have an interesting enough job, or failing that, a husband earns enough for you not to have a job at all yet still be able to wear designer labels. Because that’s what happens on the school run. Apparently. Makes me wonder how I ever manage to sneak eldest in without being cornered by the fashion police.

According to Easy Living’s resident “Style seeker”, “the school gates have never been so stylish”. Now, to look at the pictures on pp. 84-85 of this May’s edition, I wouldn’t be so sure, but then, what do I know? The women there look polished, well-turned out – rich, basically – but it’s only when I read the text that I have to accept that they are indeed “stylish”. They must be, because their labels say so.

Here are some examples of what women are wearing as they drop their kids off at school:

  • Prada trainers
  • Hermès scarf
  • Christian Louboutin boots
  • DKNY cardigan
  • MaxMara boots
  • Day Birger et Mikkelsen top

etc. etc. Do you wear that kind of thing when you drop your kids off? I bet you don’t. Sadly, that could mean no one at Easy Living will “like” you.

So how do these women pay for these things? Well, it’s not by doing the normal day-to-day bollocks the rest of us plough on with. School runway mum jobs include actress, musician, fashion designer, risk manager and founder and director of a children’s club. Failing that it’s stay-at-home mum, albeit one who still gets to wear Prada in a single-income household. Between the glitzy chick-lit-tastic jobs and stay-at-home mumdom, there’s nothing in-between. No nurses, teachers, administrators, shop assistants. Perhaps women like that don’t breed. Or maybe they do but they don’t take their kids to school. Actually, that’s just prejudiced, they probably do. It’s just that their clothes are shit.

Not to worry. It’s not like the school runway mums don’t know what it’s like to be a lesser mortal. Let’s here what they have to say:

I never feel pressured to wear ‘designer’. I love it when other mums ask me where my clothes are from and it’s H&M or Gap.

So says the fashion designer, getting in a quick dig at those silly lesser mums who aren’t stylish enough to “mix it up” with high street and some classic pieces.

I swore I’d never be that mum who leaves the house in tracksuit bottoms, but when it’s a battle to get my daughter dressed, my style matters less.

So says the actress, who isn’t wearing tracksuit bottoms (“that mum” is, though. Yeah, you know who you are).

I’ve done the school run in pyjamas and Ugg boots because I haven’t had time to get dressed.

Well yes, haven’t we all. Albeit in cheaper boots. Us mums, eh, what are we like?

So what do I wear on the school run?

I wear my work clothes, like normal. And I generally manage to avoid having mummy-badge-of-honour effluvia stains by wearing a pinny until I leave the house. And to avoid wearing pyjamas by getting up on time. And to avoid wearing Prada by not having a rich partner.

So far, so boring.

I do, however, manage feel some resentment at the mothers dressed casually, since I presume they probably don’t have jobs to go to and therefore have, if not richer partners, then at least tidier houses than me. Ooh, I hate them, I do, what with me being a career woman and all.

Actually, I wonder if those sorts of feelings are common?

If only the Daily Mail would write an article about it…