I hadn’t realised until yesterday the actual extent to which I am crap at shopping.
In my own defence, I don’t get any practice really. My idea of shopping is to know what you want, go to the place that sells it, buy it and leave as fast as possible.
This works fine with everything except clothes. With clothes, I usually go to a shop, walk around and then leave. I find it impossible to look at that garishly patterned garment draped limply on a hanger and visualise how it could possibly look anything other than horrible.
Yesterday I went shopping with two pals, looking for a posh dress. It quickly became obvious that pal #1, M was a different woman when she’s on a mission. She’s normally has a quiet intelligent elegance which I would find impossible to pull off for the three good reasons that I’m none of those things. Taking the lead role in the expedition yesterday, she proved ruthless, efficient, had an unfailing eye for what might suit and what might not and made correct decisions with speed.
When a shop assistant approached her and said “Can I help you?” she answered “Yes,” pulled out two dresses and told her precisely what she wanted. “Is this available in another colourway – and have you got this dress in a 12?”
“Colourway.” I was gobsmacked. This woman reads fashion magazines, I thought. When anyone asks me if they can help I automatically smile with the briefest of eye contact, mumble “oh no thanks, just looking” and escape at the earliest opportunity.
Pal no#2 is the most experienced shopper I know with impeccable taste when it comes to her own stuff and jewellery, of which she has much. She is also a terrible piss-taker so when she says “Seriously, I would not lie to you, that does look fab” you have to examine her eyes carefully in case there is a twinkle in them somewhere.
I didn’t end up with a dress, although a clingy knee-length number looked ok, especially with the amazing heels they gave me to complete the look (not that I need extra height at 5′ 7” but who cares?)
“What about from the back?”
“Yes you look great. A different woman.”
I craned my neck around. The clinginess had indeed accentuated my waist but somehow made my ass look bigger.
A friend asked what colour it was. I’m not even experienced enough to be able to describe it..
“Er…gunmetal.” Although it was a kind of grey with a kind of purple cast in it.
“Like a battleship?”
“Well, yes” (mental picture of everyone in church watching big-assed battleship teeter uncertainly up the aisle) but purpler.”
“You going to wear a swastika with it?” There’s really no point in discussing fashion items with someone obsessed with Nazis.
Anyway, I thanked my pals and said, quite genuinely, that after looking around nine or ten clothes shops, including wedding shops, I am at least clear about what I don’t like.
Some of the wedding shops were a hoot. One had a model just inside the door clad in an eye-popping cerise dress with layers of gauzy.. oh I dont know, polyester, I expect… with big fabric black flowers and sparkly faux-diamond clustered centres. Very My Big Fat Gypsy wedding.
The hats, of course, had to be tried on. I like broad brims meself, set at a jaunty angle. The kind of brim which obscures the few of the people in the two pews behind you. My pals decided I would be best wearing a medium sized dinner plate made of stiff netty stuff dressed with colour-matched twisty feathers from exotic birds which had probably put up a fight, but in the end, had been electrocuted.
(Actually I did see a shift top hanging up in one shop designer hand-me-downs shop which was covered in real brown feathers including a bit of peacock or maybe mallard. Creepy or what? Like wearing taxidermy. Entirely unsuitable for anyone’s purposes except perhaps birdwatching. You could sit happily in a hedge making pheasant noises and not be seen.)
I exclaimed out loud when I read the price tag on one outfit, thoughtfully packed in cellophane so you couldn’t tell quite what it was. Actually it was a boxy jacket in palest blue with a matching long voluminous dress.
“God. That’s £800!!”
“Oh the handbag and the shoes are included in the price,” said the assistant.
“I’d want a holiday in Italy thrown in for that price.”
I didn’t actually say that bit out loud.
Refreshed by large glasses of Muscadet and fish pie for lunch, pal #2 and I got a bit flippant about the whole shopping thing. When she pointed out a shop over the road emblazoned “Top Bags” I thought we should have our photographs taken beneath the sign as a memento of the day.
Being stone-cold sober, M didn’t think that was amusing and shepherding us towards the shop with the dress that didn’t quite fit the bill for a second try-on. It still didn’t look “wow.” Well, it did, but in a kind of “wow, she looks like she’s out on the pull” type way. It was still too clingy – tighter if anything, after that fish pie.
Of course, they banned me from going in a bike shop opposite one of the wedding shops. So unfair, especially as there was a spiffy racing bike in the window of by a manufacturer I’d never heard of. I just went back there today to see if it was open. It wasn’t.