It was a Saturday in 1980 and we were out buying me a dress. We were on Oxford Street, London, walking the mean streets down the cheap end, to get me a new outfit for a do.
Anyway, to Pete’s unbridled joy (‘joy’ might not be the word here), after much trying on and faffing, I finally found one. A wraparound midi-dress, as was then bang on-trend.
I regretted buying it as soon as I went out in it.
Because what had worked so well in the changing room - that lovely wafty ‘wrappy’ quality - failed to work in any real life situation you could think of. Walking, say, gentle breezes, getting on and off of sofas. There seemed no situation where it didn’t want to reveal its USP - which was un-wrapping and revealing my knickers.
I’ve made lots of similarly ill-judged purchases (that’s changing rooms for you) but what was key to my dismay at this particularly ill-judged purchase was that we were so hard up that buying ANYTHING we didn’t strictly need was a big deal. Similarly, anything I did buy had to earn its keep - even if it rendered me tragically bang off-trend for years.
But times change, as do attitudes and relative wealth. These days, the odd purchasing mistake is no biggie for many of us because, as a percentage of income, the cost of clothes is so much less now. And, of course, there is eBay.
I was thinking about this last week when I reviewed my bulging wardrobe, in readiness for the annual sartorial migration - of summer clothes to the box under the bed in the spare room and winter ones, currently stored there, to take their place.
And I am proud to report that, bar the odd ‘essential’ (a dress for my 60th, another for my niece’s wedding and a denim jacket to replace my sadly lost two-decades-old one), I have bought almost no new clothes this year.
This didn’t happen by accident. It followed my growing awareness that the fashion industry is one of the world’s greatest polluters and that ‘fast fashion’ - THE biz to be in these days, not least for its shareholders - is fast becoming an extremely dirty word.
Also this - that I’m already that hoary old cliché personified, spending 80% of my time in just 20% of the clothes I already own.
This is partly because I work from home. On work days, ‘getting dressed’ - if I bother, which isn’t always - simply involves pulling on a black vest and leggings and, in the colder months, novelty socks.
But it’s mostly because I actively dislike many of my clothes. Not because they aren’t functional - I have not bought a ‘wrap’-anything that isn’t edible since that day and, if it requires special underwear, forget it - but because so few of my clothes bring me joy.
You’ll know the kind - the ones you reach for on a bad getting-dressed day, when you try on six things that you know you should be wearing, but which chafe here, pinch there, ride up, down or sideways, don’t go with those boots or look right with that top, or make your heart sink, your bum big, your joie de vivre run for the hills.
So what stops you choosing your favourites in the first place? Guilt, that you’ve got all these other clothes demanding that you wear them, and the fact that if you DO, you will be wearing them AGAIN.
Loaded word, ‘again’, in this context, I reckon. After all, aren’t clothes supposed to be worn multiple times? Yet there’s this nagging angst about being with the same people, in the same outfit, as if being seen in the same clothes all the time is some kind of failing.
And in NOT buying clothes aren’t you (specially if you’re female) denying yourself a fundamental human pleasure?
What a joy to test the theory, then, that neither is true. That the greater pleasure is to be had in going out in that long-cherished staple. That - reality alert - no-one actually cares that they are as familiar with your frock as they are your face. And if they do care – ‘look at her, she’s got those trousers on AGAIN’ - does their opinion matter? Absolutely not.
Because to wear things you love, over and over and over, is to feel in the company of friends. Friends which know all your foibles, accept your imperfections and in whose presence you can relax and be yourself. Friends you’ve already road-tested for durability and kindness. Friends you can chill with. Friends you can dance on the table with.
Friends with whom, incidentally, you can help save the planet. While ensuring you keep your knickers to yourself.
ALSO BY LYNNE: