I am not much in the way of buying special occasion clothes. I wear them all right, but usually I make them myself. However, currently I have a house being renovated, a book being prepared for publication and have almost no flat clean surface in my home, and dress-making does not seem like a cunning plan. Therefore today I sallied forth to buy an outfit for my grandson’s baptism in a couple of weeks.
I headed for a shopping centre, and as they are really all the same, it matters not which one. I picked the one with a good cheap fresh fruit stall. I started in TK Maxx where I remembered seeing a calf-length skirt and bolero jacket outfit which I thought would be suitable. It turned out to be a knee-length dress and jacket. As is always the case, the dress was too tight over the bust. They always are, my figure being like that – either that or fine over the bust and far too loose everywhere else. The answer is to cut a bit more generously at the top. An answer which did not apply in this case. So I found a very neat tweed jacket – which was too loose. And its smaller cousin, which was a bit too tight. And no trousers in both the right size and the right colour to go with them, not even in other shops.
I moved on to the other chain stores. I had many nice ideas for a ‘look’ which out of deference to the father of the baby (my own son) was to be pleasantly inconspicuous and not at all like the kind of thing I make. All the dresses were too short, or sleeveless, or both. Jackets in my price range were cheap and nasty. Quite a few had me goggling that anybody could even consider putting such a nasty fabric into what was plainly intended to be ‘smart-but-casual’ wear. Tailored trousers were either too tight at the waist, or too loose at the hip, causing an odd jodhpur effect that was not intended. I, who have always been a bit condescending about ‘George’ where I buy jeans and Ts suddenly realised what a sterling job they do. There was very very little suitable for a size 16 lady nearing sixty who does still want to look well turned out and smart, and does not have the kind of money to spend that Harvey Nicks expects her to have. Very possibly I would have had similar problems in Harvey Nicks, too, but am able to keep them as a kind of happy dream.
In the end I headed to the one single shop which does not cater at all for my age group – New Look. Here I found a very chic pair of very full trousers – so full the hip problem was abolished – and a very sweet Art-Deco revival chiffon blouse/jacket, which sits at the waist (fine with such full trousers) and has huge sleeves, and the kind of pattern which suggests a 70s revival of Clarice Cliffe. I also got a simple vest to provide modesty at the neck of the jacket. We will pass over the fact that I yearned to buy some teal blue fabric to bring out the touch of that colour in the jacket, and run up the trousers myself.
The only downside is that the outfit, while perfectly modest, and covering all the flesh that anybody might want covered, and not needing either new shoes, nor an new bag, not yet a new hat, looks exactly like something I would make for myself.