The invitation said black tie and I nearly fainted. It’s been years since I’ve put myself in water-wave taffeta. What on earth does one wear to a fancy event in a period of one’s life when clothing choices are determined by whether or not they cover certain and several parts of your body?
Anything sleeveless, backless, tummy-hugging and too short is out, which is pretty much everything in formal wear.
The list of things I couldn’t and shouldn’t wear is so long I often feel like a private-school kid trying to find something that’s on the headmaster’s list of appropriate clothing for the school social.
So cut-outs and peek-a-boo holes are off the list. No one wants to see a middle-aged lady’s side boobs. In fact, I don’t even know if middle-aged women have them.
Anyway, in need of this fancy kind of dress, I went into the city to have a look. I went straight to a big department store and up the escalators to the expensive bit where a lot of gorgeous young kids dressed to the nines asked me if I was having a good day.
Champagne and coffee bars were scattered all over the place, clearly for that strange category of person who enjoys shopping as a pastime and does it for fun rather than in desperation and a state of panic because they have an event that requires them to wear something they do not already have in their wardrobe.
The first thing I saw was a divine Valentino dress. It was chained to the hanger and the tag said POA, so I gave it a wide berth.
I then found a few vague possibilities that had sleeves and backs and I trekked off to the changing rooms, because getting tangled up in expensive dresses with security chains attached is an experience I’ve always wanted to have.
Midway through the ordeal, the gorgeous shop attendant told me I had great legs and I needed to show them off, which was a good call and will go down on my list of excellent memories.
Yes, I am aware that this was, in actuality, a classic fashion moment where a canny shop assistant encouraged someone squeezed into a size-too-small satin thing to look at something less flamboyant and more age-appropriate.
Just focus on your legs was a good way of saying: Madam, you don’t look very good in that at all.
In the end he found me a lovely, floaty black dress and I nearly bought it, but I just knew if I brought home another black dress the family would tell me I am not a nonna in mourning and disown me.
The shopping expedition turned out to be fruitless. I went away bedraggled and a little bit deflated. There was also a moment where I stepped off the escalators wondering if I’d remembered to put all my clothes back on.
Such a strange and surreal practice it is to get dressed up, go out into a public space, take your clothes off and then put them on again, all the while worrying that the shopping assistant will come in and discover that not even your head will fit inside the selected garment.
Still don’t have anything to wear – just so you know.