Sadie Hasler heads to the high street in search of some sort of personal style. It makes her entertainingly grumpy. Za-ra and thanks for the memories…
Illustration by Louise Boulter
I am a reluctant shopper at best. At worst, flagrantly unwilling. Which is what makes nominating myself for a series of articles on shopping a little awkward. Inadvisable. Ridiculous. Downright dumb. I have long known I have a tendency for self-destruction, but never have I so wilfully set myself up for such a nunchuck attack on my own sanity.
You know when you look into the changing room mirror, see a mutant standing in Satan’s spotlight and feel the descent of your inner cells as they abandon their usual position and hurtle into unknown depths. Let’s call it the Tumbledown Flop of Gut Shit. Shopping does that to me.
This week, after the failure of last week’s ‘Scandi suit chic’ mission round my local charity shops, which turned (in desperation/resourcefulness) into a vague attempt at ‘70s whatever’, my wench Sarah lightly suggested we try again. We happened to be in London and that’s sort of known for having some shops, so we thought, “Let’s give this a bloody go. They’ve put monkeys in space – we can do this.” I even affected a little skip as we embarked on picking our first stop-off. Shopping. This is when I would fall in love with it. This is when the stars would align and I would find ‘it’. ‘Style’.
That’s when I met Zara. I’ve seen her about but we’ve never been formally introduced. I always thought she was a floozie for single-digit sizes, who kept her legs clamped shut to anyone over size 12. I thought she was essentially Tammy Girl hiding behind a big girl’s name. What the fuck do I know about these things? I once picked up a rain poncho from WHSmiths for 99p.
After dancing a soft-shoe shuffle with the security guard who looked for a moment like he wouldn’t let me in, Wench and I carved a circuitous route through the shop, past the rails that boasted all the promise of a new season, and headed to the sale stuff at the back. I was convinced that in amongst the shit that hadn’t sold at an ever-reducing price since they’d first wheeled it out from the vault of cack on Boxing Day, I would find my sartorial saviour. I say convinced, I mean instantly rampantly doubtful.
Somehow, about 20 minutes later, I found myself in a changing room cubicle, up to my pits in potential. I gamely took off some clothes. Checked my phone. Searched in my bag for a hairband that I knew was long-lost.
I was alone. With the clothes. And the mirror. I put some eyeliner on to see if it made me feel sassy (and also to remind myself I actually had eyes under the face-bleaching effects of the concentration camp searchlights that Ikea call downlighters).
Now, at this stage the nice ones among you will be saying, “Christ, you depressing cow, stop being so down on yourself. Either that or hurry up and end it.” But most of you will know. You’ll understand. It doesn’t matter what jubilant mood women are in to start with, most of us hit the changing rooms and feel the aforementioned Tumbledown Flop of Gut Shit. It’s like nature is telling us that one day evolution will decide we look shit and give us new features. What is now the nose you tolerate will one day be rotating space gills or something. It’s this projected sense of our race being essentially already pointless, along with being constantly blighted by the historical notion of female perfection, that leaves most of us whimpering in old knickers behind a curtain.
I surveyed the options. Wench and I had picked up a lot of jackets, and a pair of jeans. I started with the jeans. The dependable sponge fingers in the chaos trifle of shopping. It could all turn to slop hereafter, but for now we had some form. The jeans fit. I wanted to shout down the row of cubicles “DONE IT! DID SOME SHOPPIN!” and be cheered by a community of benevolent shop companions, maybe followed by a little musical interlude like when My Best Friend’s Wedding goes all clappy.
But I just showed Wench instead. “That’s quite nice” she said of the first jacket, which was black. From some angles it looked like a good fit – if I held it right and turned carefully like a ballerina on a spitroast – but from most angles it was pretty lacklustre and shapeless.
Not bad if you keep turning round…
Wafty. Staring at the godawful lights. Toes are even curling!
But then I tried on a thing that made me happy! Look!
This made me feel safe! I was very tempted to buy the billowy goodness. But I didn’t.
And then I tried on a yellow coat that made me smile…
This is the closest I came to buying something, but then I felt silly.
Then I tried on a green top that bunched up like a rosette on my tits. No picture. Wouldn’t come out for one.
Then I tried on a black and white and blue top. No picture. Felt like I was trapped in a strait jacket.
Then I tried on Wench’s ‘Wild Card’: a weird dress with gemstones stitched to the shoulders that looked like something La Toya Jackson would wear to the funeral of someone she hated. No picture.
Then I felt it. The Tumbledown Flop of Gut Shit. And I had to get out. I didn’t want to play shopping anymore. I wanted a cocktail made of gin and gin and no other ingredients.
So Wench and I left, and we found a Cuban bar with a 2-4-1 Happy Hour and had a mojito and a margarita each at the same time.
With the tang of mint and lime on my lips, I shook off the post-shopping shudders and promised myself I would do better in my next instalment of Styling It Out. Because – *proud face of revela-tion* – next time I’m gonna have the fucking cocktails first and see what ruddy happens, in the spirit of adventure.
YEAH! WOO! PARTY!
Sadie is a playwright, actor, columnist, artistic director of Old Trunk theatre company, and frequently discombobulated multi-tasker.