Written by Daisy Leverington


Being a ‘Gucci Kit’

Memories of being an army wife in another life prompted Daisy Leverington to tell a story.

Illustration by Jemima Williams

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I was an army wife living on an army garrison abroad.
Looking back it feels like a different person who lived through it all, like the memories have been copied and pasted into my head.
Since it feels so far removed from my life now, I’ve written a short story rather than a firsthand account of how the whole thing felt back then.

Standard Issue: Something that is completely ordinary, average, nothing special, or unimpressive. 

Gucci Kit: Gucci Kit is a term used across the whole of the British Army, usually when talking about a piece of expensive non-issue kit. 

2004, Somewhere in the Mediterranean.

A junior Officer marries his 22-year-old girlfriend. The young couple already have a long tour of Iraq under their belts. He calls his wife ‘Gucci Kit’. She’s delighted. She’s not a Standard Issue wife!

She has a good job in the local primary school, adopts a dog, hangs off his arm and on his every word at social events.
She’s young and slim and pretty and has thus far avoided the coral two-piece worn by older Officers’ wives in favour of hot pants and a bikini top at the beach. She’s peachy.

He’s very proud of his Gucci Kit. Life is good. The sun is shining. There’s an honesty bar in the Officers’ quarters where it doesn’t matter how many tequilas the young wives throw back before having to make polite conversation, they never have to pay for it. Happy days.

The Officer goes back to Iraq. His wife is convinced that every time the phone rings or there’s a knock at the door, it’s the news that he’s dead.

BBC News 24 is on at all times, she becomes adept at recognising code for ‘two men killed, one double amputee’ hidden in the soft words of the reporters. If she sees her husband’s battalion colours, he’s definitely dead. No question. Dead dead dead.

A policeman knocks at her door at 11pm. She collapses. He asks her if she’s seen anyone messing with the gas bottles along the street. She calls him a prick and shuts the door. Not dead.

The wife goes to social functions alone, or with one of the single officers. Not actually single, just engaged or about to be. She sees everyone’s infidelity like a beacon in the Mediterranean sunset.

The home front isn’t united any more. The wife begins to keep her thoughts to herself. She buys a coral two-piece. She puts on weight. Greek food is very comforting.

She counts only one man who isn’t unfaithful. His fiancée must be Gucci Kit too. No one cheats on a Gucci woman; she is envied by the Standard Issues.
But the Standards know how to dress, how to talk, how to blend in. They don’t make a fuss, question time away from home or ask for help raising children. They are nice. Beige. They seem happier, more peaceful.

Gucci’s, however, make a fuss. They flirt with other men, They call bullshit on unexplained nights out. They don’t belong. They are slowly given their marching orders out of army life.
Their spirit, their Gucci-ness is drained, like the wage slip of an Officer whose wife has discovered the free bar. Young wives disappear at an alarming rate off the island. Some come back, most don’t.

The home front isn’t united any more. The wife begins to keep her thoughts to herself. She buys a coral two-piece. She puts on weight. Greek food is very comforting.

She cuts her hair. She… blends in. The Officer is both delighted at his wife’s acceptance of army life and horrified his Gucci is looking more Standard by the day.

They move back to the UK. The wife finds just enough spark about her to look for a house and a job, and leaves.

She buries herself in an isolated cottage and freezes through a lonely British winter. He finds another Gucci a few weeks later, and gets engaged while still married to his old one.

He needs a missus more than the young wife needed to be a wife.

The way of life for army wives can knock the Gucci out of the most vibrant woman. It’s not just men we’re losing in pointless battles.

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Written by Daisy Leverington

Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.