Sadie Hasler begins her quest for that most elusive je ne sais quoi – personal style. It doesn’t get off to what you’d call a killer start…
I would like to first state that I write this having just popped to Sainsbury’s in wellies: not because I anticipated treacherous all-terrain slop on the way, but just because they’re comfy. So it will hardly come as a surprise that my first foray into the world of fashion did not end well.
I thought I should begin my journey with the girl who made me realise my personal style left a lot to be desired: my wench, Sarah. She is the one who told me she would not be seen with out me if I continued to wear beige Scholl’s, and who forbade me from ever cutting my own fringe again because it made me look like a simpleton. She is one of life’s naturally stylish people.
Look. Here she is with an After Eight sliding down her face.
I thought we could ease gently into the style mission by going into non-intimidating local charity shops. Turns out Wench had a plan. “I’m thinking Scandi suit chic,” she said authoritatively. It took me far too long to realise that Scandi was short for Scandinavian and then my heart sank because most of those people are eight feet of slim with no noticeable lumps. What was Wench thinking? Surely, she knew my man shoulders and muffin-top couldn’t pull off budget tailoring.
My first attempt to get into the theme saw me picking up a camel-coloured trench coat thinking I might be able to carry off the detective look like a she-Columbo, but Wench said, “No way, Wench. Reminds me of my Aunt Doll at 90.” (I figured Aunt Doll must have been a very stylish lady and she didn’t want me sullying her memory.)
Looking disdainfully around at the woeful lack of any Scandi suit chic stuff, she span on the spot and announced she was now thinking we should go 70s, because apparently “summertime is going to be all about that.”
This is when our journey began in earnest, reader – and I got dressed in the least remarkable clothes I have ever dredged out of the stinky recesses of a second-hand shop, and that is saying something.
A brief aside: Have you noticed that you can get away with a lot of bad stuff by adding the word ‘chic’ at the end? Like, Tramp Chic, Stripper Chic, Recently Been Made Redundant Chic, Murderer Chic? You wouldn’t bloody want to be any of these things without the word ‘chic’ on the end would you? No.
On that note, here I am in Foxhunting Chic, looking snootily at a publication for poor people’s holidays.
Wench bitchslapped me using just her eyes when I suggested this dress because it looked “comfy”…
There now follows a pictorial guide to what happened next. I have left out the blurry pictures, camel-toe shots (YOU’RE WELCOME!) and scenes of abject sartorial misery.
The first thing deemed worth getting naked in a cubicle for was our first 70s item, which we lovingly called the ‘Working 9 til 5 – What A Way To Make A Living’. All I needed to complete the look was some big square glasses and some sexist office pigs to overthrow with Dolly Parton, but we couldn’t find any and Dolly is well busy anyway.
Wench sensed I might start getting prematurely impatient and swiftly conjured a casual Daisy Duke ensemble that might appeal to my inner slutty tomboy. She put me in these size 10 jeans that made me feel like I had appendicitis, a shirt that smelt like all the vomit of yesteryear (ALL of it), a nifty 70s saddle-bag, and a Peaky Blinders cap (which was definitely for her own amusement).
Look at me posing in a whimsical fashion. This was my optimistic phase. Just before I couldn’t get the dress off my wrists and I started hating the 70s.
OLD TISSUE FOUND IN JEANS POCKET HORROR…
We moved shops in disappointment/disgust, and the ‘saleslady’ who had been following our intrepid endeavours around the rails looked disappointed that we hadn’t bought anything. (I didn’t think it polite to explain to a septuagenarian that I might have gone for the jeans had they not cut off the circulation to my vagina.)
In the next boutique de bleurgh, Wench exuberantly grabbed some daunting looking fabrics and told me I would now be “doing a Margot”. I guessed she meant the one from The Good Life and not the famous ballerina, which would have taken an accelerated eating disorder or at least some hallucinatory drugs. I took the baffling array of swaddling into the cubicle and took far too long to figure out which bit went where. At one point in manoeuvring my head around the black hole of layers of time and fabric I feared I might not see my loved ones again, or worse, my arms. What emerged eventually MADE MY EYEBALLS ALMOST FALL OUT OF MY SKULLHOLES.
I actually seriously think I had forgotten I had tits to be honest. After the initial shock wore off, I got bored of my whammers and started looking at the bin of delights, aka manky abandoned toys from the days of yore.
Wench was keen for me to try on what she thought might give me an air of 70s LA casual, which was a kaftan that looked to me like the tabard of an LSD cult, like the sort of thing the Manson family would wear when they were at home chilling (not killing and shit).
Anyway, here’s that. Oh, and Noddy. (He’s just whispering to me that I don’t need a cleavage to define me as a woman, the little love.)
My final offer to the retro gods was a bit of faux fur. (Worryingly harder to find than real fur, which festooned the sales-rail of a trendier vintage outlet; seems it’s cool to hack up animals again. Where’s Peter or whatever his name is when you need him?)
Wench and I looked at each other, and with that deep understanding that comes from years of friendship, we both made ‘gin o’clock’ eyes and stole away to the nearest boozer, where we spoke about anything other than fashion, and I saw her secretly picturing me in Scandi suit chic items – because she is not accustomed to failure.
So all in all Style Stage 1: The Seventies was pretty woeful. If this was a roadtrip, it would be like stopping off at a petrol station that’s all out of good snacks.
Let’s hope the next mate has a bit more luck.
Sadie is a playwright, actor, columnist, artistic director of Old Trunk theatre company, and frequently discombobulated multi-tasker.