In which I buy a new dress


My boyfriend doesn’t like my new dress.

I know this, because when I appeared in it for the first time doing the purposeful, swishy ‘new dress’ walk, the walk that is an “AHEM” in movement form, he looked up and said, “Ooh. Yeah. It’s nice.”

In the algebra of this scenario, if nice = ‘unfortunate’ and ‘yeah’ = ‘no’, nice x yeah + a fixed smile and enthusiastic thumbs-up = a very definitely disliked outfit. 

“So you like it?” I replied, because he clearly didn’t. “Yes!” He insisted, eyes wide and voice shrill, like someone trying to shuffle their way out of a bear enclosure they’ve accidentally fallen into at the zoo. “It’s very cool.”

“Cool” is not necessarily bad, you understand. Some of my oddest garments he likes specifically for their coolness, as though his 19-year-old self would approve of him having a girlfriend whose clothing would confuse the average Nan. A dress I bought online from Hong Kong and kept guiltily in the cupboard for two months because it looked like bedsheets only got worn in the end at all because he found it and declared it “cool” so enthusiastically.

But cool can also be a consolation prize. In the case of this dress (bright pink, 80s, stripy, mid-calf, elasticated waist, buttons), ‘cool’ is the best it’s going to get. But it could have been worse. It could have been “snazzy”. Or, “what a lovely fabric,” which is basically worse than just retching and leaving the room.

Still, we’re still in the delicate aftermath of rucksackgate, the fateful day I accidentally referred to his well-worn brown Jansport bag as “horrible” when what I meant to say was “functional and sturdy,” so I can forgive him going all Anna Wintour on me. Weeks of cooing, “what memories this rucksack must have… and big enough to fit TWO board games in at once, wow…” have helped us reach a point of acquiescence, but I know there’s still bitterness inside.

Besides, I don’t care as much as he does. Since buying and subsequently discovering he didn’t like the dress, I have worn it five times in nine days. It is my new favourite dress. I love it so much that I’ve gone off three other dresses in order to make room for it in my heart. Every time I have it on, I feel slightly sad for him, not being able to appreciate its artistry. 

Meanwhile, after claiming my zero tolerance stance on flip-flops (they’re an insult to the noble name of feet, a total waste of a shoe opportunity) made no difference to him, he notably hasn’t worn them once all summer. 

So I win, sort of. I am a winner, in a very cool dress.

In which it's all in (or half in) the jeans

There is nothing worse than jeans shopping. 

All kinds of shopping have their own particular shortcomings, but nothing compares to the denim aerobics for pain, sweat or tears. Even rom-coms haven’t managed to glamourise jeans shopping; there is no joy in a day spent struggling in and out of one of the world’s least malleable fabrics in a climate best suited for growing tomatoes, punctuated at intervals by the need to staring at a mirror developing an almost academic knowledge of the contours of one’s own thighs. 

So awful is jeans shopping that I simply refused to do it for most of the noughties. Living year in, year out in weather-inappropriate skirts, my legs took on more sea breezes than a Wetherspoons hen do. 

But at least the mega flares of 2002 were quick to climb in and out of – things are worse now, because the advent of “boyfriend” and “mom” jeans means it’s no longer just a matter of fitting or not fitting. They can fit in the wrong way, and not-fit in the right way, and even once the zip’s up there’s a good chance you’ll be looking back at a geography teacher on a field trip rather than 1975 Felicity Kendal.

I need new jeans, because my only pair have a hole in them, and not in the trendy way. In the, “sorry vicar, you weren’t meant to see that” way. 

Were I a more practical person I’d have darned them, but as it was I just said “darn” and headed for the nearest denim merchant. Then the second nearest, then the third nearest, then took a deep breath, knocked back a whisky and headed for Westfield.

If you’ve never been to either of London’s Westfield shopping centres (and why would you, when Churchill Square is enough of a hassle?), they are like very shiny space cities that smell of sugared pretzels, designed to leave you dehydrated and sartorially confused.

“Who is still buying low-rise jeans please?” I wonder as I flick through the racks of 26-inch waists looking for the ones labelled ‘pie and chips’. “Is your belly button that claustrophobic?” Stretch is good. Stretch does up. But then stretch also means oddly velvety, and so clingy you can almost see veins. Hardwearing “authentic” jeans are also good, but they feel like the Tinman’s trousers and I can’t actually sit down. 

Sitting down soon becomes priority no.1. After four hours of enforced plies and zip workouts, my sciatica has flared up and it turns out there actually is something worse than jeans shopping. There is jeans shopping with a bad back. 

On second thoughts, I’ll have a go at darning that hole