Before I get to the point in this blog, I’m going to have to give you some background. Or at least, I’m going to tell you some stuff that might justify what comes later. I was reminded about it today when the A-level results came out. Not to brag about it kids, but I had five offers to study science at the UK’s leading universities.
I chose Edinburgh. Someone (a Scotsman) once asked me at which university in Edinburgh I’d studied, and my spontaneous reply was that there is only one university in Edinburgh. A joke there. No offence to Heriot-Watt Poly or any of the others.
Anyway, as well as the places for studying physics, I had applied to one other institution which at that time didn’t work entirely within the overall A-level process. And I got an offer. To come and study fashion design.
No, really. Based on my submission and art portfolio, I was invited to go to London and study for a degree in the rag trade. To be honest, my Art A-level was a scraped pass, but that didn’t seem to matter. It was the passion behind the application which counted.
You see, even as a teenager, I’d noticed that the majority of girls didn’t know how to dress themselves, and I was sure that I could do better. Now that I’m older and wiser, I still think pretty much the same. Well, the first part at least. Women don’t know how to dress themselves. Whether I could do better is another branch of history, because at 18, I chose to study science, not fashion.
That is the preamble. That explains why, alone among hetrosexual males, I watch fashion programmes on television. Actually maybe not alone. There are fashion channels on satellite that show nothing but catwalk shows, and if you watch long enough you’re certain to see at least bare breasts and perhaps more. Models are so obliging. Don’t you find?
(If you’ve seen me, you may find the fashion thing difficult to believe, so I can just refer you to John Galliano for proof that lack of personal judgement is no obstacle to progress in the trade. In dress or opinions.)
I confess I watched most episodes of What Not To Wear, even though I despised Trinny and Susannah’s technique of bullying a woman until she broke down and cried. After that, she’d do anything they told her. (T & S did redeem themsleves to me in their hoax “comeback” programme however).
The modern equivalent of their show is How To Look Good Naked with Gok Wan, and I’m abivalent about it. While it’s exploitative in pushing the titillation value of making the subject appear naked in public, at least Gok’s approach is to boost self-esteem, not break it down. Nobody cries, except from happiness.
And there’s one of Gok’s lessons that is so simple, but so effective that everyone should learn it: know your body shape. I don’t always agree with the conclusions he draws from it, but the principle is solid. I suppose, technically, it applies to men as well as women, but… I guess I don’t care about men. At all.
But if more women knew their shape and knew the clothes that suited them, it might reduce the number of occasions when the following phrase goes through my mind: “Oh, my God! What was she thinking?“