I blame the 80s for a lot. Having your formative years in a decade where curly perms, fluorescent tank tops and one black lace glove were the height of fashion doesn’t bode well for the future. My sisters, who are a decade ahead of me, had 70s chic – one went dyed hair and punk make-up, the other hippy-chick centre-parting and denim flares. I had a grey sweatshirt with Fame written across it, a batwing leather jacket and the biggest collection of coloured plastic jewellery in the developed world. In ten thousand years, when all the history books have rotted away and the digital files have imploded in one huge power surge that destroys the human race’s collective memory, someone will dig up my necklace and matching earrings collection which hasn’t biodegraded and the whole time will be named the Synthetic Era.
The other problem with fashion is we women wear it even it if doesn’t suit us. The invention of Lycra was as much a blessing as it was a curse. Yes, tights stayed up longer than it took to walk to the bus stop, but clothes became closer fitting. Things that should be hidden are now on display – wobbly tummies, hips like a batch of cobs – and there has been the evolution of the four-breasted woman with her normal breasts cut in half by her tight top and two more spilling out over the top. Whereas in the 70s the larger lady had the kaftan now she has a crop top and leggings with not enough denier that they end up see through on really fat thighs. The 80s had hipster belts and baggy t-shirts; today it’s bras and rolls of fat showing through sheer blouses. And the old adage of only show cleavage or legs has been replaced with ‘why even bother with a dress? Your underwear’s fine’.
Apparently, it’s not the done thing to adjust other people’s clothing for them, especially strangers. You know that thing where someone’s label is sticking out or they’ve accidentally tucked their skirt in their knickers. Let me tell you, they won’t thank you for untucking them which, frankly, I think is a public service. Last week, I was waiting for the lights to change so I could cross the road when I noticed the woman in front of me had tucked the top of her ear under the arm of her glasses. That couldn’t be comfortable? Surely she could feel it? Waiting for the little green man, I became this crazed woman holding myself back from reaching forward and flicking her ear free.
I shouldn’t have been put in that position. There should be a dress law which lays out the standards we should all adhere to, like dress codes at work. In fact, the government should employ people to make sure we are appropriately dressed at all times. They could have the power to issue modesty patches –those little triangles of lace you can attach to a top whose neckline is too low. Although today all they wear out is the little triangle of lace so they would need to be issued with a top to go with it. These officials would also be charged with prevention of the wardrobe malfunction or at least limiting its results, and I’ve had a few of those in my time.
My worst was when I was 17 and wearing a muscle-back t-shirt and no bra; remember, this was the 80s and underwear as outerwear was still considered sloppy dressing. Anyway, I was carrying my baby niece around at my sister’s house during a family barbecue. I popped into the kitchen to get a drink before passing my brother-in-law as I headed back outside.
‘I think you’d better put that away,’ he said, pointing towards me. I looked down and found my left boob uncovered to the world where my darling niece had pulled my t-shirt into the middle.
Thinking about this in the years since, I’ve wondered how you can not know your left breast is naked. There should be some kind of alert system where your nipples feel fresh air and tell you about it, and not just on chilly days.
And I’ve even suffered severe embarrassment with clothes I wasn’t wearing. A repairman came to pick up my printer once and when he lifted it uncovered a pair of knickers that had been hiding underneath. There was no point explaining I used the printer as a folding table for my clean washing and a pair must have slipped over the back one day.
I never knew someone could gallop with a printer.