My friends Jill and Susan have just attended a fashion show held in the local church hall. Now instantly I suspect you are getting the picture that this was not exactly Gianni Versace or Vivienne Westwood, and Naomi Campbell did not feature on the catwalk. Instead it seems to have been the local churchfolk getting a chance to try on the offerings of the local boutique – Allison’s. Bear in mind here that the “locality” is Greenock not Milan, and that the average age of churchfolk around here is nearer Methuselah than Miss Dior. Not that I wish to paint it as some sort of Victorian freak show revival… Yes, well, OK, we’ll not go down that road.
The main upshot was we got talking about our worst ever clothing experiences as children. Now both myself and another friend had mothers who had aspirations in the seamstress department. For which read were too mean to buy us real clothes. For the purposes of maintaining confidentiality, I shall identify this friend only as Jane S. – which is as much a pity as it is pointless since that actually is her name. Anyway, Jane and I have hideous flashbacks even to this day of frightful affronts to fashion perpetrated on us by our mothers.
My childhood memory is deeply scarred by recollections of clothing items – each one vying for top place in hideousness with the one before. Such nightmare-inducing garments included at the less repulsive end an immensely itchy hand-knited beige hat and scarf set, working is way through the kilt with the onboard bodice which would have restrained Hannibal Lecter, right up to her crowning glory – the pink cape wth no discernible arm holes. I am still scarred – psychologically and physically- by these and many more items of apparel torture. It wasn’t only the design faults of such items; her fabric choice also left a huge question mark over the availbility of standard dress-making materials such as cotton in 60s and 70s Greenock. Why for instance was it necessary to construct a sun top from what was so starched that it seemed like I was wearing an industrial form of linoleum? The obvious shortcoming of this particular garment was that it point blank refused to move when you wanted to resulting in near hernias. No, you moved only when the garment decided and even then only in very straight lines. It also meant that the offending item (akin to the cladding they sometimes out on the outside of buildings) was damn near indestructible (believe me, I know – I tried. Oh how I tried!) resulting in it being a part of me for what seemed like an eternity. It is probably the one and only time in my life that I was thankful for developing a set of bodacious boobs as it meant that the inquisitorial torture device could be consigned to the dustbin of doom. I actually suspect she was so proud of it that it went to a charity shop or, as happened in our twee end of Greenock, a “Good as New” sale. I am delighted that it caused me pain no more but I temper that with a degree of concern that it found its way to some other poor sod who has now confessed to all sorts of sins such as witchcraft, adultery, murder and liking the BeeGees rather than have to wear it for so much as a nanosecond longer.
Time to go as I now need therapy having indulged in such painful recollections. People ask me why I like wearing loose fitting and baggy clothes (“it’s not feminine you know!” they cry). The truth is I am as a result of childhood fashion infanticide, a clothing claustrophobe. I have an inbuilt abhorrence of Berkertex, Dereta et al -all brought on by having been forced as a child into vile vestments that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg of here. Am I the only one in the west of Scotland who hears a menacing tone – nay, an outright THREAT – in the words “classic A-line skirt with matching fitted jacket”? I suspect not.
I shall form a support group immediately.