We have an important family wedding to attend in early May so we've been desperately looking for suitable outfits to wear. The search started a few months ago, and initially we were fairly sanguine about finding exactly what we wanted.
Pish and tush!
I don't know WHAT we were thinking! So now, with exactly 5 weeks to go, we're in full headless chicken mode.
Yesterday we had to take the car all the way to Seaford to a main dealer to have the work done, so we shoehorned ourselves in the teeny tiny courtesy car and set off along the coast to Brighton to shop for wedding outfits.
For those of you unfamiliar with Brighton it's chock full of impossibly young, impossibly thin, impossibly shiny people. I don't think I've ever been THAT young. Or thin. And I've most definitely NEVER been that shiny.
It's also chock full of clothes shops which cater for the impossibly young, thin and shiny.
Back in the day they used to be called boutiques but I expect now they're called emporiums or something equally arcane.
They are staffed with clones, all of whom are stick thin, immaculately groomed, coiffed and made up, and that's just the men. They are all adept at assessing your size, social standing and spending power with one withering top-to-toe sweep of their limpid eyes, and they're all graduates of the Academy of Patronising.
Mostly, they just ignored us, as we browsed the rails, silently horrified at the outrageous price tickets. I had thought I'd dressed reasonably for the occasion but obviously not.... my jeans and fully colour coordinated top, shoes and jacket just didn't pass muster.
The sizing structure in these shops was also impossible to understand. As near as I could make out, XL equates to a size 14. In one place, when I asked if a jacket came in a size 16 the assistant had a fit of the vapours, reeling back against the counter and breathlessly informing me that 'they didn't stock sizes THAT BIG!
I gained the distinct impression that in her world, anyone over size 12 should be wearing a muumuu.
We eventually gave up on the boutiques in The Laines and headed for some more mainstream 'High Street' stores in the hope of tracking down the perfect wedding outfits.
Weddings these days are a complete minefield. In theory, anything goes (unless you're going to a cathedral wedding of course) and hats are no longer de rigeur.
Back in the day, over 30 years ago, for my wedding, my grannie bought herself a rather fetching pale blue jacket and skirt suit, and in a fit of frippery, decided to team it up with a hat. It was an astonishing hat, also in pale blue, with gazillions of feathers and a face veil. I had some qualms about the face veil, as she was a smoker and I had visions of her setting fire to it and going up in flames.
However I needn't have worried.
Her cat, Daisy, had shown considerable interest in the hat when grannie had tried it on, so she carefully wrapped it (the hat, not the cat) in tissue paper, tucked it in its bespoke hat box and stored it on top of her wardrobe.
A few weeks before the wedding I had a slightly panicky phone call from her...... Daisy had managed to get on top of the wardrobe by way of the tall chest of drawers and had knocked the hatbox off the top, spilling the hat onto the floor and subsequently killing it.
My grannie described a scene of carnage, with a drift of pale blue feathers encircling The Triumphant Hat Murderer, and the remains of one very sorry looking hat. She had a go at repairing it with a tube of UHU, but she was no Philip Treacy and the hat was a shadow of its former self. She had to cut away most of the face veil, which was in tatters (neatly removing my cigarette-related combustion fears) and the few remaining feathers barely covered the hat.
Unfazed, she did wear it to my wedding, and if you didn't scrutinise it very closely it looked not too bad.
But I digress.
Neither of us, under ANY circumstances will be wearing hats.
However, desperate times demand desperate measures, and in one store I spotted a lovely, unstructured crepe jacket, which flowed beautifully on the dummy, and in the daylight at the front of the store it looked a lovely, springlike bright yellow. Even better, they had it in my size so I grabbed it and set off to the changing rooms.
Fortunately, these days, communal changing rooms are a thing of the past. Even as a 20-something I remember cringing in the corner, trying to conceal unfortunate underwear choices.... that extremely comfortable and well fitting, but no longer white bra, or those extremely comfortable but completely unflattering big knickers.... among a horde of lithe, toned, tanned contemporaries.
No. The agony of the communal changing room has been replaced by the forensic revelations of the 360 degree mirror individual changing room, only just big enough to stand up straight in.
The back views afforded by the wraparound mirrors are disconcerting to say the least. I spent the first few minutes whirling round, convinced the curtain was open and I could see another vertically challenged woman of a certain age, also trying on the yellow jacket. Although her hair was much greyer at the back than mine.
However, they unequivocally answer the perennial question which has plagued womankind since time immemorial......
"Does my bum look big in this?"
And the answer is generally a resounding YES!
While this came as no surprise, I was amazed to discover I have a humph!
Not in an "Ethmerelda.... the bellth, the bellth...." way, but definitely a humph nonetheless.
I believe in medical parlance it's called a Dowager's Hump(h). And I have one.
Naturally, this made me feel a bit crestfallen. The jacket did nothing to disguise it.....if anything it accentuated it. Also, in the artificial light of the changing room, the lovely sunny daffodil yellow didn't look so sunny. If you were feeling charitable you might have called it Chartreuse. If you weren't it was more an amalgam of snot green, bile yellow and pus.
However, to get the full effect, (and here is where the legacy of the communal changing room rears its ugly head) you have to step outside your tiny curtained individual changing area and enter the large central area lined with floor to ceiling mirrors.
So I stood there, dejectedly, sleeve cuffs grazing my knees, with my humph highlighted, looking for all the world like Orville the Duck. All I was missing was the huge nappy and giant safety pin.
Thankfully, PP now has TWO lovely outfits from which to choose. She still needs the shoes, accessories, underwear etc but at least she's more than halfway to being prepared.
As for me, the search continues. I'm not asking for much, just an outfit which doesn't make me look:
d) Mutton dressed as lamb foetus
e) Flightless, incontinent duck