Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Fashion notes: being happy with the skin you’re in is key

In her last column for The National, Katie Trotter explains why the perfect you is a fictitious character who acts as a kind of jailer. Real beauty is being at ease.
Helen Mirren channels cool in anything she wears. Jason Merritt / Getty Images / AFP
Helen Mirren channels cool in anything she wears. Jason Merritt / Getty Images / AFP

I’ve been skirting around writing this column for some time, in the hope that it might fade out or miraculously write itself over night. I feel a certain impulse to say something tremendously important, it being my last Fashion Notes. But there will be no swansong, nor any dramatics – it’s only clothes, and to get caught up in the absurdity of fashion would be to go against everything I have learnt.

Yes, there may be more important things in the world, but musings on taste and authority should be something to enjoy. Life is tough enough without sacrificing the fun parts. That much I know. And the rest, I dedicate to all of the known, and unknown, sufferers.

Perfection is a fantasy. The perfect you is a fictitious character who acts as a kind of jailer. Real beauty is being at ease. It’s improvised and uncontrived. Women, more than men, tend to strive for perfection, so do your best to live outside of the news cycle. There’s no right or wrong way to look at fashion, so to write it off is perhaps a missed opportunity for all of us.

Size matters. Everyone has a “zone”– it’s not just you with “cankles”, a peachy behind, thunder thighs, fat knees, tuck-shop arms or... shall I stop? My advice? Whatever the size or shape, we must believe in how we look, if not change it. A trickle of doubt will result in catastrophic failure. Otherwise, fake it until you make it.

A trend means nothing unless it works for you. Nobody actually craves molecular food (think transparent ravioli with added smoke), but the promise of cool goes a long way. A bit of liquid nitrogen and we’re anyone’s. Same goes for an ironic baseball cap. Learn to spot the gimmicks. Remember that a runway look is not necessarily meant to be emulated. It’s well documented that satire and fashion run hand in hand. We can’t, unfortunately, try everything. Sometimes we just have to smile sweetly and part ways.

Ageist? Us? Post-career, post-children, post-mortgage – this is exactly when things should start to get interesting. Certainly, we’ve never looked better. We have more disposable cash, time to travel and knowledge of what suits us. ­Thankfully, many of the former taboos surrounding “appropriate” dress have now been expelled (skirt lengths, height of heel, colour charts), perhaps outlining the merest beginnings of a fairer world for women over 40. Here’s hoping.

More or less? The simple fact is this: well-made garments will last a lifetime. The current climate has altered our shopping habits dramatically, and what we spend our cash on is now a crucial investment. We rarely ever need as much stuff as we think we do, so try to have the discipline to invest in goods that will out-burn an Ikea candle.

Lastly, if nothing else, have fun with it all and be kind to one another. Remember that for every finger we point, there are four pointing back at us. I’ll leave you with the words of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Next week, Hafsa Lodi discusses why we should avoid wearing red on Valentine’s Day. When she’s not sharing her opinions on the current style trends and offering advice on how to dress for any occasion, Lodi manages her own clothing line. She enjoys experimenting with mixed prints and has a penchant for pastels.


Updated: January 29, 2015 04:00 AM

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