M's fashion columnist explains when a fashion faux pas is simply not funny.
Katie Trotter: Dungarees? Never!
As my little brother's girlfriend skips out the door with the confidence that 21 years brings, I have to ask: "Whoa there, sister. Is that... are you... are those... dungarees?" They are, or someone has momentarily taken her over and replaced her with a hillbilly or a plumber.
She has by now got the attention of the room, my mother sizing her up with the face of a crazy owl. My brother, on the other hand, seems, as always, nonplussed. "OK with what?" he replies to another question of mine in a voice that means he is annoyed - annoyed in the way he often is when my mother or I open our mouths.
"With the dungarees," I reply, "the ones that are making your particularly beautiful girlfriend look like an American merchant marine."
My mum flashes me the you-have-pushed-it-and-it's-too-late look. But for the first time in the whole conversation he looks up and shrugs. "I suppose," he says, and I think I've won for a short time before he comes back with something I struggle to respond to: "Why do you always have to over-analyse everything? It's only a pair of trousers with a flappy bit. Seriously, who cares?"
And that's just it. I do. I care. You see, what he doesn't yet understand is that at a certain age (and it may well be mine) fashion becomes less helter-skelter and more of a tightrope walk - we can no longer afford to just peel something off the floor and give it a go. For while fashion in your early 20s has a superb sense of humour, it's fantastically ironic, and we approach hazards with a certain arrogance and a belly full of laughs. And then something changes. Overnight. It's the old "Could I, should I, would I?" mantra that slips in. Fashion seems to lose its sense of humour, and, it seems, so do we. Would I do dungarees? No. I would not, and I urge the rest of you to follow, in good humour or not.
If we were to dissect this, I suppose we may conclude this to be a direct reflection of the economic times. When money is tight we often revert to a make-do-and-mend aesthetic - into which dungarees certainly fit (think cotton picking or English factory workers during the First World War).
The truth is, dungarees are not going to work, but for those who persevere, what you wear underneath is imperative - a feminine printed silk top may save you from looking like something from Gap Kids. Make sure the fabric is either a soft silk that drapes well with a tapered leg, or a heavy crêpe, and look out for a well-placed pocket.
And again, I urge you, I beg you, before you face ridicule (from the girls, of course; the boys won't notice) you may want to try it at home first.
This week's highs and lows
FANCY FOOTWORK Our new go-to shoe is a studded slipper like this one from Christian Louboutin.
LACE FACE Yawn. Seen it loads, done it loads - moving on.
YES TO DREW We love our new style crush's photo shoot for Neiman Marcus.
V FOR VALENTINO Rumour has it the designer's film is going to become a musical. What?
NO-FUSS BEAUTY Dolce&Gabbana's clean hair and make-up are the fresh approach
to beauty this season.