I never needed fashion advice until Maya came along and messed up my body. I knew what I liked and I wore it. Nothing made me lose respect for a man faster than seeing him wait patiently outside the changing rooms while his needy girlfriend tried on another ensemble for his nervous appraisal.
Did he have nothing better to do? What was she doing with such a sap? And why couldn’t she choose her own bloody clothes?
Now, I get that I was lucky to need no assistance. My body worked with me back then.
These days, I have no idea what suits me. My upper arms feel like they’re just shy of thigh-girth and my hips seem to spring forth from my ribs rather than having the decency to hold back till waist level. I’m not fat, but nothing fits.
My taste is the same as always but my body’s had enough of complying and has wandered off with a cool ‘Look, this isn’t working. I’m not really down with your style anymore. I’m gonna do my own thing, so I’ll catch you later, yeah?’
Everything I try on exemplifies one of two strong but opposing looks: dowdy geography teacher and lady of the night. It’s bad. I need help.
James is honest. He doesn’t do flattery. This makes his ‘You look nice’ more meaningful than some. But boy does he bestow it sparingly.
In my mind, his default lack of comment can mean anything from ‘Hmm, she looks nice-ish but not notably nicer than yesterday’ to ‘Oh shit. How do I stop her from leaving the house in that get-up?’ In terms of assuaging my outfit doubt with compliments, he sets the bar pretty low.
And this is where Maya comes in. She doesn’t wait for me to dither before throwing in her two penneth. Whether her review be shiningly favourable or utterly utterly crushing, she is gonna give it to me straight. Here she is, my fashion oracle:
And I trust her. I really do. Okay, she’s got what you might call a Marmite style herself (not many people would think of vest plus tights plus flip flops, right?) but her brutal assessments are helpful. And plentiful. And I think she gets it right.
There was that time I tried on my new bikini before our holiday because I was thinking of taking it back. She looked me up and down.
‘It looks nice, Mummy. It suits you.’ All good then.
‘Now you just need a swimming costume to go over the top of it.’
I returned the two piece.
Then there was the morning I found a lost work skirt in the bottom of the wardrobe and stuck it on.
‘I’m so glad this turned up,’ I said. ‘It’s nice, isn’t it?’
‘No! It’s NOT nice. It’s HORRIBLE. Take it off!’ Maya protested.
I pulled her up on her bad manners, then changed.
But the one that provoked the most impassioned reaction was the stonewash denim jacket. I don’t know why I bought it. Well, I do. It was £2.99 in a charity shop and I’d seen someone I thought was cool wearing one quite similar. I consulted the oracle later:
‘What do you think of this jacket, Maya? Do you like it?’ I asked.
‘No! That jacket’s horrible! Take it off! Take it off or people will think it’s horrible in the street!’
No room for interpretation, then. I told James about it later cos I thought it was funny. We were in the car at the time. I turned round to speak to Maya.
‘What did you think of my denim jacket, Maya? Tell Daddy.’
No acknowledgement. No eye contact. Just a slight turning away of the head to look despairingly at the rain outside.
‘Horrid,’ she said, looking horrified.
That was it. Again, pretty unambiguous. The denim disaster went straight to Mind for some other sucker to buy and file in the bin.
I’m making Maya sound like a horrible brat. She’s a nice girl, honestly. She just knows what she likes and she is bemused and enraged by elements of my wardrobe. Luckily, she’s just as forthcoming when she likes what I’ve got going on.
When I put my hair in plaits recently, she got really excited.
‘Mummy, your hair looks lovely! You look like Elsa.’
‘You look better than before.’
And as we walked back from nursery through the park one day, I caught her sizing up my floral cotton trousers.
‘Mummy, I like your trousers. They look summery and nice.’
‘How did you get yourself into them?’
I’ve had a ‘You look pretty’ three times now, although come to think of it, one of those was quickly tempered by a ‘…but your hair is all tangly and your breath smells of sick.’
She also helped me ID the better of two pairs of culottes I brought home recently so I could take the other ones back. She chose well. I wasn’t so sure at the time but the ones she picked are great. The cut works and the length teases with just enough shin on show. They look cool with trainers and they work with all my favourite tops. I would’ve kept the poorly cut mumsy ones. I would’ve ballsed it up big-time.
So I am happy that at last I’ve got someone to help me dress. I’m not yet ready to let myself go and Maya’s eyes are fresher than mine. I can handle her biting critiques if it means I am able to stride through town thinking, ‘You’re looking at me, right? Damn, I’m hot. That’s because I was dressed by a four year old.’
Have you got a fashion guru of your own? Do you heed their advice or point out their own fashion fails?