The Politics of Dressing Up

A few weeks ago, I went to a fashion show. I’d never been to a posh one before, just indie designers, so took my lead as what to wear from the photos you see on the internet of designer catwalks. You know, the ones of the rock stars and slebs looking all edgy and well thumbed (if you get me). I’d been to a gig in Salford the night before this event so was a little bleary eyed, so was confident I’d fit right in.

I plumped for a soft wine wool dress, dove grey tights and pointy leopard print shoes. Not exactly like these, but similar. (I do have a lot of pointy leopard print footwear):


I had on my leopard print faux fur coat with a vintage brooch strategically covering a cigarette burn. As I say, edgy. Shabby chic.

So I go along to the fashion show, I don’t know one person in the place but that’s ok with me. A stranger is simply a friend you haven’t met yet, that’s what I always say.

I get talking to a couple of people and we’re getting on well enough when one suddenly stops and looks at my hair.

‘Your hair,’ she says, stretching out her neck for a closer look, ‘it’s very bright.’

She was right, actually. It was freshly dyed three days earlier, the shade still so strong and my hairdresser Alison had proudly informed me that my hair tint colour is 666, which I LOVE.

Another woman scans me up and down, a tiny frown marking her forehead. ‘The thing is with you,’ she says, as if we’ve known each other since childhood ‘is that you suit bright colours.’

Dear reader, please believe me; my clothes were not bright nor gaudy that day. I was positively demure.

It was then I notice something. Everyone in the room is wearing black or white, or a combination of both. Arms and legs lightly tanned, no tights in sight. Straightened blonde or dark hair, with no exceptions.

There’s a uniform, of sorts. And I’m not wearing it.

I realise, then. Compared to everyone here I AM gaudy. Now I feel like a set of traffic lights, green, red and amber lights all on, full blast. My appearance is found wanting by my companions. It isn’t nice, not at all.

This was around the time of the Oscar ceremony, when award winning costume designer Jenny Beavan was derided and applauded in equal measure for her outfit of M&S fake leather jacket, and sturdy boots. As Beavan herself said of her outfit “I was dressed up. It was MY kind of dressing up”.

And quite right too. To my mind, if you want to dress like a princess at the Oscars, got for it. If you wanna customise a biker jacket, thumbs up on that front too. One isn’t better than the other, and doesn’t sit on a higher moral ground.

To the fabulous women of Liverpool yesterday who came into cruel, misogynistic and downright snobby criticism for dressing up in their own way at Aintree, I say: go for it, ladies! I don’t like the Grand National because I think it’s cruel and if I had my way it’d be banned, but our women looked bloody great and I know they will today, on Ladies Day.

Because Liverpool women are ladies, no matter what snobby agenda carrying red tops might tell you.

I’m sick of the women of our city being ripped into because of how they look. Truth is, if I had a bod as tight as theirs and the budget, I’d be cavorting about in a short dress, flashing firm tanned thighs and wearing my fascinator at a coquettish angle too.

Dressing up means different things to different people and how anyone has a problem with that, whether at the Oscars, Aintree or indeed a fashion show, I’ll never know.





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