Friday favourites: dream shoes

green cherry shoes

Last summer, I was looking for wedding shoes and I found these green, cherry-tipped plastic heels by Vivienne Westwood. They were a hundred and something pounds, and I couldn’t imagine them as wedding shoes, even when I squinted, so I didn’t buy them, but I did put them to the back of my mind as something I might buy one day, when I had more money.

I don’t have more money, but it has just been payday, so I had a look on the internet and discovered, to my distress, that there are NO Vivienne Westwood green cherry-tipped plastic heels left anywhere in the world! Or at least, there’s one pair, but it’s a UK size 4 and I wear a UK size 7 (you know what they say about women with big feet? No, me neither), and I want a pair I can wear, not a pair I can only look at.

(I haven’t even mentioned the best thing about them, which is that they are bubblegum scented, just like Strawberry Shortcake dolls used to be. You honestly couldn’t design a more perfect shoe for me, unless you stuffed the toe with pizza.)

So I am putting a plea out there on the internet, folks, for a pair of them in a size 7. If you find them, please point me at them. I will make you cakes and write lovely things about you in return.


I bought two pairs of trousers this week. I don’t very often wear trousers, but I was inspired by this article by Jess Cartner-Morley, the only fashion writer whose advice it’s actually possible to follow, and by Patricia Arquette’s character in Medium, Allison Dubois, who is my office-wear muse because she always looks effortlessly elegant even though she hardly ever gets any sleep and saves someone’s life nearly every week. And she almost always wears trousers. Of course, there isn’t a single photo on the internet where you can see her bottom half, so you’ll just have to take my word for it:

Patricia Arquette as Allison Dubois

So I bought some trousers. I’ve just remembered that the other reason was because last weekend I bought this top in the Dust sale:

Brown cowl-neck top(It looks really drab on the internet, doesn’t it? It’s nicer in real life)

And I thought I needed some trousers to go with it. Trousers or a pencil skirt, but I am even less a pencil skirt wearer than I am a trouser wearer.

So trousers it was. I bought a brownish pair, which goes with the top and anything vaguely warm-toned, and a greyish pair, which I am wearing today with a pale grey polo-neck vest and a grey striped sleeveless shirt. I am a vision of colourlessness.

Anyway, I like the trousers. They are flattering and comfortable and they broaden my work wardrobe by a much higher factor than the simple addition of two new items of clothing. HOWEVER, who designed the fastenings on smart trousers? Both pairs have

  • A button
  • Three hook fastenings
  • A zip
  • A belt

Are work trousers more inclined than most to fall down inopportunely? Or is it just that it’s more embarrassing if your trousers fall down at work than if it happens elsewhere, when you would just laugh it off? I cannot imagine circumstances in which a zip and a belt, or some buttons and a belt, wouldn’t have sufficed.

That aside, I am enjoying my new status as a trouser-wearer. But I still don’t know why anyone would wear them for fun.

Outdoor gladrags

Last Sunday was the hottest of a run of hot days in London. It was also the day the England football team lost to Germany in a 4-1 thriller in the second round of the World Cup, Kevin Pietersen’s 30th birthday, and the third and final day of Hard Rock Calling, the misleadingly-named music festival which this year featured, among other hard rockers, Stevie Wonder, James Morrison, Crowded House, Elvis Costello and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

But it was the promise of Paul McCartney which had me eagerly pressing the “refresh” button on my browser the morning tickets went on sale. I tried to get tickets to see him at the Dome back in December, but the good seats were insanely expensive and anyway, it sold out before I could buy any. Day tickets to Hard Rock Calling are £60 and you get to sit anywhere you like and see lots of other acts, so this was a much better choice.

Well, it was great and the photos are here, but in the long minutes between acts I found myself fascinated by what people choose to wear when it’s hot and they’re going to be outside all day, because if you live in or near London (or any British city), neither of those things is very often true. It’s hot today, but I am spending eight hours of it inside an air-conditioned office, so I am wearing a dress with sleeves. On Sunday, we were all exposed to bright sun and 30C temperatures for about the same amount of time. In those circumstances, deciding what to wear can be quite tricky. So I inspected the choices of some of my fellow revellers, and have come up with some guidelines, which I now present to you for free, with nothing in mind but your welfare and happiness:

1. As in so many areas of life, I agree with Baz Luhrmann. Rule number one is wear sunscreen.

2. With no shade and barely a cloud in the sky, hats are the order of the day:

people in hats
3. Be careful with straps. Straps are good, but ill-fitting or competing straps are bad. However, if you have no choice but to show off your bra straps, do it with chutzpah, so it looks like you meant it:

lady with straps

4. It’s better to wear too many clothes than too few. You recover faster from being hot than you do from being burnt (I have tried both, so I can say this with certainty). And if you wear light, loose clothes you probably won’t be much hotter than you would have been in a bikini. I liked this outfit very much:

5. Do not, under any circumstances, wear a bikini. Bikinis are strictly for the beach.

I should come clean at this point and tell you that I was wearing a jumpsuit.

In many ways they are ideal hot-weather outdoor wear: they are durable, you can sit cross-legged without risking your modesty, and they keep all the ungainly bits covered while allowing arms and legs unfettered access to the air. However, they can be tricky to go to the toilet in. I think the answer to this is to wear a baggy-ish one with no complicated fastenings, and to stay on the fuzzy side of sober. You’ll be pleased to know that I more or less managed both.

However, based on extensive research I have decided that the IDEAL festival-going hot-weather outfit is a strapless top, elasticated shorts, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a wrap which you can sit on when your legs get tired and put around your shoulders after the sun goes down.

Shoes are more problematic: you need something sturdy and comfortable which you won’t get sweaty in. I wore Crocs, but I am the only person I know who looks good in Crocs, and the only reason I think I look good in them is that I never on any account look at them once they’re on. I just revel in the squish of the tread and the swish of the air as it cools my toes. The real answer is probably flip-flops on soft grass and light plimsolls on rough grass. But I will leave that to your discretion.

Sorry for only talking about girls’ clothes. I have no advice for boys, although the hat and sunscreen rules are unisex. If you are a boy, I suggest you dress like this:

dancing man in bandana

I have left the most important rule, not including the sunscreen one, until last. The most important rule, not including the sunscreen one, is:

6. Wear whatever you like. It’s a festival! Go wild.

Style spot

Walking to the tube this morning, I passed a woman in a crisp white shirt, black v-neck tank top, neat black trousers and shiny (but not patent) black brogues. The outfit was great, but there was also a certain elegant insouciance in the way she held herself and I think that was what made me notice her.

As I got closer, I saw a flash of metal, as of a badge, and realised she was a policewoman. “How funny”, I thought, “that it’s possible to make a police uniform look so chic, just by wearing it well.”

Then I got even closer, and realised that (a) it wasn’t a police uniform, it was a school uniform, and (b) she was about fourteen. Don’t tell anyone, I’m a bit embarrassed.


I have trouble with bags. The problem is threefold: firstly, I carry a lot of stuff around and don’t have time to transfer it all between bags depending on my mood and/or outfit, so at any given time I need ONE bag, and one bag alone, which will do duty under all circumstances.

Secondly, I get bored with bags quite quickly, so there’s no point spending much money on them because they tend to get charity-shopped within six to twelve months.

Thirdly, I have very specific requirements. I need to keep my phone and travelcard in an external pocket which is both easily accessible and safe from passing muggers. I need a separate compartment for my keys, BBC staff pass, mints and sunglasses (summer) or gloves (winter). I need another compartment big enough for the make-up I cart around and don’t use. I need to be able to store – at minimum – a book, a bottle of water, a shopping bag, an umbrella, my purse and a plastic folder containing various bits of paper relating to Things I Need To Do. And I need two sets of straps, short and long, so that I can choose whether to hang the bag over one shoulder (easier), around my torso and over the other shoulder (safer) or both (both). Oh, and a separate pocket for my iPod, because the case is encrusted with crystals and if I store it next to anything else the crystals fall off.

So I was delighted yesterday when I found this bag in Dorothy Perkins, which fulfilled every single one of those requirements, and wasn’t horrible, and was a colour (black, if you can’t be bothered to check) which would go with everything else I own.

I duly took it up to the counter, but as the sales assistant was removing the stuffing (is it called that?) I noticed the main zip sticking. “Oh”, I said, “that zip looks a bit sticky, do you mind if I just check to see whether they’re all like that?”. She rolled her eyes and shrugged, which I took as a “no, please go ahead”.

Well, they were all like that, but I decided it didn’t matter enough to make me not buy the bag, so I went back to the counter, where the sales assistant was now serving someone else. She saw me and asked her colleague to serve me. The colleague  said “No, I’m going upstairs”, looked at me and said “you’ll have to wait your turn.”

SIGH, I thought. And then I thought: you know, the bag’s not that nice, and I could buy one from a shop with polite salespeople. “Actually”, I said, airily. “I think I’ll leave it, thanks.”

And then I went home and ordered it from their website, for £5 extra. I know I don’t sound it, but I feel like the winner.


I can perceive intellectually that lilies are attractive; I just can’t bring myself to believe it in my heart. The problem is one of association. Just as meeting a lovely Nigel can convince you that it’s a nice name when it plainly isn’t, lilies’ ability to give me an instantaneous, powerful and lasting headache prevents me from appreciating their aesthetic charms.

That this is a minority opinion is borne out by the two – two! – women who separately got on to my train this evening carrying large bunches of lilies. The first landed at the other end of the carriage, but the second came and sat next to me. The journey only takes ten minutes,  but I knew that was long enough, so I got up and perched myself close to the door, breathing fresh air for as long as I possibly could before it slid shut.

I felt a bit bad for the woman. I wanted to explain, but my bad feeling for the woman was trumped by my wish not to have people thinking I was a madwoman on a crowded commuter train.

Fortunately, as I was leaving the train I caught a potent whiff of essence of male armpit, which put all thoughts of lilies – which put, in fact, all thoughts – immediately out of my mind.


I have always liked shopping at Marks and Spencer because it is such a sensible shop, and when I am pretending to be a grown-up I like to imagine I’m sensible. It’s also where my rich auntie used to buy her food, so from a young age I thought of it as the place to go for luxury foodstuffs, even though what it offers foodwise is really limited to things you put in an oven and warm up, rather than than things you can use to cook with.

But after some thought, I’ve decided that after Stuart Rose’s rant in the Observer last week, I will be buying my tights elsewhere. It can be very hard work trying to be taken seriously in the workplace when the obvious sexism is unspoken – especially if you work, as I do, in a male-dominated sector – but it’s really very disspiriting when someone as prominent as he is can, apparently unchallenged, say something like this:

Girls today have never had it so good, right?…Apart from the fact that you’ve got more equality than you ever can deal with, the fact of the matter is that you’ve got real democracy and there are really no glass ceilings, despite the fact that some of you moan about it all the time. Women can get to the top of any single job that they want to in the UK. You’ve got a woman fighter pilot who went in to join the Red Arrows yesterday. I mean, what else do you want to do, for God’s sake? Women astronauts. Women miners. Women dentists. Women doctors. Women managing directors. What is it you haven’t got?

Yes, what on earth are we complaining about, now that we’re allowed to be miners? The piece goes on to suggest that he might have been attempting to wind up his (female) interviewer, but it’s such a vastly stupid thing to say that I don’t much care what his motivation was. Your tights aren’t that good, mister, and your cheese selection is crap, and whilst there are probably a hundred reasons to boycott any high street store if you look closely enough, this one was so eminently avoidable; so completely unnecessary, that I shall be taking my fluffy little head elsewhere in future.


I have bought these

black shoes

and these

red shoes

and these

blue shoes

As astute eyes like yours will have noticed, they are all the same. I bought the black ones first, and they were SO comfortable and SO pretty that I found myself thinking about the other colours and wondering whether they’d be a good investment. And after a couple of days I remembered something that an ex-boss at the Guardian once told me when I couldn’t decide whether to buy a lambswool Elvis Presley scarf for £45, which was that the amount of emotional energy I was expending worrying about whether to buy it would soon outweigh the financial cost of just doing it. So I did.


I bought my first sunglasses of the spring earlier, at the end of a lunch hour spent scrunching my face up against the brightness of the day. I was looking for a geekish pair to go with the actual anorak I am wearing (not this instant, as I sit in my office typing, but as part of today’s outfit), but I work in a district with a limited supply of shops selling anything anyone would actually want to buy, and the only sunglasses on offer were the enormous kind preferred by Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and other people I don’t want to look like.  (Well, OK, I would be happy to look like Cheryl Cole, I’m not crazy. But I don’t want to dress like her.)

My eventual compromise solution was some fairly enormous sunglasses, but with thick white plastic rims which stop them from looking like something impossibly glamorous that should be teamed with skinny jeans and an enormous bag, since given the choice I would always go for flared jeans and a tiny bag.

These are they:


When I came back into the office I stuck them on my head, and had an immediate rush of summery feeling. It was brilliant.