The Big Issue : Edition 494
THEBIGISSUE25SEP–8OCT2015 13 ageing birthday cake and it was time to dress like a grown-up. I have a chic friend, Nadine, who is unusually gifted at matching outfit to occasion and so I begged her to tell me not only what I should wear but where, in heaven’s name, I could find it. As we both knew that my poorly dressed presence in a retail store would cause sales assistants great pain, Nadine recommended online shopping. Oh, but my goodness. It worked! I found some very respectable, faithfully sized clothes at a reasonable price without the humiliating confusion of talking to another human. I cannot thank Nadine and the anonymous merchants of the internet enough and, yes, I do understand that (a) I am killing retail and (b) everyone in the Western world has already made clothing purchases online, but I did want to make a wider point. In a real-world context, the purchase of clothes can prove distressing. One can be, for example, of a size that is well within the parameters of ‘healthy’ BMI and find this size represented in store as “XL” or “gigantic stinking heifer”. One can, male or female, feel very vulnerable when half-dressed in a change room, desperate only to find something that will provide anonymity and decency at work. A sales assistant having a bad day – which I imagine is most days for those on a basic wage in the service of others – can detonate what remains of one’s self-respect. Then there is the problem of money and of ‘fashion’ and having no reliable means of knowing whether you got the best deal on the most acceptable fit. After the sheer relief of actually having found some cloth to cover one’s pink bits, one can immediately descend into a doubting spin. On the internet, I was relieved of all these problems. I could easily compare the desirability and cost of each item to a standard, and the clothing size was, as it turned out on arrival, the actual clothing size. In the end, I wasn’t too sure about the quality of my speech, but I was at least certain that I hadn’t paid too much for platform heels which were, the internet assured me, again in style. I was struck in this moment of relative peace by the artless realisation that the world and our attempts to fit inside it cause unnecessary anxiety. A simple desire, such as finding an outfit for a reasonable cost that doesn’t make me look like a discount Dickensian hooker, can become very complex. Of course, following this observation to its end point would have me demanding that there should never be such a thing as fashion and that we should all wear hessian Mao suits all the time. But, given our long and historic fondness for gussying ourselves up with everything from body paint to Wonderbras, this is unlikely to occur. What is likely to occur is my occasional return to online clothes shopping – with apologies to the nation’s brick-and-mortar retailers. And reminders to myself that I worry, and most of us worry, about nonsense can never come frequently enough. RAZER Bought Two Heels PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND RECENTLY, SOMEONE HAD the misguided idea of inviting me to speak for money at a respectable event. As I am both very vain and very poor, I agreed, but then almost immediately regretted the decision when I opened my wardrobe and found I had nothing to wear. And I don’t say “I had nothing to wear” in the way that well-dressed and particular women do. What persons of style generally mean by this is there is nothing they own that meets the requirements of an event with absolute precision. What I mean by this is that my clothes are a crude joke. The choices were: vintage dress with sweat stains, or items of grey marl designed chiefly to absorb sweat. It was a tracksuit or something that made me look like an “One can be...well within the medical parameters of ‘healthy’ BMI and find this size represented in store as ‘XL’ or ‘gigantic stinking heifer’.” » Helen Razer (@helenrazer) is a writer and gardener who worries that she worries too much.