This week I bought the ugliest pair of shoes imaginable

They are grey
ankle boots made from some kind of cheap leather. Or maybe not even
leather. Possibly pleather. Or plastic. They also have ties on the side
made from some type of pretend suede. Suedette, I think. Brandishing
these magnificent objects that, frankly, my dog would be embarrassed to
wear (or even chew), I marched up to the counter of a popular young
retail chain, opened my wallet and gaily haemorrhaged $129.

I will not name the shop where this occurred because it’s not the shop’s fault that my shoes are so heinous. It is the fault of fashion. Because fashion? Fashion loudly declared to me that ankle boots are IT. That grey is THE colour. Therefore, I concluded the combination of ankle boots AND grey would be a style orgasm. Except they’re not. They’re fugly.

Fashion is in a perverse mood this season. Have you noticed? It’s laughing at us from behind its hand.  The key trends in magazines and clothing stores are a supreme shopping list of Things That Will Make You Look Fat And Foolish. Ankle boots that visually chop your leg off (unflattering), long t-shirts that cling to your bottom (unflattering), leggings (unflattering and inappropriate unless you are attending a gym or an 80s fancy dress party) and elongated jumpers worn as dresses (unflattering and also just silly). It’s not unheard of, in winter ’07, to wear all these items at once. For advanced fashionistas, it is positively encouraged.

A while back, right here, I observed that men are often better at judging what looks good on a woman than the woman herself. Men are not blinded by trends or labels or how directional Beyonce looked wearing leggings under a jumper dress on a red carpet in New York. Men just call it as they see it  (except when what they see is a fat bottom belonging to a woman they love. They will never tell the truth to this woman, also known as ‘my wife’ or ‘my girlfriend’).

Now why the hell didn’t I put my own wisdom on a post-it note and staple it to my credit card? No. That would have been sensible. Instead, like the fashion goldfish I am, I chose to forget everything I logically know about fashion including my own age. Season after season.  Hence the boots. And didn’t they elicit a torrent of compliments to fall on my head like rain! “Those boots look like you’re about to ride a horse,” boomed one male colleague. “Are they footy boots?” enquired another nervously. Neither man intended to be unkind, they were just flummoxed by my strange boots, which, incidentally, I was wearing with a dress.
It was my husband, though, who sealed my boots’ fate. When I told him about the two comments I’d had from other men, he cut to the chase. “Look, face it, they’re really ugly.” Except the adjective he used was somewhat more expressive than ‘really’.

Am I the only grown woman getting sucked into buying crap this season? Possibly. “It works like this,” explained a friend who works in the fashion industry. “Fashion is circular and the rule is that the designers and stores can get us to dress any way they like – but only once if you’re smart. I’m in my late 30’s so I’ve seen ankle boots, long t-shirts and leggings twice now. The first time I partook, now I’m older and wiser.” Clearly, I am only older, because I partook last time as well.

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I’m delighted to discover this is not my fault.  Another friend blames pretty girls for luring so many of us into retail humiliation.  “We buy ugly grey ankle boots and impractical clothes because we get suckered in by pretty models on billboards, magazines, catalogues and in-store imagery. For those few seconds between trying on the boots and deciding to buy them, we truly believe we can look as good as the pretty model in the picture. And that grey ankle boots will go with EVERYTHING in our wardrobe and make us look younger, thinner and cooler. Then we get home and realize we look completely ridiculous and have nothing to wear with grey boots or anywhere to wear them. Harsh reality sets in as we realise we look NOTHING like the pretty model nor do we have her life in which grey ankle boots would be a staple.” To summarise: ALWAYS KEEP RECIEPTS.

My mother thinks I should wear my ugly grey boots with pride. She’s feeling a little nostalgic for the days of taking fashion risks. “I think I reached fashion maturity some time ago and now feel in a complete rut,” she notes with some regret. “The downside of fashion maturity is ‘safe’ and ‘boring’.  I rarely buy ugly clothes these days but neither do I buy anything that’s mad or fun or over the top.  You learn to seek out clothes you know suit you and stop taking risks. So the inevitable result is a wardrobe of sensible.”
I look forward to the day I reach fashion maturity. Until then, I may be forced to buy things with a lower degree of fashion difficulty. Like maybe bras.

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