Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Educational opportunity

I draw this email to your attention:

I am pleased to invite you to the John Lewis Oxford Street Lingerie Academy for Men on Thursday 13th and 20th December, from noon until late.

To help confused and stressed men shopping at Christmas, the Lingerie Advisers have transformed their department into a men-friendly sanctuary with beer, mags, plasma screen TVs and even a Wii. Finally lose the fear of entering the Lingerie Department and find out what to buy for wives and girlfriends that will be happily worn and shown off, not hidden at the back of a drawer or returned!

Please see below for further details and a checklist of things to remember when lingerie shopping.

All best,



Giving lingerie as a Christmas gift to your wife or girlfriend should be the ultimate romantic gesture. However, when many women open their presents on 25th December, they are often confronted with the results of a 5pm panicked, self-conscious shopping dash on Christmas Eve – lingerie in the wrong colour, the wrong style and sin of sins, the wrong size.

This year, John Lewis is inviting men along to the John Lewis Oxford Street Lingerie Academy for Men on the 1st Floor of the flagship Oxford Street store on the 13th and 20th December, from noon until late. The lingerie department will be transformed into a gentlemen's paradise with leather sofas, chilled beer, plasma screen TVs and a Wii. Shop in style with expert Lingerie Advisers on hand to give one-to-one guidance to help you find the perfect present and guarantee a red-hot Christmas.

Maria Walker, Chief Lingerie Adviser for John Lewis Oxford Street, reveals the most common mistakes men make when scouring the lingerie department and how best to shop for smalls..

· Size

No woman wants to receive a bra that is too small or knickers that are too big. We are used to unprepared male customers using their hands to indicate breast size or comparing their partners to other women in the lingerie department! The first lesson of 'Boob Camp' is - glance in her wardrobe or laundry basket to find out her size, you'll save a lot of time and embarrassment and also surprise your girlfriend. If you do completely forget, why not consider a slinky negligee instead?

· Colour

While red may appear to be a sexy and indeed seasonal choice, men should remember that few women would actually choose red lingerie for themselves. For a seductive look, black is a fail safe classic. Chocolate is this year's hot colour and is kinder to pale, winter skin. A Lingerie Adviser will also be able to recommend colours to compliment her hair colour, eye colour, and skin tone.

· Style

The lingerie department at John Lewis has a huge variety of styles, from silk to lace and underwired to padded or strapless to backless and plunge to push-up. Try and strike a balance between what you would like her to wear and what she likes to wear. Talk to a Lingerie Adviser about her lifestyle and make the most of browsing the department while it is men-only. Always buy lingerie in a set – bra and knickers – this shows that you are generous and thoughtful!

· Presentation

To round off the LingerieAcademy for Men in style, the Lingerie advisers will also be available to gift wrap your purchase and gain you some cheeky extra brownie points this Christmas.


"A newspaper today might be full of bullshit," says Yoni Stern, "but it's all a part of the history of culture - the bullshit, too, no less than the reality. You can't get that from history books."

Putting every copy of the Guardian and its sister title, the Observer online, from their first issues in 1821 and 1791 to today .

The mutton question

Reading Sarah Mower's informative piece in the Telegraph last week on grown-up dressing, I was nonetheless, taken aback by the following statement:

Everyone past the age of 40 needs a "mutton monitor". I belong to a telephonic kaffee klatch that does the job without the slightest risk of false flattery.

In the case of black leather biker jackets – this winter's high street sell-out – there wouldn't be the minutest margin of a doubt. Should one of our number be tempted to revert to Suzy Quatro mode, she'd just have to be stopped.

The rock chick mantle must always be passed to those in their twenties, fact. That means it's the property of the likes of Amy Winehouse. Even Kate Moss, moving up into her mid-thirties, will be pushing the mutton-button with that one any minute now.

Erm, I just bought a leather jacket. I had been looking for a leather jacket of this length and shape for four years.

Now Sarah Mower has enveloped it in slight doubt.

The mutton question is relative, like whether one can wear a short skirt after the age of forty. In my case, with my knees, I shouldn't have been wearing a mini-skirt at sixteen - it's the legs that matter, not the age.

What are often hauled out in fashion magazines as styles suitable for the over fifties, labelled 'classic', make me look like a frump, particularly as they are recommended in those shades known as neutrals, first developed in England amongst the country house set, so as not to frighten the grouse, then taken up by Donna Karan and transferred to New York.

Classic neutrals turn me into the invisible woman. They make me feel depressed. I am not myself. Working out what suits you is a fine art, and the younger you begin your training the better for you will need it in later life. By all means wear what everyone else is wearing at fifteen, even if it is one of those midriff-baring tops, revealing a bluish slab of wobbling goose-pimpled flesh. Adolescent bad fashion, like drugs and bad sex,* are part of the rites of passage we need to go through to weather us for the storms ahead. Then the real work begins.

A while back I had lunch in my neighbourhood with an American artist who had just turned sixty. She was wearing paint splattered jeans with the bottoms rolled up, Converse All Stars and a sweater. Her hair was what's known in the US as a Jewfro - a mass of wild reddish curls with streaks of grey. She looked just fabulous. You're not supposed to dress like that at sixty, I said. Whose law? she asked.

Jeans and a leather jacket at sixty are a wonderful look, I contend, combined with fantastic hairdressing,** which from the age of forty-five should be a woman's single largest personal investment. A subject to which I shall no doubt return.

* Though just say no, is good too
** Thank you, Mario and Roger


For a few months, when I was a teenager, I knew a woman called Eve Hall. My obituary of her appears in the Guardian, today:

One summer's afternoon in 1970, by the banks of the river Cherwell in Oxford, I went on a picnic and received a political and culinary education. Eve Hall, who has died aged 70, was the wife of my new boss, and she explained to me that the secret of a good potato salad was to use new potatoes and to toss them in olive oil while they were still hot. Sprinkled with finely chopped parsley, they seemed to me then, aged 19, the epitome of continental sophistication.

As we ate, Eve went on to tell me, equally insouciantly, of her time in a South African jail. In a case that had startled the white community in the early 1960s, she was one of four women - "mothers and housewives" - sentenced to six months' imprisonment for a clandestine leaflet and poster campaign promoting the banned ANC.

Eve was born in Paris to a Jewish father and a German mother (her uncle was a famous actor in the Munich theatre). The second world war broke out while her father was visiting South Africa, and her mother was left behind to cope with a half-Jewish child under Nazi occupation - she refused to pin the yellow star on her daughter's clothes. In contrast, her sister-in-law, an opera singer, wore hers with pride, only to be taken from the street to an unknown death camp. Eve's paternal grandmother died in Treblinka.

Arriving in South Africa after the war to join her father, Eve later enrolled at Witwatersrand University, where she met her future husband, Tony. Together, they became, in their own words: "Gypsy journalists and development workers." Eve joined the ANC the day after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. Four years later, after being listed as members of a banned organisation and prohibited from being published, the couple were forced to leave South Africa with their three sons and banned from ever returning.

Read the rest here

Thought for the day

Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only. Samuel Butler