Monday, 29 September 2008
I took in my MaxMara dress and my L.K. Bennett shoes to Avsh Alom Gur at Ossie Clark this afternoon. I felt as if I had asked Saul Bellow if he'd like to join my book group to discuss Bridget Jones' Diary. The seams! The stitching! The horror!
No, he said. This is not good enough. No. No.
He has given me an Oscar length blue and back sheer silk georgette dress with sleeves and is designing and making me a full length slip to go under it. He is also lending me a Donna Karan wrap (he used to work for her) to arrive and leave in. He is giving me a pair of vertiginous heels. When I said, 'I can hardly walk in these,' he said: 'They cost £600. I'm giving them to you. Are you sure you can't walk in them?'
I had an email late last night from Av, which contained a detailed list of everything I needed to wear and know for the big night. All I can say is, I know now how the stars squeeze themselves into their Oscar dresses and how they come not to pay for them. I know which hair products to use, what bra to wear etc etc etc. I had two grown men giving me and hour and a half of extremely intense attention. I learned that my taste, which I thought was good, isn't all that when it comes to evening wear. The shoes I had bought on the basis that I could stand in them are going back. There are ongoing discussions involving the phrase 'Manolo Blahnik PR . . . product code.'
I now concede that black tie wear is out of my realm of experience. It's much much harder than it looks and Av has saved me. Thank god for him. Oh, And did I forget to mention that he has also given me this?
Quite coincidentally, a person called L. Grant of London asks Hadley why she can't find an evening dress with sleeves. It can't be me because I would never use the word 'lady' and Hadley would never edit down and rewrite a flawlessly worded query by a Booker shortlistee:
To paraphrase Kanye West's "George Bush doesn't care about black people" remark - albeit with more of an emphasis on frocks than housing - designers don't care about grown women.
Which is kinda odd, seeing as they tend to make up the majority of their customer base, given that it is a rare twentysomething who can afford to spend £800 on a dress for a night out with the girls. But, you see, older people don't model in the shows, and older people don't model in magazines and, perhaps most importantly, the only examples of older women many designers seem to be aware of are, in this order of importance, brittle fashion magazine editors, suspiciously well-preserved fortysomething actors and skeletal society mavens. These women tend to have twiggish upper arms which they are rather fond of showing off, if only to demonstrate to the masses that a life of sensory deprivation really does get you somewhere: to a place where smiling is no longer possible but short sleeves are. Now, there's a life well lived, I'd say.
The fashion industry, like many creative industries, has become so besotted by celebrity and magazine coverage that it occasionally forgets about those pesky little flies, "the customers". Yah, yah, let them eat cake, right? (And they probably actually do eat cake, those repulsive carb-gobbling fatties.)
Part of the problem comes from the dresses. A long-sleeved dress can make a lady look like the spells mistress at Hogwarts or, on a bad day, the Wicked Witch of the West. But this is why we have people called "designers", who are there to make clothes look nicer than we could ourselves. Which then brings us back to the original problem.