A quick page through some magazines is proof positive that fashion is not for me.
Just before Christmas, a friend gave me a stack of women’s magazines. "They’re on the seat of the car," she said at a party we were both attending, "just take them."
I wasn’t expecting a massive Ikea shopper-full, and it’s taken me months to work my way through them, but it’s made me realise once and for-bloody-all that fashion has left me far, far behind.
The mags in question were Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Company, with the odd copy of New Woman thrown in (possibly now defunct? – Many of these mags were five, seven, 10 years old).
Cosmo was pretty much how I remembered it – sex-obsessed, zesty and funny; Glamour I was astounded by, as it was utter rubbish compared with the US version – nothing but celebrities (most of whom I’d never heard of, not being a devotée of reality television, and several of whom – including Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger – are actually now dead); and Company, which was a different kettle of fish – practical articles on sex and dating, but also many articles on sexual health, jobs, disabled and disadvantaged women, people who’ve been through trauma, etc. Personally speaking, if I had a teenage daughter, it’s Company I’d rather she was reading.
But it strikes me that the concerns of these magazines are now very much not my concern. I couldn’t care less, in general, what men think (not that I ever did) and I’ve been with the same bloke for 21 years so if I don’t know what makes him tick by now, we’re both fecked anyway. And clubbing, drinking, travelling, fights with friends, deciding on flatmate chores etc, being pressured into marriage or children are pretty much now all in the past if they ever existed at all.
However, as is my wont, once I’d finished with each mag, I went through it ripping out the fashion and beauty for my scrapbook. This is a rolling project of ‘looks’ that I fancy; clothes or beauty looks that I find attractive; photos that have something to teach me; things I’d like to emulate, etc. And time and again, I came away empty-handed. There was simply nothing – literally almost nothing AT ALL – that I liked.
It has served as a reminder of why I gave up on women’s magazines. I find more looks to admire in my Lands’ End and La Redoute catalogues than I do in the fashion pages these days. Today, fashion is very much aimed at the young, and seems to have little to offer anyone more sophisticated or with more exigent requirements.
And before you think this is a middle-aged whinge, it wasn’t always thus: I grew up in an era where a woman’s attractions weren’t thought to rely entirely on how much flesh she was revealing – take a look for yourself and see how covered up we all were in the 1980s. And yet, we still managed to procreate, even though we were quite often in baggy trousers and pixie boots rather than micro-mini, skintight, bright pink WAG dresses.
I cut out and kept many looks in 1980s magazines that I’ve kept in my scrapbooks to this day. In the 1990s, too, there were many looks that were my cup of tea: scoop-neck t-shirts, boatneck shift dresses, long-sleeved wrap dresses, boots with moderate heels. When the hell did everything get so exaggerated, with the frankly hideous shoes that all fashion shoots show now, and the total lack of appeal to anyone’s intelligence – surely the sexiest of all attributes in either sex?
Oh well, perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the majority of women really are as dumb as stumps and want to look it – possibly so they’ll appeal to men who are even dumber.
And so, to the recycling heap these magazines go – nobody else here wants them, and the doctor’s and dentist’s waiting rooms are already chock-a-block with English magazines.
As for me, back I go to Country Living, Easy Living and Good Housekeeping – still not quite ‘me’, especially since I find children boring beyond belief, but clearly as good as we’re going to get in UK publishing in the absence of an equivalent of the US More magazine, aimed at women over 40 whose interest in fashion and beauty hasn’t quite withered and died just yet.