Round-neck, yes. Cowl-neck, no. Boat-neck, slash neck, roll-neck and shift, oh yes. V-neck, no.
Can you love clothes and collars and cashmere and shoes and genuinely find necklines chat-worthy without being a Fashion Lover? Because despite my adoration for all these things, I don’t want to be seen that way.
The last time I was beating myself up for not having enough hobbies (funnily enough no hobbies ever materialise from these discussions) a friend said fashion was my ‘thing.’ I cringed. ‘I’m not that peeeeeeeeeerson!’ I wailed. Except that on seeing a bead placed a particular way on a collar or a perfectly sewn dart in a bust I can almost sense the serotonin filling up in me, seeping from my pores and emanating out through my fingertips onto the fabric, I’m really not that person.
I’m not a catwalk stalker and I don’t know what’s especially ‘in’. I wear what I like - I just really, really love deciding. Hours of my life are spent honing in on lone silk shoulders in charity shops and bossing the ASOS.COM advanced search function like a – excuse me – fucking don. I love the smell of second-hand shops and if I enjoyed exercise half as much as I enjoy speed-skimming vintage clothes rails I’d have the body of Gisele on which to drape the products of my labour. But my absolute and all-encompassing love of fabric in different shapes and incarnations is not something I feel completely comfortable admitting.
Maybe it’s the ‘shopping queen!’ thing I’m uncomfortable with. My mother once bought me a magnet that said ‘Anyone who says money can't buy happiness just doesn't know where to shop’ and I felt a deep unhappiness that this is how I’m viewed.
Unfortunately, fashion is hard to hide. Aside from the fact you wear it, try keeping discreet a wardrobe that pretty-much ejaculates cashmere and includes seven black velvet dresses (they’re all different, swear). It also doesn’t help that when I see get-ups in the street I think are beautiful, I point and gush and in really severe cases, run up to people to tell them they look amazing. So it’s not exactly inconspicuous stamp collecting.
It’s not the shopper’s high I crave – it’s the finding and fingering and falling in love (I’m still talking about sleeves) that I adore. To me the process at the till is just clinical, the last obstacle before I can get home, through the door and into my snazzy beaded shift/ emerald green silk pantaloons. And - here’s where my rampant disease is most apparent - if I really fall for something that doesn’t fit, I buy it for a friend it’ll look good on, so I can see it loved and worn and walking around me.
After squealing about a pretty cuff and maybe scuttling over to show a friend on another rail, I’ll berate myself for loving something so superfluous. Think about what you look like. It feels almost like feminist guilt, counter-productive as that would be. I’m a good friend and my sisters actually like me, and I’m nice to strangers, and I work hard to spend time in shops that smile at me when I squeal about a pretty cuff. So why? The magnet is still on my fridge, a punishment that labels me as the vacuous, shopaholic that I am.
Maybe I wouldn’t feel so conscious if Fashion was just nice clothes. But it isn’t. It’s also racist rants and under-eating and Karl Lagerfeld telling Adele she is fat. It’s a world, and not a very nice one.
Fashion reminds me of when you meet a nice person in a pub (stay with me), then this hideous, creepy, slightly sinister mate of theirs comes over and you tick said nice person off your Nice People I've Met List because of the company they keep.
Well Fashion is my bitch friend. I love her, but I'm ashamed to be associated with her because she's not very nice. She moves in horrible circles, shhing and pointing and judging. But she likes what she likes, and I love her for that. And I find myself saying things she'd be proud of, like 'I'm sorry, I just can NOT get on board with manmade fibres.' (I can't, I really can't.)
I love that she comes in tweed and silk and lace and velvet (god, I love velvet). And fresh cotton and linen and satin and cashmere. And I love that she changes all the time and she's fickle and I love the drama of her friends making headlines by being outrageously insensitive or getting caught in toilets taking coke.
I love that the sheer hilarity and eccentricity of her world - one in which a skirt made of polystyrene is sold and bought for nigh on a thousand pounds - is perfectly normal. And on days of wild abandon I allow myself to think like her and spend £164 on half a jumper. Which I end up wearing everywhere because I love it and I thought like her for a moment. Love it, buy it.
I’m unequivocally bound to Fashion. I just wish it could be quiet. Watching a beautifully cut silk dress swish down a runway is lovely; reading about it in a magazine makes me cringe. But, Fashion can’t exist without voices, the media; buyers; fabulous actresses, me.
I really, truly believe in clothes and the fashion industry as an integral, important part of society. And I believe in my right to love what I love. So why do I feel ashamed to love clothes so?