Category Archives: Fashion forward…..women and their clothes

When Jamie becomes Becki

When Jamie becomes Becki, he feels lighter

Dancing becomes a joy not a chore

Outfits chosen, unchosen, finally discarded in the tiny back bedroom where nobody goes except him, and of course her.

When Jamie becomes Becki, he still likes to drink pints

Likes how the amber light reflects onto her sharp red nails,

Sometimes wishes that drinks are served in two pint mugs,

Wishes that her hands could be dwarfed as they wrap around the glass,

But shrugs, makes the best of things

Her Pandora bracelet tapping against the rim

Chink, chink chink.

When Jamie becomes Becki, it is enough in itself, enough for him, enough for her

No endgame except the possibility of near seduction in forgiving light,

The possibility of almost passing.

fashion forward styling tips for fabulous funeral wear

Black….well duh. The go to choice, respectful and respectable. A million Victorian matrons can’t be wrong. see them swathed in serge and velvet and bombazine. A year of black and then grief dependant, a move to purple or grey or sensible navy blue.

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair.

Black is the colour of suburban goth, the colour of the beatnik, the colour of the broken-hearted.

But, black drains you, everyone knows that and today, if she is drained of anything else, she will be weightless, nothing left, an empty husk and may simply float away, carried by the winds, drifting above this car on this journey.

White, think of all those tiny wizened asian widows wrapped in layers of silk and cotton as if they are something fragile to be protected by tissue paper.  White widows, sometimes with a incongruous pop of colour, a fire engine red pac a mac, lime green crocs, a tartan shopping trolley on wheels.

And white is the colour of virgins,  of bridal nights and lost innocence and in this, her new state, she too is virginal, touched for the very last time.

And although her anger is white-hot, burning hot, her grief is making her clumsy, awkward.

White requires too much poise, a neatness and a lack of tears.

Red, red for passion and roses and valentines day and god knows there was passion and hearts and flowers and unsuitable underwear in not quite the right size.

And red says, warning and danger and look at me and red says stop.

Stop, she thinks, I want this to stop, but all the traffic lights in the world cannot stop this journey, in this car to that place.

All week, the women in her phone have been sending soft fabric packages, some have come with long letters, others just signed with a kiss, but all have added those five letters, their rallying call when life gives you fucking lemons, again.


(chin chin, up your bum)

Don’t be a lady

Don’t dress for your age

Don’t be quiet

Most of all, don’t be quiet

Do not go quietly into this or any other dark night

The women in her phone have been sending her things

A sequined jacket

A leopard print beret

A dress of spots and stripes and stars

But most of all, they have been sending her lipsticks, red lipsticks,

some clearly expensive, nestling in black velvet drawstring bags, others picked up in the weekly grocery shop, dropped in to the trolley, their purchase easy to hide from cock wombles and non cock wombles alike.

Lip sticks have names and right now, in this car on this journey she finds herself head bowed, lips moving, not in prayer, there is no prayer to make this better, but instead she lists the names of all the lipsticks that now cover her dressing table.



Ruby Woo

Dragon Girl



Fire and Ice

Underage Kiss


She is surprised how comforting this is.



shoe shopping with my mother – fragments

This is the shop where they buy the school shoes.

This is the mother who will pay for the school shoes.

This is the rocking horse which the children get to ride, but only after the shoes have been paid for.

And this is the daughter, body hunched into a seat which is too small, staring down at her feet which are far too big for her and for this shop.

This is the assistant, hair pulled back into a neat pony tail, smile just beginning to fracture as she carefully unpacks the 3 pairs of shoes from the startrite boxes.

And these are the shoes, sensible, well made brown lace up school shoes.

The daughter cannot even bring herself to look at them, if she looks at them, acknowledges them in any way, then she will have to try them on and if she does that, her mother will make a choice and then she will actually have to wear these shoes every single day and if that happens then she might, really might die.

The mother is wearing her best social smile, wishing that the assistant was older, a  mother, so that they could both raise their eyebrows, smile at each other rather than into some hideous middle distance and most importantly, she wishes that the assistant was old enough to simply bully her daughter into actually trying on the shoes , so that this can finish and they can leave.

The daughter has curled her feet under the chair, her feet, she is making it clear her feet  are not going to be involved in this and are not going to be cooperative.

These feet have been encased in Dunlop green flash tennis shoes since school broke up. The plimsols are now greying, the laces frayed and the big toe on her right foot has begun to poke through the fabric, a flash of badly chipped red nail varnish, the remnants of early holiday optimism.

This is a nice shoe shop, where nice children from the schools which most certainly do not have names that include the words secondary modern in them, come to buy their nice school shoes once they have bought their nice new uniform from the dept store that sells the uniforms for the better schools.

And there, piled up next to the mother are the bags from that department store, the shoe shop assistant can see the corner of a green blazer poking out from the largest bag.

The assistant is silent now, her smile gone, she is simply waiting, wondering which of them, the mother or the daughter, which of them will break first.

The silence seems to go on for ever, the assistant looks at the shoes, the mother looks at the daughter, the daughter looks down at her nails, only just visible from underneath the fraying cuffs of her brother’s 4th best cricket sweater.

Finally, the mother cracks

“We will take them in a seven please”

The daughter winces, can’t help herself, nobody, nobody in the world, no other girl aged 13 has size 7 feet, secretly, she is terrified that they will keep on growing forever, that eventually she will end up with a pair of feet so huge that they will dwarf the rest of her body, that she will be almost completely feet.

The assistant knows that this is all wrong, she knows that she should go get the special xray foot machine, she knows that both she and the mother should take turns to press down on the toes within the shoes to access growing room, she knows that the child should walk up and down on the carpeted floor to gauge comfort, but, instead she simply takes the box to the cash desk.

The mother, removing her purse from her handbag, follows her, takes care not to look back at the daughter.

And the daughter, the daughter stands, moves towards the rocking horse and then checks herself and walks instead to the shop door and stands, one hand on the door handle head bowed, waiting to leave.


Buying shoes your mother wouldn’t like….number 1

This is the third time today that they have almost made it inside the shop, but, at the last minute, when Karen’s hand is actually on the door handle, Alison loses her nerve and veers left, pretends to be looking into the window of Head in the Clouds, the hippie shop next door.

Karen sighs very quietly, this is their second visit into Norwich in a month, the bus fares eating into her precious boots fund and each time, Alison has bottled it and the best they have managed is a burger on a plate at the Wimpy near the bus station while looking very hard for the rough boys that Alison’s mother says go to places like that.

Alison is not exactly a friend, but, in a small village in the long summer holiday, you do the best you can and Alison is the best that Karen can do.

Alison is not a friend and definitely not a punk, not even a punk like Karen, the kind of punk who lives in a village called Catton and whose dad is a dentist and whose mum tuts when Pan’s People dance on Top of the Pops.

Alison is not a friend, but, she does have some definite advantages that make her useful to know, Alison’s mum is a forgetful smoker, often opening more than one packet of Rothmans, making theft and the beginnings of a smoking habit just so easy and there’s an unlocked drinks cabinet and best of all, a guest bedroom, where nobody ever goes.

Karen has taken to hiding the stuff, the punk stuff there. The stuff she doesn’t want to have to discuss with her own mother.

So far, the punk stuff consists of ;

2 CND badges

A pair of neon pink socks

A black suit jacket stolen from the Brownies jumble sale

And best of all, the sleeve almost exactly the same colour as the socks, her only punk album, The sex pistols. It’s never been played, neither of them have a record player,  but, over this summer, they have sat together, Karen and Alison, not really friends, drinking Campari from mugs and while Alison reads the problem pages in Jackie outloud, Karen hugs the album to her chest and they both laugh when any of the problems are about S E X.

On the bus from Catton, Karen has done her best to punk up, spiking her hair with soap, using the bus window as a mirror to apply black eye liner and sticking a row of safety pins to the lapel of her jacket.

And now they are outside the shop and this time they are going inside and bloody not really a friend Alison isn’t going to ruin it, not this time.

Karen grabs Alison’s hand, pulls her back and they tumble into Andy’s records, part record shop, part punk hangout and right at the back, so that you have to walk past the scary punk girls on the sofa, who sit, day after day, smoking and definitely Not Going To School, right at the back, are the clothes and shoes.

Alison stands close to the door, her hand is searching for the handle as if she might at any moment simply turn and flee, but Karen has waited too long for this, too much babysitting, too many strawberries picked, too many 50ps lifted from her mother’s purse.

She heads straight towards the black and yellow boxes and there they are, 18 hole black Doctor Martin boots.

They are the punkiest things she has ever seen and she waits for one of the girls on the sofa to stub out her cigarette, stand up and then stand quite still, just to make sure that Karen can take in her complete punk perfection ;

Tartan bondage trousers

Bleached white blond hair

A safety pin as an earring

Black lipstick

And on her feet, exactly the same boots that Karen is gently stroking, 18 hole black DMs.

After all the weeks of build up, the buying is almost an anticlimax, almost the same as buying any other shoes and ten minutes later, the Indian leather purse on a thong around her neck is completely empty and she and Alison are sitting on a bench outside the pub where the art school students drink and Karen is putting on her first pair of DMs.

The boots are heavy, rigid, lacing them up takes so long that Alison becomes twitchy, wants to get moving, is prepared to sacrifice a mooch around Chelsea Girl just so that they can go home now.

Karen and Alison walk towards the bus station, not really friends, just making the best of what’s available and at every shop window Karen stares at her reflection.

The boots are already rubbing, hurting her heels and ankles but that seems right, fitting, part of making a punk identity.

On the bus that stops everywhere between the city and the village, Karen laboriously unties the laces and looks at her white school socks, stained pink where the boots have already rubbed flesh red raw.



It’s a new category darling

I’ve asked women I know only via a social media group to send me photos of themselves, clothes they love, snapshot sentences about their relationships with fashion.

These will be the starting point for a collection of fiction, prose poetry and other stuff.

Strike a pose.