The woman’s face was a picture as I took my seat on the bus. This was in the days before we must all wear face masks on public transport and she really wanted me to see the full, exaggerated displeasure register on her face as she looked at my shoes. Yeah, admittedly they’re not to everyone’s taste. They’re gold, lace-up brogues, with a two-inch rubber platform that’s patterned with red, white and blue stripes. Think Elton John’s crazy trotters from that 70s film Tommy and you’re in the ballpark. Back at home in the evening, my darling husband greeted me by saying, ‘Did you actually wear those hideous clown shoes to work?’
But I’m used to those reactions from him. He makes so much regular fun of my outfits that years ago I started an Instagram hashtag, #clothesmyhusbandhates, that’s taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of women sharing the disdain their partners have for their fashion-forward choices.
My loyal childminder of 13 years often tells me my outfits are ‘brave’ – by which I think she means something a lot less polite. But is it weird that I get a thrill out of adverse reactions? Clothing to me is so much fun, just one of many good reasons to get up in the morning. I’ve had complete strangers ask me things like, ‘How do you go to the loo in that jumpsuit?’ Some people are mortified to answer their front door in their PJs. I’ve been known to add heels and a blazer to mine and head for the office. Fear of wearing things is for our self-conscious teenage years.
However, in this issue we present to you a whole new level of fashion fearlessness in our story about Regency superfans. Tailor Zack Pinsent wears nothing but Regency clothing. Train rides, trips to Sainsbury’s, you name it: they’re done in the full regalia of coat, tails, cane, monocle, gloves, top hat, all handmade by him with diligent historical accuracy. To him, it’s not brave, it’s just how he wants to dress. But the fact is, the first time I saw him was on the news, which just goes to show that fashion is anything but trivial: the instant anyone veers from convention, they’ll send the cameras around!
I was delighted to discover he’s part of a tribe of like-minded men and women who live most – if not all – of their 21st-century lives dressed as something out of a Jane Austen novel. There’s something so joyful about their commitment to it. Perhaps it’s because, at a time when we’re all craving more escapism, I’ve found it vicariously in learning about theirs. I wonder if the woman who didn’t like my shoes would screw up her face at the sight of a period-perfect empire-line dress. It’s fabulous to know these dedicated followers of 19th-century fashion wouldn’t mind either way. The joy of fashion is in finding what you love – be it ‘hideous clown shoes’ or an Elizabeth Bennet bonnet. Enjoy the issue!
A few things I’m coveting this week