But What Will I WEAR?? Part II
“Darling, is this Coldplay?” a voice behind the curtain asked me.
“He’s LITERALLY baying at the moon in this one isn’t he, poor chap, someone should put him out of his misery, I think he’s finally lost the will to live in this one.”
“How’re you getting on in there?” I ask, as the curtain billows out angrily for the 5th time in as many minutes.
“Well I just can’t work out if I’ve got the wretched thing on the right way round or not – I just – LOOK!” Her bare arm makes an appearance while her head appears to be locked into a space that should be for an arm with the opposite sleeve protruding flaccidly from just under her left boob.
“I’m not sure you have either” – I say, doing my level best not to snort out loud – “just gimme your arm and your – no put your head through – here hold my hand and move this around – yes, ok there it is – one more push and I think you’re there if you just – yes now pull this down” I try, as a tiny red face with an increasingly disgruntled mop of blonde fringe finally pops out of what we hope is the right hole.
“I hate it.” She says, defeated. “I look old.”
We’re in what must be our 5th shop of the day trying to find Mummy Cooke an outfit for the wedding. The plan was to start in Selfridges but as neither of us is very good at department stores, we spent the first hour of the day sat on a bench outside Selfridges having coffee and a cake and chatting in order to gird our loins for the dreaded multi floored hell. After 10 minutes inside, we found ourselves clinging to each other in the middle of the ‘posh floor’ in utter fear and bewilderment, neither of us knowing which way to turn.
“Can I help you, ladies.” A young, rather camp sales assistant asked us, smoothly while giving us the quick once over.
We explained what we were looking for but after saying that we hadn’t imagined spending over a grand on the outfit as per the rails around us, he nodded and told us slightly icily “I think you want the floor below” before sashaying off to purge his floor of any other unsightly ‘poor people’.
”Like he can afford anything more than a KEYRING in here on his salary.” I mutter to Mum, ungraciously. “And his breath smelled like poo.”
“Baha! Shall we leave?”
Just to put today into context; for some bizarre reason – despite being one of the most beautiful, cool & funny women I know with the energy of a 21 year old – my Mum has started to think that she is just too old and ‘under par’ these days and so dressing up for an occasion where people will be noticing her has sent her into a wee panic about what the chosen outfit should be. Not helped in the least by the fact that Dad is now, not only the proud owner of a Paul Smith suit, but the owner of a pair of ridiculously beautiful and amazing, hand-made Italian shoes bought from his importer chum, Carlos. This completion of his outfit, so far ahead of schedule, has nigh on sent her over the edge.
Because of Mum’s shape she actually has the enviable ability to pull off most designs. However, because she is also the size of a Borrower, she often looks as though she’s fallen head first into a dressing up box and charged straight out of the changing room before checking to see how big it all is around her. I feel like we’ve been everywhere in the West End and nothing is working, so we decide to go for lunch instead to recharge our batteries.
“Shall we have a glass of pop?” I suggest.
“I think it’d be rude not to, my darling!” She replied, beaming.
A bottle of Prosecco later found us both sobbing in the middle of Le Pain Quotidien after relatively little food, having got so carried away with how AMAZING it all was and how HAPPY we both were and just how much we LOVED OLLIE and DADDY and AMES and how THAT POEM IS SO AMAZING LET’S READ IT AT THE WEDDING!!! We’re quite the sight to behold.
Having soon noticed several concerned glances from our neighbouring tables we decided to ask for the bill and keep going.
After a few aimless turns inside, we typically found ourselves in the most expensive part of the store, but also the most amazing; Liberty Vintage.
“Oh my life, look – LOOK at these clothes, Jem.” Mum sighed, ever so slightly cross eyed, from the visual beauty and/or ‘lunch’. “Just look.”
She made a bee line for a lime green 50’s Chanel jacket and as she went to take it from the hanger (and the £4K price tag dropped into view) we realised it was attached to a mega security belt connected to the rail with alarms and bolts and padlocks adorning it all the way back to a hole in the wall.
“Can I help you, Madam?” a very tall and equally polite salesman asked her.
“NO don’t worry – it’s all so COMPLICATED.” She said a smidge louder than intended, somewhat emboldened by her liquid lunch.
“It’s really no trouble, Madam.” He said, kindly.
“I won’t buy it.” she challenged, crossing her arms and closing her eyes determinedly “I only want to try it on…‘for fun’.” she added with dramatic bunny ear quotation fingers to add to the effect of what a ginormous waste of time it all was, by which time he’d got the coat safely off the hanger and was gesturing to Mum to turn around so he could help her into it.
“Well…’k then” she said sheepishly, while turning and allowing him to safely hook her arms in and shuffle her gently towards the mirror.
A moments pause before – “You see, THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE CLOTHES!!!” she shouted, back with aplomb from her momentary quiet, “LOOK! Chanel made clothes for WOMEN and she knew what she was DOING – everything out there – (gesturing wildly at the windows) – is tosh it’s all TOSH and it’s DULL and NOBODY has any imagination – but this – THIS is magnificent! HONESTLY, PEOPLE SHOULD TAKE MORE DRUGS WHEN THEY’RE DESIGNING CLOTHES!” She finished with a flourish to one agog daughter and a smiling salesman.
“I couldn’t agree more, Madam.” He said quietly, but fervently.
I see Mum’s frustrations are in danger of being taken out unfairly and imminently on this lovely salesman, so I guide her out of the jacket and the store itself and manoeuvre her safely back onto Carnaby Street to assess my next move.
There is a shop called Vivien of Holloway on Holloway Road that I am obsessed with. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you were going; it’s tucked away amidst a fairly desolate stretch of that long road but is a hidden gem that has saved me a few times when everywhere else has proved futile. A hop, tube and a walk away and we’re there.
Mum, by this point, after an 8 hour fruitless search in town is exhausted and has given up all hope.
As we walk in and peruse the thousands of dresses on offer, I see her dwindling into further despair that this will also be a massive waste of time. However, she is soon accosted by a lovely lady called Pip who, getting the brief immediately and, having measured her in seconds, has soon wrestled her into the changing room with armfuls of amazing dresses.
With each time that she steps out from behind the curtain her shoulders drop a little more, her smile returns and then she visibly starts to bounce. We realise quickly that the problem is no longer whether we’ll find something but whether we’ll be able to pick a favourite, because she’s smashing them all!
We make her try on the top 3 favourites again in rapid succession before the unanimous decision to go for the gold and black number. She’s a knock out!
On another occasion since then she managed to pick up some of the most incredible shoes I’ve ever seen in my life making her taller than she’s ever been, and has coupled said shoes with a hat that is currently being customised by our chum Sahar at her amazing pop up “The Hackney Shop”.
She looks so amazing in her get up that I’m starting to fear I may be a little underdressed for my own cocking wedding.
Step back, MOTB’s; Mummy Cooke is about to show you all how it’s done.
But What Will I WEAR?? Part II