“It’s all culottes!” Why I hate clothes shopping

I’m sorry to keep harping on about my grandmother, but I have just had a ‘culottes’ moment.

My grandmother, or Nana as she was to me, once summed up a dismal shopping trip for clothes in the 1980s with the phrase, “It’s all culottes!”. Husband of Mine and I still refer to this catchphrase whenever we struggle to find something in the shops.

I had the luxury of a hour or two on my own in my local city centre, whilst the rest of the Family went swimming, with the intention of getting a couple of things to wear on holiday. Now, I haven’t really bought any summer clothes this year (not a lot of point, given the weather) and those I bought in the last two summers haven’t really had much of an outing except for the two holidays abroad that we’ve taken. This year, although not heading for the Lakes in August, normality has resumed with our usual holiday pattern of self-catering in the UK – only this time it’s Scotland.  I knew then there was no point in getting sidetracked by skimpy floaty things, their prices slashed in the sales due to the combination of austerity measures and the appalling July weather.

So I trotted round the usual High Street places, failing to find anything I even wanted to try on. Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up – probably more than the next guy – give me a costume and I’m in my element. It’s when it’s me,the real me, that it’s often never right. Too patterned. Too fussy. Wrong length. Boring. Not in my size. Too strappy. Too plain. Would look wrong up a mountain. What shoes would I wear with it?

“It’s all culottes!”

My clothes size has fluctuated in the last 20 years between an 8 and a 14. Not really through any of my doing – apart from the obvious pregnancy-related weight gain, my actual size has remained fairly constant. It seem to be the fault of clothing manufacturers not just in their labelling, but in the strange proportions they seem to adopt for ratios such as waist to hip and shoulder to underarm.

Take trousers for instance. I buy size 12, which fit round the hips, but are always, always, too big around the waist and result in an unsatisfactory attempt to gather the excess material with a belt. Yes, yes, I know it’s not fashionable to have high waists, but I can’t be doing with muffin tops. And then this strange shoulder to underarm measurement; I think mine must be abnormally short as when combined with my tiny boobs, so many tops seem to have either spare inches of strap poking above my shoulders, or sit so low that they expose both my décolletage and my ribs in one go.

So continuing my search, and remembering my reason for browsing was not high fashion, I was back in my clothes shopping comfort zone. This centres around layers of comfortable, quick-drying and mostly warm clothing suitable for, this year, walking up mountains and along coasts, visiting the Skye Highland Games, beach picnics, a bit of photography followed by crashing with a pint in the local pub. I even found myself eyeing up ‘insect repellent’ dresses, thinking one of them would be perfect evening wear to fend off the wee midges.

I didn’t buy a dress, but did manage to leave with a stone-coloured, snappily worded ‘travel’ skirt (can’t one travel in a normal skirt then) and two pairs of trousers; one pair are culottes cropped so I must remember to smother my ankles in insect repellent.

So thanks, Nana, for still being with me on shopping trips… x


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