Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Recipe Rifle goes shopping: Spring fashion

A thing my dad has taught me is that you have to modernise - or die.

It's probably the only thing he has taught me by example - everything else i.e. the importance of a neat filing system, up-to-date insurance, legible handwriting, the causes and course of the First World War, he taught via a series of 40-minute lectures using white boards, diagrams, bright lights, water-boarding etc.

But modernising, that's just what he did. He never said "You have to modernise OR DIE!"

He did it instinctively. He had a computer before anyone else, he mastered email before anyone else, he wore with flair and enthusiasm a pair of Converse trainers I bought for him about five years ago (I get him a new pair every year for his birthday). He listens to podcasts and has an iPod. Every few years he will change the style of his spectacles and he is sometimes seen with a new tie. His texting is not perfect, but it's getting there. He keeps up to date on pretty much everything except the most absolutely current popular music, though he will definitely know who (or what) One Direction are (or is. Or, shortly, were.)

My father is 79, ladies and gents. Seventy Nine. Not some Disco Dad who accidentally became a parent at 18. SEVENTY NINE. I was born when he was 44. He remembers the war! But he could also pick Harry Styles out of a crowd. Maybe. I don't think he likes modernising much, I think he finds it as painful as everyone else does, but he knows that you have to move on.

Whenever I catch myself about to say something awful and Tunbridge Wells about Instagram or SnapChat or, indeed, One Direction, I think of my dad. What would he say? He would know about it all. He would not pooh-pooh a modern thing for pooh-poohing's sake. Because he knows that has the stench of death about it. And my father is not afraid of the tax man, or drunks and lunatics or answering the door after 9pm or changing lanes in heavy traffic: but he is afraid of death.

I always think of my very nearly Octogenarian father when I consider, with some horror, that I must Update My Wardrobe. It's the thing I like doing least, because it means buying a pair of jeans that I will consider hideous for six months, of feeling self-conscious when out of the house, having to spend money on things that I'm not sure I like.

But I must Update My Wardrobe because if you don't, you just look dreadful. If you don't make incremental changes then you will still, come Spring/Summer 2014, be wearing a pair of grey skinny jeans (I bought mine in 2005) with a Breton top and a leaky pair of Converse. This is fine if you really, really properly don't care, or really, really properly can't afford it but for the rest of us, looking out of date suggests a deeper resistance to change, to modernisation. It speaks of a deeper stubbornness, an arrogance, a closed mind.

I once went to a lecture given by the agony aunt Irma Kurtz in which she claimed to stave off old age by trying to "change her opinion about things". Sticking to your trusty old shapes and colours is as bad as declaring the same old boring allegiances to the thoughts and opinions you had when you were 25.

Not that I like to over-think these things.

So I have been utilising my new paycheques to Update My Wardrobe and it hasn't gone too badly. Apart from the Boyfriend Jeans, which I am in love with and totally and completely horrified by in equal measure, it has been reasonably painless.

Here are the things I have bought, which I plan to wear when the weather cheers up. It's not much, because it is all expensive as I have finally paid heed to my own advice of buying a few expensive things, not a lot of old shit from the High Street. Though I must point out here that I never, ever wear any of this gear while attempting childcare.

For childcare I buy a job lot of H&M sweatshirts and black 3/4 length leggings from TopShop, which get totally trashed, sent to charity for rags and then replaced. There's nothing quite so nice as a lovely fresh pair of leggings.

I bought ALL of this stash with my very own pennies, that's how much I love it all.

1 McQ Cross-printed sweatshirt, £165 available only online at matchesfashion.com. This is navy, although it looks black here. Goes with everything, excellent for anything smart/casual on the weekend.

2 Green crepe swing top, Michael Kors, £140, from Net A Porter. I love this. Hides the mid-section, great colour.

 3 Acne Boyfriend jeans, £190 Matchesfashion.com. I am scared of these but they are, also, SO FACKIN COOL.

4 Longline layering shirt grey/chambray, £98 from ME +EM.

I used to love wearing shirts, but the way I used to wear them, just cotton, with the top few buttons undone over jeans or whatever, looks horrible and wrong these days for some reason. I wear this buttoned to the top and it feels sleek and nice because of the jersey top-half and the cotton bottom half doesn't cling to my last remaining stubborn baby weight. Also, if you want to wear this under a sweater, there's no cotton top-bit to bunch up and make you look like a man. I am a size 12 and got this in an M.

5 Navy v-neck "swing" jumper, Me+Em £98 in an S to fit a size 12. 

Another favourite thing of mine, the v-neck navy sweater. I will probably be buried in one, but can't find one that doesn't cling horribly to my mid-section. It's a common thing, I find, with anyone who was even last pregnant 15 years ago and is now a size 6 - wearing anything tight around your middle makes you feel like you're being strangled. But this ME+EM sweater is terrific - a lot of their clothes have a lovely, very forgiving and super-comfortable "swing" to them. 

6 Hold fast signet ring, £140, LauraLee. I rang the shop and a nice girl had this made for me in a special weeny size to go on the little finger in a kind of witty mock posh/butch way but with the unassailable message printed thereon: HOLD FAST. It's a nautical term, as Captain Jack Sparrow would say, which roughly translates as "hang on to something and shut your eyes until it's all over".

7 Silver Birkenstocks, £39, Natural Footwear Company - or cheaper on Amazon probably but I couldn't work out the shoe sizes and happened to be passing this shoe shop while on my way to the London Transport Museum with Kitty anyway.

The "ugly" shoe is IN this spring/summer (I may be making this up) and I am absolutely thrilled about it. I plan to wear these with my terrifying boyfriend jeans, a neon sweatshirt and a pedicure


More food soon


  1. I like the sound of your dad and the cut of his jib: I'm relieved to learn I can go on wearing my Converse All Stars for years yet without ridicule.

  2. It is so nice to know that I'm not the only person with a - in this day and age at least - disproportionately old dad. I am 29, he is 71. My dad is not up to date, but he's not an old codger either. There's a lot to be said for older parents, I think it's an excellent grounding to have a dad who was (in my case) 40 when his kids are born. They've seen the world, and they can therefore guide their kids safely through. x

  3. What is it with dad's and their groovy ability to keep up with technology. Mine's 63 and he's was one of the first people I knew with an ipod or a smartphone. I think you're right - they don't find it any easier to learn about this stuff than we do, they just make more of an effort to do it, bless them.

  4. This made me cry. I lost my lovely Dad 2 years ago and when I read this I thought 'why didn't I ever buy my Dad some converse? He'd have rocked converse!'
    Fashion wise, good ideas. Thanks dude. Shall invest for May when am (thank fuck) no longer horrifically pregnant and miserable xx

  5. Loved this, made me think of my mum and her iPad addiction. Also love the Hold Fast ring- that's the motto of the MacLeod clan, which is my boyfriend's surname (and will therefore be my name if he ever asks me to marry him). It is a motto I'll be delighted to adopt, it definitely speaks to me. Elaine xx

  6. Oh crap - I had a new pair of Converse for my birthday last week.

  7. My Dad is a million years too old, too - I'm 32, he's 74. But he was always a Cool Dad (he was a radio DJ and named me Marley after Bob) and recently he returned to university to do a Masters degree in Media Theory. His dissertation was "a contemporary re-evaluation of the works of Jurgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu and Marshall McLuhan with regard to their positions on spatio-temporal relationships". The man is 74. He should be doing crossword puzzles. Instead he still presents a late-night reggae programme on community radio and writes 40,000-word dissertations on things I don't understand..!

  8. Valuable and informative blog. Keep sharing such kind of blogs in future as well. Thanks a lot.

  9. Breton tops are no longer in? Shit.

    'Unknown' - I am using my preggo state to avoid fashion, clothes, leaving the house and bathroom scales. Am impressed with preparation for life after pregnancy, as I genuinely cannot imagine what the fark is going to happen after June.

  10. Hold Fast is also the Macleod motto - one rule my father taught me is never wear dress Macleod tartan if you have even slightly gingery hair. The other bit of the family motto is 'Never forgive, never forget, and always take your revenge when it suits you'. Not much to argue with there I think.

  11. Elizabeth Medovnik19 February 2014 at 21:14

    I'm really happy to hear that your dad is in such good shape. My father-in-law is 83, has dementia, and just shuffles around being waited on by his carers. He can't remember my daughter's name or really grasp that she's his granddaughter, but he's always delighted to see her, which is nice. My own lovely dad is 68 and has early-onset Alzheimers :o(. I hope your parents continue to enjoy life for many years to come.

    The clothes all look wonderful. I'm afraid I'm in the "really, really properly don't care" camp now but I admire your effort!

  12. Not related to the post, sorry, but just read your daily mail article. I feel the exact same! In fact, with my second son only 6 weeks old, i can't wait to go back to work (14 wks to go). I love my children but I don't find being a stay at home mum particularly interesting or fulfilling. My husband will be staying at home with them both at the end of May.
    I can only presume you'll get some pearl clutchers slating you for the article, but you aren't the only one who feels that way!

  13. Esther, you are going to look marvellous and feel good too!