7 Middle-Aged Fashion Things You Never Thought You Would Buy (But You Will)
The Debrief: A slip, mothballs, suede protector… I own them ALL, my friend. And I am not ashamed
Good style is ageless. We all know that. There is nothing you’re too old to wear if you want to, be it denim, crochet, a backless leather dungaree dress or an actual adult babygro. If you want to.
There are, however, things some of us are too young to understand. Those accessories and underpinnings and bits of weird wardrobe paraphernalia that you know exist because you’ve heard people talk about them (Mary Portas, maybe?), but can’t imagine ever walking into a shop and giving somebody money for. Why would you, when your current system of wearing anything you pick off your flatmate’s floor that doesn’t have ketchup down it is working so well for you? Yep, you *think* you will never understand these things… but that will change.
I know this, because suddenly I own them all. I turned 27 and crossed over into a world full of special sprays to protect my shoes, of laundry bags for delicates and underwear to make things ‘hang’ correctly. A world where I find myself thinking 'actually maybe I DO want my pants to smell of lavender!' And if I’m falling down the rabbit hole into premature middle age, I’m taking the rest of you with me.
Here are the key fashion items you think you will never want, need, or buy – but you will, my friend. You will.
1. A slip
I vividly remember the first time I understood the point of slips. All my life I'd thought it was just a weird generational thing, my Mum's need to wear an extra skirt underneath all her normal skirts. Some kind of baby-boomer reaction to the legacy of rationing, maybe? Or a precaution, in case a huge dog suddenly runs off with your dress?
But then I bought a skirt with such bad static cling that you could basically trace the outline of my kidneys, and I had an epiphany. After a day of yanking it out of my crotch every 20 seconds, I took a deep breath and visited a corner of the M&S lingerie section I'd never been to before. My slip and I have never looked back.
Slips ward off evil static, help your dress hang nicely rather than diving straight between your legs like an amorous labrador, and put a buffer layer between your arse and the parade of builders who always appear, like magic, the moment a gust of wind blows the wrong way at the bus stop. They also look magnificent in a Cat On A Hot Tin Roof-ish way when you slip (hurrah!) out of your clothes at the end of the night.
Everyone has at least one sensible friend, who owns suede protector spray. They also own things like a passport holder and cooling sleeves for wine bottles and have proper, comprehensive home insurance. They’re the person who, on seeing the beautiful ankle boots you just spunked a week’s rent on, will make a sucky noise with their teeth and say 'you want to get some suede protector on those, pronto.'
'I will, I will!' you trill, knowing you obviously definitely won’t. And what happens? You get caught in a flash flood every single time you leave the house. Not using suede protector is an instant and incredibly effective rain dance. Within a month, the boots have gone shiny and patchy and your sensible friend looks on sadly, shaking their head. Just get some sodding suede protector.
You know what’s horrible? Ironing. Life is too short to do any chore that necessitates setting up a special little table.
Then there are the chances of you ironing wrong and turning your crepe dress all shiny, or your pleated skirt all smooth, or accidentally putting IN new creases that weren’t there before, or burning your flat down – which, let’s face it, are really bloody high.
And this is why you need a steamer. As well as being simpler and more foolproof than ironing, steaming is also great for freshening up things from the bottom of your clothes heap that smell faintly of damp towel. Oh, and you know those garments you own that claim to be dry clean-only? And you suspect the label is lying so you never ever have them dry cleaned, but you’re not confident enough to actually wash them either? Steam them.
It’s easy to be scathing about bodies. The sturdy, bra-topped kind that encase you like sausage skin. Even lots of hardened Spanx devotees still can’t quite picture a time when they’re going to wake up in the morning and think, ‘how I really want to feel, today, is exactly like a Taste the Difference Cumberland.’
But then, one day, you’re a bridesmaid. And you’re required to wear something so diaphanous or satiny that you’d actually feel less exposed if you walked down the aisle naked but for 82 kirby grips. That day, you wear an underwired body because you want something you vaguely remember Trinny and Susannah referring to as a ‘smooth line’, but the next day you wrestle back into it again because you have discovered the truth: bodies are fucking great. They’re like a cosy lycra hug underneath your clothes.
No evil bra strap splicing your skin open, no exposing your lower back to the icy elements, AND if you do the poppers up over your tights then it holds them up all day too! Like Superman. And look at all the stuff he got done.
Ok so I didn’t actually buy these, I inherited them from a posh auntie. Possibly nobody ever buys them, they just get passed along through families and found in lofts. But however you acquire them, as long as you can get over the memory of Sue White from Green Wing using one as a vaginal speculum, boot shapers are a helpful thing to have in your life.
They stop your nice new knee-highs getting mangled under your gym bag, and they can gently stretch out tight calves so you don’t have to panic that you’ve cut off the circulation to your toes. They also enable you to pick up your boots by the handle and wave them threateningly at intruders, should the need ever arise.
6. Moth traps
'It’s so weird!' I thought for an embarrassingly long amount of time. 'I definitely seem to have moths – I mean, I open the wardrobe door and tiny moths flap out, so I’m pretty sure that’s what people mean by ‘having moths’ – but they don’t seem to eat my clothes. Maybe they’re polite moths. Moths on a diet. I’ll just leave it. We’re living in harmony, the moths and I.'
Then one day, I found a jumper so full of holes that early 90s Courtney Love would have considered it tatty, and the penny dropped. I don’t have polite moths, I just have a lot of synthetic fibres. And moths only like natural ones, the fussy twats. They’re not on a diet, they’re Primark-intolerant.
Which means the only properly nice things you own – that cashmere jumper from your ‘trying to be Charlotte Gainsbourg’ phase, the spendy wool coat, the silk scarf you inherited from your dead great Nan – are the ones moths will be using as a £3 all-you-can-eat Thai buffet. Learn how to kill them and keep them at bay with a moth trap now, before you get successful and sensible enough to stop buying quite so much polyester.
My thermals have seen me through holidays to Norway and Iceland, but more heroically, through winters in a flat with Victorian single-glazing and a boyfriend who would rather chip the icicles off his nose in the morning than give British Gas more than £12 a month.
But here’s the real secret about thermals: wear them, and you’ll be so toasty underneath that you can put a really flimsy, insufficient coat on top and everyone will think you’re just hard as nails. Those days when you’re determined to do bare legs in November because apparently nobody on Instagram can feel the cold? Compensate with an incredibly warm torso. I like to think it’s what the Kardashians do.
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