I am rubbish at working out what to wear to work. I always have been, even when I worked in a bookstore. Back then, I decided that the best thing to wear was a pair of black cords; they were vaguely smart, but had a distinct bookish feel to them, especially as they were starting to wear through on the knee.
What I hadn’t thought about though, was how cords are DUST MAGNETS. And how small, independent bookstores which have had the same copies of Dickens on the shelves for the past 15 years are FULL OF DUST. After a few Saturdays I suddenly realised that I’d become allergic to my own trousers. And that was only the start of it.
Summers spent temping for the NHS were horrific. I had no idea how to look professional without dying of heatstroke in a non-airconditioned office. It didn’t even matter if it wasn’t hot outside; NHS buildings have a magical way of adding at least 15C to the temperature. I tried cropped trousers, and lightweight blouses. I tried floaty skirts and cap-sleeved tops. And I felt ridiculous in all of it.
It only got worse when I joined a grad scheme and became a Corporate. It got so, so much worse. Sure, the corporate world supposedly has a uniform of suits and shirts, but that does me absolutely no good. I hate suits. I find them unnatural and weird. I look incredibly stupid in shirts, because even the specially-cut Bravissimo shirts tend to refuse to button up over the twins.
And even though I own a number of nice black pencil skirts, I somehow always manage to dress them wrong. I’ve got a very bad habit of accidentally turning up to work dressed on the theme of Dita von Teese, and only realising it once I’ve actually got to the office. I’ve spent probably half of my working life dressed entirely inappropriately.
And then a wonderful thing happened. I remembered about the jersey dress.
Jersey dresses are, you see, a truly marvellous thing. They get rid of the need to coordinate different items of clothing. They can be worn alone in summer with some nice little sandals, or you can add some stupidly thick tights, some great big boots and a cardi and use them as super-good winter wear. They can have sleeves. They can not. They stretch in a way that suit dresses just never will.
And I can never, ever find them in the shops. Because I am not Kate Middleton, and I do not have a few hundred pounds to spend on some very nice but very expensive Issa creation.
So I’ve just started making them. I’ve found two patterns that suit me – this one and this one – and now I will NEVER EVER WEAR ANYTHING ELSE EVER AGAIN. I can just keep making the same dress over and over and over again, and so long as I keep making it in different colours, nobody will ever know.
And finally, after more than 10 years in the workplace, I will have finally cracked the art of getting dressed.