This week fashion editor, slogan jumper devotee and falafel lover Sarah O’ Hegarty very kindly described me as a ‘style savant’ in the contributors section of Irish Tatler‘s latest April issue and it got me thinking. Was I the Rain Man of the Irish fashion scene? The Kim Peek of my field, possessing an island of genius for sartorial matters. Although I do not bear any resemblance to Dustin Hoffman (despite similar height and scant chin foliage) and have never carried Tom Cruise’s underwear around in my back pocket, I do love a good anorak and I have been known to double strap my backpack. Reflecting back on my uncoordinated youth, my talent for remembering the names of the fashion cognoscenti and for putting together a bitchin’ outfit to rival Man Repeller was remarkably at odds with my obvious lack of gross motor skills which left me completely devoid of grace. According to my mother, my first word was ‘Vogue.’ By the age of five, I could list all of the fashion designers showing at London, Milan, Paris and New York Fashion weeks, backwards and in a variety of accents. I have an uncanny ability to decipher a brand simply by walking into a room and sniffing the air. Show me a catwalk image and I can pinpoint the designer in under a second. I can list the CV of every ready-to-wear designer in the world, like the intellectual equivalent to a parody of Tracy Emin’s bed. I have a rare form of synesthesia that enables me to see up to 10,000 catwalk looks in my head at a time as well as locating all the websites where they are available to buy. Upon meeting you for the first time, my left eye is decoding your make-up scheme, my right eye scanning your outfit for fabrics, textures and flaws and ascertaining the brand. I can sense if a garment needs to be hand-washed just by the feeling it exudes into the atmosphere. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock has nothing on me.
This outfit is my version of French girl off-duty dressing. Some women have been known to pull off a suit in the chichest of fashions. One of those women is not me. I once worked in a well known high street fashion chain that required me to wear the dreaded two piece trouser suit; a pinstriped, shoulder-padded embodiment of repulsion, the ultimate passion killer. I felt like a thirteen year old child playing a fat cat business man in an all-girls school production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At that time, I had the narrow shoulders of a bonobo chimp, thus thwarting my ability to pull off the aforementioned abhorrence. It gave the effect of a pugnaciously defiant orphan, daring someone to tell her it looked bad. Eventually my boss gave up and acceded that the suit, did not (as I had been telling her all along) in fact, suit me. I can totally pull off a tuxedo though as long as the pant element is skinny. If you ever seeing me wearing bootcut/flared black polyester trousers, please advise me to re-evaluate my life because I have clearly given up on it.
Ah, The Kooples. How we all long to star in our own Kooples campaign with our achingly cool house husband. In stark contrast, in most of the photos of myself and my beloved, I look like a dour ex-Bosco presenter, harried by the trials of a mediocre life and he looks like, well, like he has a Boss Eye. Remember that scene in the IT Crowd where there was a fund-raising campaign for poor misfortunates suffering from Boss Eye Syndrome? My other half could be the poster boy for this. When photographed without me, however, he oozes Sean Connery sex appeal, like a French James Bond villain in the seventies with some chest hair cleavage that would put George Best or Burt Reynolds to shame. I may not be a Kooples campaign star but I can look acceptable with just the bare essentials of make-up; a slick of serum, a dash of moisturiser, a schlap of primer, a generous helping of BB cream, a dollop of Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation, a brushful of Bobbi Brown under-eye Colour Corrector and concealer, ahem, some highlighter, a shovel full of MAC Studio Fix powder, a trowel of mascara, a smattering of blusher, a gentle sweep of eyeshadow in four different colours, a thin line of eye pencil, a veil of lipliner and a dabbing of Please Me MAC lipstick. With just these simple steps, you too can look as mediocre as me.
Some years back, my Polish friend Paula who had lived in French for several years, gave me the book French Girls Don’t Get Fat to teach me the ultimate French paradox. French women eat croissants, smoke and drink coffee but they do not get fat. French girls have roots and throw together an outfit from their perfectly monochrome wardrobes. French girls have an abundance of classic staples, they bake and look phenomenal with just a lick of makeup. I have roots because I am poor. It takes me two hours to perfect the art of off-duty dressing because I am not French. I am Irish and ruddy and my legs resemble corned beef on the third day of leftovers and I have a bluish tinge to my skin that no amount of products can cover. But hey, I’m still smiling and a lot of that is down to my awesome shoes, my uber cool timeless leather jacket and a dress that J-Lo herself would be happy to wear.
Leather jacket: All Saints, approximately €500: previous season, identical here.
Dress: €45 at The Kooples at Kildare Village. Buy in the Kildare Village store or online here.
Boots: €50 on sale (half price) at Office. Exact pair here.
All photos by Steven Paul Richardson.