Normal for Norfolk?

1661: An illustration – walking past la Fenice, Venice.

I pondered on clothes, as I toddled around Norwich the other day. Not something I do often; well, not other people’s, as I am terminally unobservant, but my eye was caught, twice, in the space of an hour or so, which is sufficiently unusual to remark on.

The first was a woman in a singularly unattractive coat. A shapeless, washed-25-too-many-times, greenery-bluery fleece with an uneven hem, which had been all right for walking the dog when it was new, but now was not good enough for mucking out the pigs. I thought, what a pity, attractive woman: but then I saw the skirt underneath. Oh it was pretty. Silk, patterned, just the right length, the right amount of movement, just right. Why cover it with the first nasty coat that came to hand, just because it might rain? Haven’t you got a suitable jacket? Go on, anything reasonably tailored will do, doesn’t have to be perfect, just not beastly.

The second was another woman. Mid-forties, with husband and a couple of just pre-teen children. Oh, she was perfectly turned-out (a lot of hyphenated words this evening, n’est pas?). Her hair was short and permed and perfectly formed, her slim figure looked as if she exercised rigorously every evening – or, shockingly, before work in the morning – she was, dreadful word, well-preserved. She wore skin-tight jeans and a little embroidered jacket that, together, looked as if she was just trying too hard. And she had on blue eyeliner. Honestly, this is true. Bright blue eyeliner. Aged 43, 45. She looked like a 55-year-old stuck in a timewarp, and yet she could have been really attractive if she had relaxed, taken a little less care and worn less make-up and hairspray.

Do I sound judgmental? I hope not. I’m not so well dressed myself; I hardly bought any clothes for years as it was so much more pleasant to buy things for my children and anything left over went towards books. I’m not much more structured, clothes-wise, now, although I do take more care. But if I got it as wrong as they did, I do hope I’d have the sense to look in the mirror and not go out that day.

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