Or, ‘Do I look like a children’s entertainer?’
Let me preface this blog by saying that there’s nothing wrong with children’s entertainers.
From Timmy Mallett and Derek Griffiths, to Floella Benjamin and Mr Tumble, animated children’s TV presenters (UK) have entertained my children and me for years.
Their bright clothes and jolly persona radiate joy and positivity.
In stark contrast to me, Anna the Goth, who has hidden behind a costume of black since discovering ‘The Cure’ at 15 and that dark colours hide a multitude of sins.
A former boss warned me never to wear black next to my face after a certain age. I was 32 at the time and wondered what that mythical number was. 35? 40? 50?
Concerned, I began to experiment with colourful scarves and snoods.
Asking me to drape a silk scarf with the effortless elegance of Margo from ‘The Good Life’ is disastrous. I’m just not designed for such coordination.
Creating this ensemble took up a whole morning…
Cosmetically coordinated things I cannot do at 49
1. tie a neck scarf like a Pan Am air stewardess 2. drape a pashmina over my shoulders Grace Kelly style 3. dance the grapevine or wear Lycra successfully 4. fold a swan napkin 5. braid a French plait, Dutch plait or any plait 6. tie a 1940s headscarf like Goldie Hawn in ‘Swing Shift’ 7. Stay inside the edges when painting my nails 8. apply makeup without looking like Bette Davis in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ 9. cut a fringe without it getting lopsididly higher and higher 10. glue on false eyelashes.
More on my failed attempts to create swans, plaits and headscarves in this blog.
Colour me beautiful
Just before I accepted my grey, my typical look in my 40s was a warm, neutral palette of medium brown hair, brown lipstick (orangey red if on a night out), bronzer and/or fake tan. I had, however, swapped my uniform of black for autumnal tones.
But once I grew out the grey, my go to warm colours no longer suited me.
With my naked, pallid skin, I looked washed out. To be fair, I’ve always had a Dickensian pallor.
It was time, as Bridget Jones’ mother would say, to: “get my colours done.”
A former colleague has left her career in finance to become colour guru. She has the super power to tell what season you are just by walking in the room with a colour swatch, mood board and your bank details.
On a budget, I used free online tools to identify my place on the colour spectrum.
Turns out I’m a Bright or True Winter. I had been doing it all wrong. Instead of strolling around like an October sunset, I should be wearing bold jewel colours. Think of a box of ‘Quality Street’.
I replaced my uniform of black with bright, vivid colours to complement my Winter colouring.
I took the colour wheel and exploded it. I clashed those bright colours harder than Duran Duran in the ‘Rio’ video or an episode of ‘Fraggle Rock’.
I turned up to my friend’s wedding in a fuchsia dress, cobalt blue shrug and emerald shoes.
“I wasn’t aware it was fancy dress,” my aunt remarked, as I sauntered in like the entertainment ready to perform ‘Josephine and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’.
To counterbalance the corpse look that I embraced so eagerly as a teenage Goth, I have started wearing makeup and clothes so bold, that it makes shrinking violets of British TV royalty, Su Pollard and Pat Butcher.
I wore this red and green vintage jacket to a meeting, teamed with a green dress. A colleague remarked how I’d brought Christmas to the office. In September. Good job I did not wear the yellow salopettes then.
I considered adopting a Joe Pesci style “do I amuse you?” tirade, but settled on: “I like to spread good cheer wherever I go!”
I started following style influencer Trinny to embrace by inner rainbow.
With her swan neck and gazelle-like legs, Trinny can carry off just about any look.
Barely 5ft, I’d be swamped if I wore Trinny’s coveted trouser suits. Playing dress up, like the Tom Hanks character in ‘Big’ when he reverts back to a child in a man’s suit. If I thought ‘Back to the Future’ was dodgy in this blog don’t even get me started on ‘Big’!
I also wear lots of silver to match my hair, and I’ve previously written about looking like a cyborg in this blog.
The power of the Dark Side
Black outfits whisper to me from the wardrobe wasteland of abandoned culottes, cold shoulder tops and playsuits.
The sombre black clothes hang eerily, cries echoing across the rail, like bats huddling in the dark recesses of my wardrobe.
OK, full disclosure. I own a white IKEA ‘PLATSA’ wardrobe that’s more Pomeranian than beast of prey, but I’m trying to create a Gothic portrait.
Black plays Jedi mind tricks to lure me to the Dark Side, like Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.
Darth Vader: “Join me, and I will complete your wardrobe! With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to your clothes rail.”
Anna Dyestalker: [angrily] “I’ll never join you!”
Darth Vader: “If only you knew the power of the Dark Side! Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your colour.”
Anna Dyestalker: “He told me enough! He told me you killed it!”
Darth Vader: “No. I am your colour!”
Anna Dyestalker: [shocked] “No… No! That’s not true! That’s impossible!“
Darth Vader: “Search your feelings, you know it to be true!”
Anna Dyestalker: [overwhelmed, crying] “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! NOOOO…!!“
Beep beep, Anna
Just how much is too much? When you’re asked if the circus is in town or when your outfit could ground a flight?
I’m a little worried I might have gone too far. Venturing into the big tent as a Butlin’s Red Coat or Pennywise the Clown. In my head, I look as sharp as Mrs Maisel, but in reality, I’m more Mrs Overall (another UK reference, sorry).
I have created a garish caricature.
There are video tutorials of course, demonstrating which cuts and colours are most flattering for our age, season, size and shape. Advice on how to apply lipstick and lipliner without looking like The Joker (I have yet to master this trick).
Should I tone it down? I was so beigely invisible for years, that I’m loathed to be a dull, yet reliable, Rich Tea biscuit when I could be a jazzy Party Ring.
I’m worried I resemble a dystopian character out of The Hunger Games. Or Bingo from ‘The Banana Splits’.
I am a child of the 80s, a decade of Wham! Madonna and dayglo, but have I strayed from my Goth and Indie roots?
I wonder what Morrissey would think of this vulgar picture. But then I see him in an electric blue blazer with silver lapels and realise we all evolve.
As I age, I have no intention of dressing to hide. I’m taking a leaf out of Vivienne Westwood’s book and going full-on theatrical, duckie.
To quote the 101-year- old Iris Apfel “Life is grey and dull, so you might as well have a little fun when you dress,” and: “Colour can raise the dead.”