By Andrea Petrou on February 8th, 2010
Lauren Bravo writes:
I am not a superstitious person. I will walk under ladders. I take great delight in opening umbrellas indoors. I will put shoes on tables, open crisp packets upside down and gleefully skip around safe in the belief that a piano won’t suddenly fall from the sky and crush me under the weight of cosmic misfortune. I stopped believing horoscopes after Shelley Von Strunkel told me I was going to fail my A-levels, causing me a week of panic and the initial moves towards an alternative career as a welder.
No, I am not superstitious. Except, that is, for in one crucial area of life. Shopping.
As anyone who has recently ventured up a British high street will be aware, shopping isn’t the easy, breezy experience it used to be (in, say, the 1830s). For one thing, there’s the eternal sizing debate, which Andrea’s been exploring this past week with her denim inbetweener campaign (click here to complete our ShinyStyle size survey). When you have to make time in your schedule for winching yourself out of clothes you’ve managed to get stuck in (not to mention the inevitable newspaper interviews after the firemen have left the changing room with their cutting equipment), it does limit the potential to source perfect garments. And, y’know, sleep and things.
Then there’s the competitive element. As a general rule, the cheaper you go on the high street, the more aggressive and ruthless the shopping becomes. This is a result of what I like to term the “Treasure Theory”; that nagging feeling, as you stand and look round a crowded store full of discarded sweatpants and unseasonable kaftan tops, that somewhere in there exists a garment which could change your life.
It’s the logic that lies behind shops like TK Maxx and Matalan, convincing us that if we rummage for long enough, and use enough handbag force to elbow other shoppers out of our way, we will find the bargainous Chanel-alike among the sea of lamé prom dresses and pvc jackets. The only thing separating us from that item of dreams is a healthy dose of fashion fate.
Yes, one should never underestimate the role of destiny in shopping. I can’t be the only one who, when debating a purchase, hears the voice of Doris Day drift under the changing room door… “Que Sera, Sera… whatever will be, will be…”. How many times have you seen your perfect skirt being carried by somebody else, and followed them around the shop like a dog, hissing ‘drop it! Drop IT!’? How many times have you justified a pricey purchase with the fact that it is still there in your size, and so it is Meant to Be? How many times have you very nearly worn a dress, then changed on instinct at the last minute, only to turn up at an event finding your ex’s new girlfriend in the dress you nearly wore? That, my friends, is fashion fate.
I’ve suffered my fair share of blows, but last week, shopping destiny dealt me a good hand. Back in December I had seen a studded black jacket in H&M. I had picked it up, gone ‘ooh’, been told by my friend that it felt like lizard scales and was therefore creepy, and put it back on the rail. I thought no more of it. But then, as the days passed, I started to find this jacket suddenly entering my thoughts. It would pop into my mind as I stood in front of the wardrobe every morning. I would think “if I had that studded jacket, I could wear it with that. If I had that studded jacket, it would look perfect with this”, and so on, until I had pretty much convinced myself that the studded jacket was the key to my future happiness.
So then began a mad pursuit of the studded jacket across every H&M in London. Oxford Circus had sold out, Marble Arch had sold out, Regent Street only had it in a size 8. Everywhere I enquired, I got sad, pitying head-shakes, as though the shop assistants knew they were denying me outfit perfection. I trudged the streets for days, from store to store. I started hallucinating studded jackets, seeing them in mirrors and window reflections and draped over small children on buses. Eventually, I gave up and resigned myself to that fact that the studded jacket was not meant to be in my life.
THEN, several weeks later, thoughts of studded jackets entirely out of my head, I was doing a quick after-work shop dash and decided to pop into H&M to buy some earrings. I very nearly didn’t, as I was late, but something in my gut told me to go in (either fate, or a Prêt meatball wrap). So I did, and there, glinting at me across the store, I saw it. It wasn’t even on a hanger, it was just flung across the top of a rail, looking lonely. As I ran towards it, arms outstretched, I convinced myself it wouldn’t be my size. “It will be the ruddy size 8, don’t get your hopes up”, I thought. So imagine my joy when I got there, clutched it in my sweaty palms and discovered it WAS my size! Fashion fate was on my side for once, and the key to styling happiness was finally mine! Oh, wondrous kismet!
(Actually it turns out the jacket doesn’t go with as many things as I thought it would. It’s also a bit too long, and really does feel like lizard skin. But hey, I wouldn’t have swapped that moment for anything).