Very excitingly, I have been invited to a glamorous party in London next week (at least, it sounds glamorous to me, although maybe I’m being provincial and invitations to publishers’ parties are two a penny to my metropolitan sisters in the south). Anyway, Pan Macmillan are holding a party to celebrate women’s fiction, at the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden, and like Cinderella, I will go to the ball.
Unlike Cinderella, I have no fairy godmother to wave a wand and supply me with just the right outfit for the occasion. The Sanctuary is a women only spa and the last time I went, admittedly more than 25 years ago, none of us wore anything at all. I’m guessing it will be a different dress code this time, but what?
I so wish I was one of those women who don’t give the matter of what to wear a moment’s thought until a few minutes before they go out, at which point they pull out the perfect little dress from their wardrobes, or even better, throw together a funky mix of vintage and cheap’n’cheery that looks fabulous. Whenever I ask them where they got any of it, the reply is always something along the lines of “Oh, this old thing? I got it from M&S”, or “I picked it up at a market in Rajasthan” or something equally infuriating. I never see any of these supposed bargains when I go shopping.
I have, it is true, a wardrobe full of clothes, but none of them ever seem to be quite what I need. So instead of being properly thrilled at the prospect of a party, I am fretting about the eternal problem of what to wear.
When I went before, the Sanctuary was tropically warm inside, with parrots flying around over the palm trees. I suppose they might have updated the decor in 25 years, but surely it's a place for casual dress - but at 6.30 in the evening, presumably most people will be going from work, in which case they might be quite smart (unless they're other writers who get to slob around in comfy elasticated waist trousers all day). I’m taking train from York and coming back same night, which means I need to wear something warm enough and comfortable enough for 4 hours on the train, but light enough and smart enough for party. You see my problem.
On top of which, I want to look as if I haven’t tried too hard, and give the impression that yah, I go to publishing parties all the time as I run my fingers through my blonde tresses. (Curses, too late to get new streaks put in). On the other hand, I will be the new girl, so should make an effort … oh, dear, it's all so difficult.
I keep buying dresses, only to take them back the next day when I realise I can’t carry them off. I was determined not to wear black, as it’s so safe, and have been fantasising about a wrap dress in just the right shade of scarlet, although can I find one in York? There are plenty of wrap dresses around, and even red ones, but they’ve got silly patterns or are the wrong length or don’t fit right … Yesterday, I went for a completely different look and brought home a slinky blue dress from L.K. Bennett, but this one was vetoed by Senior Style Advisor because she doesn’t like swirls, while Chief Plotting (and Style) Advisor doubted whether I had the chutzpah to carry it off. Sadly true.
So then I decided I was being ridiculous, had wasted enough time on the matter, and should just find something to wear from my wardrobe. Out came the old favourites to be thrown over the bed, but it’s funny how tired everything looks after a few months go by … I had a pretty dress from Hobbs last summer, which would do except for the fact that it’s January now, and as CPA pointed out, the exact same dress has been hanging around on the sale rails for weeks now.
Or I could go ethnic in sludge green, or comfortable with leggings and a forgiving top from Sahara, but I was sharply slapped down for this suggestion: “enough of the leggings already. If this is a party you need to wear a party outfit, with heels FFS.”
The upshot of all this style consultation was that I will be playing it safe and going in – guess what? – a black dress. Never mind, at least the decision is made, and as my mother always pointed out “Nobody’s interested in you, dear”, (not realising that was precisely what I was worried about). So now I just need to fret about finding someone to talk to at the party. Maybe the parrots will take pity on me.