Where new writing finds its voice
The Pen Pusher

Sartorial Stress

Felicity Cloake

The Disgruntled Ruminations of an Office Worker Meant for Better Things

Summer being in full sweaty swing, it’s that time of year when a young wage slave’s thoughts flit around matters sartorial. Namely, in this current hot and sticky weather, the question of Appropriate Wear For The Office. Of course, some lucky people don’t have a choice in the matter, air conditioning and marble lobbies rendering a well-cut wool suit as appropriate in July as in January. The rest of us, however, if a recent expert survey by yours truly is anything to go by, need a little bit of help. 

Men generally don’t have too much of a problem in this regard. Their innate fashion conservatism means that, whatever the weather, they are generally reluctant to stray from their base uniform of shapeless trouser and innocuous shirt, thereby ensuring that they look dull all year round. Fortunately, unlike their breasted co-workers, they are still reluctant to flash their legs in a professional situation, and shorts have remained firmly the preserve of Saturdays, German ramblers, and the kind of people who thought Nathan Barley was a reality TV show. Beware, however, the three-quarter-length trouser. Do not fall into the trap of believing this to be an acceptable warm weather alternative to its fully-fledged cousin. These pygmy garments are never acceptable, whatever the situation, unless you are under the age of six (in which case, congratulations on your precocious choice of reading matter). Oh, and another thing. Just because you’re male it doesn’t make it OK to flash scrofulous feet about at the first sign of sun. Yes, I pity you for the lamentable choice of summer footwear available to you, all in seventy thousand different shades of brown. But mouldy toenails would look just as disgusting in a Jimmy Choo Roman sandal as in your Clark’s padded numbers. Get thee to the chiropodist. On the face of it, women ought to have an easier time. Given we wear skirts all year round, the small matter of removing the inch-thick black opaques come spring, and remembering to shave the two inches of hair that has accumulated beneath them during the winter, shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But we Brits go mad at the first warm caress of sunlight. Suddenly, just because the mercury’s hit seventy, a knee-length skirt is stifling, and you’re flashing your upper thighs to people you’d remain at your desk an extra ten minutes to avoid bumping into on the Tube. 

I find the word ‘appropriate’, as used in a meaningful tone by my housemistress during my formative years, a useful one here. Can you really take a person in a boob tube seriously, however much she bandies around the word bandeau? Does anybody want to see your buttocks as you poke about trying to spot a paper jam? (Honestly, now.) Generally I tend to adopt her approach in these matters, and ask offenders in a genuinely puzzled tone whether they are planning to visit a discotheque imminently. 

Do remember at this point, that, as a puzzled Finn recently pointed out to me, the British have a devious habit of pointedly commenting on items of clothing they are particularly repulsed by. We are, as a nation, peculiarly drawn to offer
disingenuous observations such as ‘What an interesting micro-skirt!’ or, ‘Where did you get those fascinating stiletto jelly shoes?’, rather than just keeping our mouths shut as (apparently) the rest of the world finds itself able to do. So next time someone stops you by the water cooler to admire those fringed hot pants, it may well be time for a trip Laura Ashley-wards.