Helen Martin: What to wear? Don’t sweat it

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THE average woman spends almost a year of her life between the ages of 16 and 60 deciding what to wear. Well, that’s a relief. I’m not “average” – and I don’t think I know anyone who is, not since the days of hot pants, floppy-brimmed hats and white plastic boots.

That’s the last time I can remember spending more than a matter of seconds choosing an outfit – and that won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows me.

I have wardrobes stuffed full of clothes from designer label evening gowns to floaty tops, jeggings, denim skirts, T-shirts and dresses. A handful of them even fit me.

The majority have been in there untouched for so long that I could write my name in the dust on the shoulders. It’s not quite Miss Haversham . . . no spiders yet, but given how long it takes for dust to settle inside a wardrobe, it must be years at least.

It’s partly laziness and partly fear. By the time I ditch every item that is too short or too tight, everything that belongs in the last century, and everything that was acquired before the bingo wings or the wrinkled décolletage moved in, there will be nothing left.

The upside is that “choosing an outfit” for anything from work to a dinner party or a holiday wardrobe takes no time at all. There’s nothing to choose from. If it fits and is even vaguely appropriate, it’ll do.

Nor is it just that I am a sad old fat bird who never goes out. I do, sometimes. But even when I was young and thin, shopping was my idea of Hell.

I had friends who regarded it as a social, girlie outing. They could spend all day trudging round various emporia, stopping for coffee or a glass of wine, then launching themselves at another street, credit card at the ready.

I had one friend for whom lack of money was no object. She’d go window shopping instead, gathering “intelligence” for the next time she had dosh. I horrified her once when she decided to take me out shopping for the day. In shop number one I took my usual shortcut by pointing at a store dummy in an ensemble and asking the shop assistant to pack me “everything on that in my size”.

Life, I explained to my bewildered shopaholic pal, was too short to spend in a changing room.

The survey by Matalan into that wasted year of a woman’s life said women spend 16 minutes every weekday morning deciding what to wear.

Who are these creatures of luxury, who, while I am feeding the dog, loading the dishwasher, making the bed, filling the laundry basket and rustling up a sandwich for lunch before heading for work in my only clean jeans and a shirt, are dreamily flicking through their orderly hangers and selecting matching accessories?

They also spend 52 minutes making up their mind what clothes to take on holiday. What? Ten minutes is more than enough to fill the miniscule tote bag that fits in the budget airline test frame. Fill your pockets with clean pants and the job’s done. Anything else can be bought on the Costa – quickly.

Amazon’s pot calling kettle..

SO Amazon warns Tom and Jerry cartoons, especially those featuring the black housemaid, “may depict ethnic and racial prejudices once commonplace in American society . . . that were wrong then and are wrong today”. Judging the past from the present is arrogant and patronising. Would a child today even recognise that Mammy Two Shoes was a maid, or assume the lady of the house was white?

Are they going to warn viewers about The Merchant of Venice, Oliver!, cowboy movies, British sit-coms of the 60s, and period dramas portraying women as empty-headed creatures who stitched samplers and held tea parties... all representative of their time?

We no longer condone racism, homophobia or anti-semitism but it still happens. We still steal land and resources from indigenous peoples and though women have the vote and careers, many are still sexually exploited. We now use cruel and intensive farming methods and half the species on the planet are disappearing on our watch.

And while multi-nationals still don’t pay their proper tax, we can do without moral lectures from Amazon.

Arrogance was the big retailers’ downfall

MAJOR supermarkets were thought to be ahead of the game thanks to all the computerised market information they collected and studied.

But they overlooked that they were at the centre of a perfect storm. They didn’t react quickly enough to the recession, leaving the budget stores an open goal. They worried more about their shareholders than their customers. They squeezed domestic suppliers to breaking point on prices while trumpeting about Fair Trade overseas.

They were complacent, relying on shoppers’ brand snobbery, a dying trait.

Over-dependence on technology and data, plus board members who often knew zilch about shop-keeping, led to an ongoing haemorrhage of trade to Aldi and Lidl. They had it coming.

Police with guns right off target

GREAT that Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has reversed his decision to have Scottish police routinely toting guns. But it’s seriously frightening that he ever thought he had the power to unilaterally order it in the first place.