“It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier.” Lemony Snicket. The Slippery Slope
And even that might be debateable Mr Lemony Snickett, where deep sea diving equipment at a fancy dress party, or two large pillows at a pyjama party might go down rather well, and be anything but a slippery slope. But when deciding what is right or wrong to wear to a party so many thoughts rush in, bounce off our hearts, ricochet off our heads, flash back from the bedroom mirror and kick us in the danglers, or wherever your personal, painful place might be.
Who else will be there? What might they wear? Should I entirely fit in, entirely stand out, or walk the impossible line in between? Do I feel brave today, brave enough for something neon? Am I afraid today and hiding, in an undergrowth of beige? Should I be smart, because everyone else will be smart? Should I be casual because everyone else will be casual? Should I be smart because everyone else will be casual and so be more visible in my smartness? That’ll show them! But they won’t care anyway will they? Am I too old for these trainers? Am I too young for this hat? Should I shave, or be grizzly? Big silver ring? Small gold ring? Tie, scarf, cravat…velvet, corduroy, flannel…Fisher, Dogger, German Bight? And so the wardrobe vomits a lifetime of fashion gluttony, and as if by the darkest of magic, my carpet disappears.
That’s why they made them, to make it easy to decide what to wear, whoever they were that made the rules: the Elders of the Cloth; The Druids of the Duds; the Once and Future Kings of a Long Forgotten Style. And Bryan Ferry. They made the rules for this very moment. Hedges, quickly, hand me my dress code manual. So, no checks with stripes. Check. No chocolate with navy. Good. Chapter Three, ‘The Expanding Physics of the Horizontal Stripe’ Chapter Four, thank the Lord, ‘The slimming properties of Black’. Brogues mean a single breasted jacket, yes, but a Loafer can require something more double breasted. Now we’re getting somewhere, is the pain lifting a little, can we see through the fog of self-doubt?
Well of course there’s no chance, everything is wrong to wear to a party once your bottle has gone. We may as well rock up in deep sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows; at least if we keep the helmet on, with the pillows over the top, no one will have a clue who the hell we are. But there is hope, and I was reminded of it last night by the lovely Margaret, and the gorgeous insanity of her husband’s dress code. We will call him Gerald, because that’s his real name.
I have been noticing him for some time, wafting into the bar in entirely riotous attire. In his seventies I’d say, and still breaking every rule in the book. Last night we were treated to the most chequered of shirts, with the stripiest tie. Flaming red loons sat above a cream slip on silver badged moccasin. And all was wrapped in an aggressive orange tweed over coat, from the Hebridean Island of Dunny Giyafook.
And it all worked, in a so wrong it’s entirely right and supremely original kind of way. How can that be I wondered, as the brandy finally had its way with me and I drifted off, radio on, to the reassuring murmur of the shipping forecast?
It worked, because it was him. Because he was measured, calm, and with all the self-assurance of a proper gentleman. Because forty five years later he still adored his wife, and she clearly rather liked him. While his outfit shouted, he spoke quietly. There was balance, order, and a gentle certainty.
So what does Gerald teach us? That if we carry ourselves with care and some consideration Mr Lemony Snickett, it doesn’t matter what is right or wrong to wear to a party. Be it deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, a little measure and decency will always avoid, the Slippery Slope.