‘Summer just seems to be an excuse to bare everything that shouldn’t be shown in public’
- Credit: Steve Adams
Last week we had the first true indication that summer might be on the horizon. The sun was out, the birds were singing and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to debut an outfit that had been tucked away in the wardrobe for the last three British summers.
My friend and I met in the city centre on Tuesday morning, both in similar floral dresses, and headed towards the nearest cake shop. After all, conversation is hungry work and there was much to discuss.
In the course of our patisserie-munching adventures that morning, no fewer than three people commented on our outfits – all in a positive fashion, I might add (it made up for having an egg thrown at me last month, but that's a story for another day). How nice it was to see two girls in pretty dresses, how summery we looked and how the fabrics brightened up the morning – all compliments which brought smiles to our faces.
But it was a surprise, too, that our clothes were the subject of note. Is it such a rare thing for a girl to wear a nice dress now as a matter of course?
Sunshine tends to bring out both the best and the worst in women's fashions. Summer can be a tricky time – skirts get shorter, sleeves disappear and you can't swamp your pasty skin in a thick cardigan and tights – and to negotiate it with style and elegance can be tough, especially when caught in an unexpected rainstorm or localised heatwave.
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But for some, summer just seems to be an excuse to bare everything that shouldn't be shown in public – and whatever the weather, there's nothing stylish or elegant about that.
Ladies – I don't care that your stomach is washboard-flat or your bottom as pert as a pair of peaches – I don't want to see it when I'm walking down Unthank Road on a Tuesday morning. It's not because I'm jealous.
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It's not because I'm a feminist, an anti-feminist, a body-shamer or anything else along those lines. I just think it's not particularly elegant and it's totally unnecessary.
Wearing your bra and a pair of shorts so tight that they cut off the circulation is not going to cool you down in the tropical heat of central Norwich. It just shows a complete lack of class.
Over the past few decades, the desire to let it all hang out in public seems to have escalated. Blazing a trail at awards ceremonies and parties come the celebrities, the risqué and famous emulated by the cheap D-list reality-TV 'stars' who delight in wearing as little as possible in the pursuit of notoriety. Inevitably, this filters downward to the high street, and suddenly, fleets of pre-teens are parading around in outfits that are not only inappropriate, but ridiculous – whatever the weather may do.
I don't follow trends – not because I'm so wonderfully alternative, but mainly because I could never get it right if I tried – and often, I'm glad.
Modern fashion leaves me confused and a little distressed. I can remember crop tops from the nineties – they weren't pretty that time around, either – and I still can't get my head around the concept of shorts worn with tights.
Clumpy shoes with thick, spongy soles are another personal bugbear. What happened to the slim, elegant line of a stiletto – or, if you can't cope with heels, a graceful ballet pump? Don't play the comfort card. There's no way that something that looks like a four-inch Stickle Brick stuck on a wellie is comfortable. Especially when it's open-toed, too.
I'm aware of the argument that women should be able to wear what they want without fear of judgement, assault or blame, and although it may not sound that way, I agree.
Freedom of choice is not a luxury, but a necessity. However, it would be nice if that choice was occasionally tempered with good taste and a healthy respect for members of the general public, who may have no wish to see acres of flesh on show at every turn. Maybe that's why, recently, there's been an upsurge of interest in vintage fashion and a fond return to a time when women's clothes accentuated, rather than exposed, the lines of the body beneath.
I can only hope that by this time next summer, we will have grown tired of overblown celebrities prancing around in sheer dresses and skimpy underwear and that fashion will have moved once more towards that elegance and grace which seems to lie forgotten.
Maybe, this time next year, all the girls in the cake shops of Norwich will be wearing floral dresses.
But until then, please keep commenting on my dress. If the sun ever shines again this summer, I'll be sure to wear it again.
•Hannah Colby's column is part of the 'In My View' series in the Norwich Evening News, brought to you in association with Cinema City.