Kate Bailward

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Elegantly Waisted

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Apparently ladylike fashion is back in again. Now, I’m all for that- tunics and skinny jeans do absolutely nothing for women like me, who have what is known as a ‘classic’ figure – but I’m beginning to notice a disturbing trend. Last night on ‘What Not To Wear’, a dress was described as ‘empire-line’. However, to me it looked as if it was fitted at the waist. For those who don’t know about the various codes of women’s clothing, empire line means that the skirt falls from just below the bust – think Jane Austen and you’ve got it.

Then this morning, as I browsed the online store of a certain well-established women’s clothes shop, I noticed a lovely dress which was also advertised as ‘empire-line’, despite having a belt that sat squarely on the waist. So I decided to check the sizing guide on the website. I quote:

“Waist positions have got lower over the last few seasons, so we don’t tend to wear things fitted into the smallest part of the waist just below the rib cage anymore.

What you’re looking for is your ‘natural waist’. To find it, put your hands just above your hip bones in line with your navel, then measure around at this level.”

Sigh. Now I understand that traditional waist measurements for clothes that sit on one’s hips (as has been the fashion in recent years) are somewhat redundant. However, that is surely why we measure both waist and hips. If the garment doesn’t sit on the waist, then measure the hips instead. Logical, no? Evidently not.

Quite apart from being cause for a rant, though, I’m worried about waistlines dropping. Women through the ages have had to fight to keep everything in the right place as they age. My waist was the one bit of me that I thought was guaranteed to stay put. If it’s now 2 inches lower than I thought it was, what hope for the – er – curvy bits of me? Plus, from the point of view of pure vanity, my ‘natural waist’ is about 6 inches bigger than my proper waist, and up with that I will not put – bring back corsets, I say!

(This post was originally published elsewhere in August 2007)

Written by Kate Bailward

May 14th, 2010 at 10:53 am

Posted in Fashion

Not so edible underwear

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Gentle readers: if you were to go into that bastion of English women’s knickers through the ages, Marks & Spencer, looking for tights/stockings, where would you look first?

If you’re like me, you’d head for the lingerie department, which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago in M&S Oxford Street.  The store is currently undergoing quite a major refurb, so when I couldn’t find the stockings where I expected to find them, I assumed it was because the entire shop is a bit topsy turvy at the moment.  I did think it was a bit odd that they had been moved to the basement, next to the food hall, but was just pleased to have actually found them at all, so didn’t question it too much.

Yesterday I went into Fenchurch Street M&S, again in search of stockings.  Once again, I headed for the lingerie department.  Once again, however, I discovered no nylons.  This store, in contrast with the Oxford Street one, is shiny and new and in full working order – no workmen or dust blowing around – so there seemed no reason for tights to be anywhere other than their rightful place: next to the knickers.  In confusion, I asked a shop assistant, who directed me two floors down.

Into the food hall.

Call me crazy, but I suspect that the person currently responsible for the store layouts in M&S may just be a man.

(Originally published 28 November 2007)

Written by Kate Bailward

May 9th, 2010 at 10:31 am

Posted in Fashion