ETCETERA / Home Thoughts

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The Independent Culture
WHEN I was a child, like most children I was sometimes embarrassed by my parents. This embarrassment was usually to do with their clothes. It was the Sixties, and my mother was still in her twenties, and wore some rather wonderful things: a pink and purple mini-skirt from Biba; an even shorter transparent Liberty chiffon dress with swirly brown and orange flowers on it; a long green cotton caftan embroidered with gold thread.

In years to come, I dug these clothes out of packing cases and wore them myself (well, I drew the line at the caftan). But when I was six, they just seemed like terrible things for my mother to be seen in. On one of my birthdays, she took me and my friends to the cinema to see The Amazing Adventures of Dr Doolittle, and she wore something embarrassing - the caftan, I think. One of my friends asked me if my mother always dressed like that. 'Oh no,' I said. 'She thought it was a fancy dress party. The rest of the time she looks normal.'

Normal was twinset and pearls and sensible skirts, like the mother in the 'Janet and John' books. My mother was abnormal, and my father was nearly as bad: he did yoga and stood on his head and talked about Freud and sometimes he wore a purple shirt. And it wasn't only the clothes that were embarrassing: we had a purple kitchen and the bathroom was sprayed silver. I would have preferred a neat house in the suburbs, or a cottage with roses round the front door. Groovy clothes, groovy flat: these I could do without.

Strangely, I liked the clothes my mother dressed me in. A short bottle green dress with ruffles down the front; a silver-crocheted mini-skirt that she knitted herself; and a long stripey dress with bells around the hem that she sewed for a friend's hippy wedding. I thought I was the bee's knees. And I loved the dress she bought for me from the Apple shop, which was owned by the Beatles. It was orange cotton, with tiny little bits of mirrored glass down the front.

When I was a teenager, my friends thought I was terribly lucky to have such hip parents, and I began to recover from those early years of embarrassment. But now I wonder if my son will feel the same way as I did. He already notices what I wear; not long ago, as we were about to go to his best friend's birthday party, he asked me to change out of my jeans. 'Will you wear some lipstick and earrings,' he pleaded. 'And put on a skirt and your clippy- cloppy shoes?' So I did, and he looked so pleased, and I remembered what it felt like to care about your mother's clothes.

But what do I wear that could make him cringe? I'm hardly at the cutting edge of fashion: baggy jumpers and leggings, rather than radical black garments designed by Yohji Yamamoto. Perhaps that's the problem: I'm embarrassingly boring. -

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