On the floor: Why it's no fun being a smart girl

on the floor
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"And another thing ..." Freddie's comment about how women get away with wearing what they want has obviously touched a raw nerve with Marlene, and nothing Rory can say will deflect her from her mission to knock sense into the boy. So all week, just when we think she might have finally forgotten about it, she keeps piping up, "and another thing ..."

I suspect her obsession with the City's ludicrously unreconstructed dress codes for women is closely related to her addiction to extremely fine and hugely expensive hosiery. It seems that a former, very generous, boyfriend used to shower her with whisper-thin confections from Fogal, and though she was able to wean herself off the man well enough, it turns out she's unable to drop the tights, so to speak. So while the rest of us curse and head for M&S when we get a run in our stockings, she has to make a special trip to Knightsbridge and shell out the price of a good dinner. If she could wear trousers, it would cut her clothes bill in half.

I must confess that even after a week of pondering, I'm still puzzled by this unspoken ban on trousers. Laura and I have considered every possibility: can put hand up woman's skirt; no stockings and suspenders under trousers; would wear flats instead of those sexy spindly high heels.

On the other hand, the boys might have realised that if Marlene and I, at least, had flat heels instead of our usual 3in, we wouldn't be able to look down on them as we do now, which would also deprive us of a great pleasure.

Be that as it may, there's no time I resent City dress codes more than when I have to go out in the evening straight from work. It's all right if I'm meeting a friend in a wine bar near the office, since everyone else is still in business clothes. But three times in the past week I've had to go to dinner parties at friends' homes without going home to change down first, and three times I've been the token suit in a room full of arty types.

Take Sasha's supper party. Sasha's mother and mine chummed up at their antenatal classes and have more or less inflicted us upon each other ever since. We've pretty much nothing in common these days: she's still at art college, as are most of her friends, studying jewellery-making or glass engraving or something equally useful, and is permanently broke. But we keep in touch, meet up from time to time, compare lifestyles, appreciate our own a little more afterwards, and if I'm going to her place I dress as artily as I can.

But on Monday I was stuck at work until gone eight, so I arrived at Sasha's late, flustered - and wearing a suit. Now, I don't think Sash or her friends have ever seen anyone their own age in a suit before, and you could tell they didn't much like it from the barrage of questions that greeted me. What time did I get up in the morning? Six? Weird. What hours did I work? Seven till seven? Too much. Did I always have to dress smartly? Yes? Freaky. I felt like a duck-billed platypus under the gaze of the first European settlers ("You mean you're a mammal, but you've got webbed feet? Urgh. Weird.").

It wasn't what you'd call the most enjoyable night of my life. Still, Sasha was incredibly apologetic the next day when I rang to say thanks for the vegetable curry. "God, sorry we were so funny with you. It's just that you look so different in those clothes, like a grown-up. Jez and Billy didn't even recognise you at first."

"Yeah, yeah, I know."

"Anyway," she went on, "why on earth did you make a point of taking Beanie's number? He was the worst of all of us. He had no right to call you a capitalist bitch."

"No," I replied. "But I'm having a supper party next week, just a few City friends. I thought Beanie might like to come along ..."