over heard by Claire Gervat in Top Shop Oxford Circus

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The Independent Culture
Saturday afternoon at Top Shop, Oxford Circus.

It's raining outside but in here it's heaven for teenage girls: racks of trendy clothes and wall-sized video screens pumping out cool music. Deep in the heart of the communal changing rooms, girlfriends do their best to offer moral support.

A tall girl with long black hair tries on a long black dress. "How do you get this thing on?" She struggles a bit more. "Oh my God, I look like a witch." "Put it on properly then," the friend comments. "I have put it on properly... But it's too short. It

looks really tradge."

Over in the corner someone struggles to do up the zip on a bright pink mini: "Well, it's a bit tight, but I really like it and it's the only size 12 left. Anyway, I need to lose some weight." Others prefer to cram themselves in. A pleasantly rounded Australian snorts, "Their sizes must be hugely small. Either that or I've put on tons of weight."

A slender girl studies herself in the mirror. She's trying on a pair of peach satin wide-leg trousers. What does the friend think? "I love the shiny material. Does it feel funny when you walk?" "No. Does my bum stick out?"

It's not all schoolgirls. A thirtysomething bottle blonde, with her mother, is assessing a banana-coloured suit. "This is great, really smart. As long as I don't wear black knickers underneath..."

Some mothers make the mistake of shopping with their adolescent offspring. One daughter tries on two remarkably similar fawn cardigans. The mother does her diplomatic best. "Well, I prefer the other one, but if you really like this one... Would you like meto buy you both?" Another mother is less restrained. Eyeing up the armful of clothes her child has chosen, she wails, "Don't you ever wear anything but black?"

Short skirts (very short, more like pussy pelmets) are obviously in. But not with everyone. A pastel tweed pinafore provokes a cry of "God, it makes me look pregnant. And you can see my knickers underneath!" Short jumpers are also in. "But it's a bit short. I mean, it's hardly worth having."

Towards the end of the afternoon desperation sets in. A petite blonde pulls on a silver mini skirt. It doesn't look good. "But I've got to get something. Otherwise I won't have anything to wear to the party tonight."

Taking a pal isn't always a good idea. A pretty brunette has put on a very, very boring plain grey T-shirt. "Oh, that's exactly you," breathes the (shortly-to-be-ex) friend.

Meanwhile, a plump girl (who isn't going to have much luck finding clothes for herself in this place) says to her mate, with exasperation, "But Jen, what are you actually looking for...?" "Clothes."