Carola Long: 'When the heavens opened, many a look was spoilt by an umbrella with a pattern akin to a pub carpet'

Non-fashion people (as the rest of the world is known during the microcosmic bubble of weirdness that is the international collections) never seem to believe that going to shows is hard work. Well, it is. And actually it's not just the late nights, early mornings and traversing a city six times before lunch – it's also the stress of what the hell to wear.

Perhaps some people really are too naturally chic to give it any thought. The rest of us, however, attempt to try and dress in a way that, while it might not get us photographed by 'The Sartorialist', will at least escape the kind of judgemental looks that could freeze volcanic lava.

So the shows start, you've got a few trophy pieces, a bag that would cost the same as a Caribbean holiday if you hadn't found it at a sample sale, and some passable Zara substitutes for Rick Owens/Celine and you're feeling pretty darn fly. What you haven't bargained for, however – and here is where the experience becomes universal – is 'things that let down your look'. Unplanned bursts of scruffiness that ruin an ensemble faster than you can say 'red-wine stain'.

First faux pas: bad umbrellas. When the heavens opened at London Fashion Week in February, many a look was spoilt by a bedraggled umbrella with wonky spokes or a pattern akin to a pub carpet. Smarten up with a Marc by Marc Jacobs pink leopard version (netaporter.com, £40), or visit brolliesgalore.co.uk. Next up, leaving the price tag on your shoes. Smug if they were expensive, embarrassing if they weren't. Remove. Then there's a functional wallet. Most fashion folk have this covered, but after I hastily picked up a nylon purse thing from around the house in which to hold my euros at Milan fashion week, my friend Alice drily enquired if I had been camping. Alas, this wasn't helped by using a rucksack as hand luggage. The solution? A stylish wallet such as Lara Bohinc's art deco Tatjana in navy (£259, 020-7730 8194, below) or a very ladylike pink purse by Vivienne Westwood (£100, netaporter.com) and a Barbour leather holdall; a timeless investment at £199 (barbourbymail.co.uk). Yes, the devil is in the detail.E

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