Ready To Wear: The real beauty of carnival is being happy in your own skin

 

Unlike many of the residents of London's Notting Hill, I stay put at carnival time. No escaping to sunnier or rural climes for me on the occasion of this, the biggest street party of the year.

Instead, it feels only right and proper to embrace the occasion and living in the middle of it has the advantage of making it possible to drop in and out of any festivities without travelling for miles, queuing for hours or being crushed in a crowd. Those who visit from far and wide for the privilege of being part of it might not unreasonably argue that people peeing in the drain outside my front door or in my dustbin for two days is a small price to pay and nothing that a summer shower of the heaven-sent variety won't sort out. And they'd be right.

There are limits, however, to my communal spirit. It is safe to say that I won't be found in feathered head-dress or fringed bikini giving it my all on a float. Regular readers of this column will know that my style is rather more understated than that. That does not mean there isn't a small part of me that wishes I were more of a peacock. I can dream, at least, and gaze in wonderment at less self-conscious souls who make carnival a brilliantly beautiful place to be.

My favourite thing? These are not women – or indeed men – who rely on being either pencil thin, preternaturally tall or studiously aloof to carry their clothes.

There's no slouchy posturing going on here. It makes no difference whether those centre stage are young or old. The best-looking people at carnival are the ones most comfortable in their skins, who wear their costumes, many of which have been worked on for weeks and even months, with pride regardless of their shapes or sizes. This is about breaking rules and not po-faced conformity, about vivid colour and embellishment so homespun and heavy on sparkle it stops the traffic. Literally. Carnival decrees dancing and generally making merry in one's clothes is top priority. It seems to me there's a lesson to be learned here and it's a happy one for all involved.

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