Regrets, they have a few

You're rich, you're famous, you have Fashion Victim Fever. Don't despair, Annalisa Barbieri is here to help
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Indy Lifestyle Online
LAST week Elizabeth Hurley turned up at Elizabeth Taylor's 65th party with that outfit. The outfit was lacey and see-through. That's the good news - both very big, very happening style statements. The bad news is that she looked awful in it - it was mis-matched, too busy, made her waist look wide and her breasts crestfallen. Had she been a supermarket item, she'd have been in the "mark down" bin. And the really sad news is that it was the outfit's fault. She didn't need to look like that.

Just because something is "in" it doesn't mean that its trendiness will eclipse the fact that it doesn't suit you. Princess Diana proved this to spectacular effect when she wore that blue Galliano slip to the Costume Institute Ball last December. This is what being a fashion victim is all about, following style bible tips so slavishly that you lose sight of your age and body shape. So why do they do it?

If you look back at people with true style - Grace Kelly, Katherine and Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis - you will see that their look was classic. Never particularly in, ergo never really out. Fashion Victim Fever (FVF) strikes people with a) little imagination and b) little confidence. Sarah Ferguson should be president of the FVF support group. She visited Sothebys some years back wearing a puffball-skirted dress - surely one of the most wicked, wicked fashions inflicted on women since foot binding. Not only that but it was worn with pink shoes and a matching sunburnt chest.

Gloriously, men score minus points too. Cycle shorts - circa late Eighties - must have become popular because men thought it would make them look sporty, not to mention the bonus cling around the crotchy potchy area. Not so. Tight Lycra around a flabby bottom, thighs and finger of fudge domain, only served to show the wearer as a sad, youth-clinging individual. Did they never look at their bottoms in a mirror? And what about those awful big, fringey business scarves worn around the neck, Spandau Ballet- style? I know a man who continued wearing one until last year. He must have, at some point, pulled a bird in it. Hair is another area that men excel at: look at Bob Geldof's goatee (wasn't his chin long enough already?) or Mick Hucknall's "I'm such a dude" dreadlocks.

So how can you avoid FVF? First, avoid extremes (flares that are too flared, platforms so high your blood thins) or anything that tries too hard to be sexy (you'll look like you haven't had a shag in months).

But the road to style inferno is not always so clearly signposted. I'll say two words to you: cropped tops. Mmm. They look innocent enough. But not as many people as they think can wear them. It's all very well standing in front of your mirror at home with your arms high above your head, but when your body returns to its normal posture... Let's call to the stand Tamara Beckwith wearing not only a cropped top but also satin trousers. Anyone old enough to remember that famous Grange Hill satin trouser-clad bottom scene will know that satin trousers are for girls who haven't started their periods yet.

Money, breeding, access to catwalk shows - none of these protect one from FVF. Of course no one can get it right all the time, and we can all have a go at trying out new looks, but next time you spot someone who is convinced they've got it right, and that they are better than you because of it, laugh, and laugh loudly.

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