When a city suit is just too much

mail-order junkie by Genevieve Fox

Next week I plan to dazzle God, a priest and a bewildered babe- in-arms with a stomper of an outfit. It is my godson's christening and the ritualistic dousing is to be followed by a picnic in Cowdray Park in Sussex. It will be all frothing horses, flying corks and awkward sitting positions, so I need something dressy but also cas and practical. And from what I hear, the godfathers could do with some dressing up, too. The only thing for it is linen suits.

"Looking for the perfect answer for those occasions when a city suit is too much and anything else is too little?" asks the Boden catalogue. Yes, yes. Mail-order shopping: what a utopia of instant solutions. I flick the pages and chance upon Charlie the shepherd with a camel in his face. Charlie is just one of the unlikely real-life friends and customers used to model Boden's "quality" clothes. Jeremy the pig farmer models a dapper stone linen suit which, at a mere pounds 165, is the answer to your prayers, gentlemen. Throw in a pounds 45 russet linen waistcoat and you will be the talk of the turf. As for the women's navy linen trouser suit, at pounds 135 it looks to good to be true. Consider it ordered.

Wealth of Nations does a nice line in drawstring linen trousers for pounds 60 with matching unisex shirt at pounds 65. These are from Croatia, but its clothes are made everywhere from Rajasthan to Guatemala. They are chosen for their "usefulness in modern life" and "traditional virtues". But they are not formal enough. Same drawback with the ethnic and willowy frocks from Monami.

There is nothing much happening on the linen suit front in the Next directory, though it has some classic linen shirts for pounds 34.99, endless unisex grandad shirts, and a striking plum linen-mix jacket for men at pounds 69.99. It is the Nicole Farhi range that gets me reaching, breathless, for the telephone. Not strictly mail-order, it has a brochurette which has no prices. If you knew the prices you wouldn't order anything anway. But the women's fitted lilac linen jacket (pounds 299) and trousers (pounds 139) are quietly dazzling. As for the men's gingham check jacket (pounds 359) and two-pleat trousers (pounds 179), they're enough to tempt the priest away from his vestments.

And so to Racing Green. How apt. The clothes, like the models, are wholesome and clean-cut. So I figure that if I opt for the single-breasted linen "hacking" jacket in spearmint (pounds 99) and natty tapered trousers for pounds 49, worn over a powder-pink linen shirt for pounds 38, I too will look wholesome and healthy while roughing it in some field. I'll recommend the men do the same in the Graham Greene-esque linen suits in pampas or oak at pounds 184 all in.

Incidentally, no maltreatment of tomatoes nor any stowaway unsolicited delicacies to report re last week's Food Ferry tele-supermarket delivery. The pounds 3.50 plus VAT carriage charge was waived because it was my first order. One dinner guest was unimpressed. "Totally immoral and decadent," she hissed, as the food was carried up two flights of stairs, refrigerator goods in a cool box, veg in a cardboard one. "Spells the end of the local grocer." Later, as I tucked into my tortelloni al funghi, with neither a sweatmark nor a parking ticket to show for it, her voice was but a murmur in the breeze.

Boden 0181-964 2662; Wealth of Nations 0171- 371 5333; Monami 0181- 961 8334; Racing Green 0345 331177; Nicole Farhi 017-499 7522; Next 0345 100 500; Food Ferry 0171-498 0827

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