Harriet Walker: Can you combine comfort with cool?

Related Topics

Another season of shows passed, all with more worrying new trends to analyse than a government-official's notebook, and yet another shopping list to draw up. I've made a pact with myself only to buy things I don't need from now on – and that's not me being all cool and off-the-wall, it's purely pragmatic.

You see, what I really need is a new dressing gown. My current model – I think it's Marks & Spencer autumn/ winter 2003 – is sky-blue with hot-chocolate smears, tea-bag splash marks, dirty, grey cuffs and – inexplicably for so determinedly indoor a garment – a hood. It's also now about three sizes too small, so, when stretched across my girth and tied, it gives me the aspect of a barrel or medieval friar.

I also need some new slippers. I already have some blue booties, with soles as slippery as a freshly caught tuna, which cause me Charlie Chaplin pratfalls on our non-friction, bourgeois seagrass-carpeted stairs at home. I have to keep them in the cupboard with the boiler when I'm not wearing them, because their smell is so awful and all-pervasive.

But the reason I haven't replaced any of these hallowed and harrowed items is as watertight as the many, many, multifarious and complex reasons that I regularly come up with to justify buying other new clothes that I really don't need. It is this: simply, if I buy a new dressing gown or some comfy slippers, I might never get dressed or leave my house again. I once had some cashmere bed socks that I had to throw away, because they made getting out of bed so traumatic. Wearing them was a near-religious experience.

It's hard enough parting ways with my dressing gown in the morning, crunchy and snug as it is, without investing in a new super-soft acrylic number that fits me perfectly and feels like wearing a baby cloud. It's hard enough jamming my feet into shoes, boots, sometimes even heels, without having a pair of luxury ermine-lined Snugg boots staring balefully at me from the corner of the room.

There's simply no way to combine comfort with cool – that's the eternal problem. My loungewear pin-up has for some time been Sandra Bullock, who in the film Crash effortlessly showcases a whole range of chic-looking tracksuits. But if you don't have the rippling Hollywood haunches to go beneath them, it's all too easy to look more Crouch End than high-end.

"All you need to do," my boyfriend explained slowly, "is find some comfortable clothes that you can wear at home and down the pub." Simply impossible, I argued. He proved his point by buying a capacious hoodie from a trendy shop. After two weeks or more of wearing it morning and night, he stopped dead in his tracks next to the mirror in the hall. "It's like maternity-wear, isn't it?" he asked, horrified. "I've bought an easy, comfy maternity jumper." I haven't seen it since.

So I battle on with what I have, and invest ever more of my overdraft in uncomfortable outré garb which seems to have as its chief raison d'être the crushing of innards and the hampering of mobility. Recent purchases include a long, tubular skirt that climbs my legs with the speed of the squirrel in the Carling Black Label advert the minute I take a step, and a sweater made from knitted, transparent mesh that looks great but acts like a cheesewire to elbows that lean on a desk for much of the day.

I've since bought a second long skirt (it's this season's key piece, you know, so it makes sense to have a few). The tubular one was so narrow that, when I wasn't pulling it down from where it had sprung up to under my armpits, I was walking around on tiptoe or goose-stepping. And so many high-street offerings were so clearly made for people a lot shorter than me that they swung around my ankles at half-mast. In the end, I had to go all the way to Stockholm, where people are tall and skirts are swishy, to find the perfect model. I went for other reasons too, I'll add, and I did in fact notice some rather nice dressing gowns while I was there.

Still, these challenging high-fashion purchases have enhanced my life, I argue, much more than anything more homely might have done. My brother-in-law gave me a Slanket for Christmas (it's a blanket with sleeves, if you don't know, and a frontal pocket to stash the remote control) and I've had to work late and go out every night just to avoid its siren call.

But there's no better social stimulus than some new-season fashion treats, especially with this summer's emphasis on vivid and vivacious brights. You don't pull on hot-pink trousers just to sit on the sofa, after all; they're a conversation piece. "Oh, look at your hot-pink trousers," your friends will say, envious of your sartorial boldness. "Oh, these old things?" you can reply smugly. "You don't think they're too bright, do you?"

It's important to give yourself whatever fashionable pep you can at this time of year because, while it might be Slanket weather now, it'll be summer soon, and then autumn again, quicker than you can say "egg-stained cardigan".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?