Harriet Walker: 'Don't ever look ropey – just in case!'

Related Topics

What you wear in your dreams is very important. While in the pub with my fashion friend last week, she narrated a gruesome piece of night-time mind cinema, in which she'd been assaulted in a handicrafts shop by some girls she was at school with. "The worst part," she explained, "wasn't that I couldn't find the right colour of wool or that they were being so vile to me; it was when I realised I was wearing a horrible, horrible coat. And there was nothing I could do about it. I was saying, 'This isn't my coat, honest,' but they just didn't believe me."

I felt genuine sorrow for her. It's one thing to be accidentally caught looking off-duty by a friend or an ex-friend or even a frenemy – at which point I like to run and hide. Recently, having spotted someone I really, really, completely and absolutely did not want to speak to, I ducked into the nearest shop and found myself surveying a set of power tools alongside a row of very fat and confused-looking middle-aged men.

Anyway, it's quite another thing to be trapped, looking rubbish, inside your own head. That's the sort of scenario that eventually gets you on to lithium and self-help books. Being dressed badly in a dream is something of a leitmotif for all those days when you know you look just as normal as anyone else, but you seem beset by a chorus of in-house voices all telling you from deep within your psyche that you're ugly and a bit lumpy. The only way to make these voices stop sometimes is to pretend you're in fancy dress, I find.

So when I was prepping for a fancy-dress party a few weeks ago, I thought it'd be a cinch. The last time I went to one, I dressed as a Bavarian beermaid (it was a World Cup thing; I went as Germany). I tugged my hair into pinwheel plaits, struggled into micro-shorts lashed on with a pair of my friend's dad's ex-City braces and carried around an inflatable stein all night. "Oh, so you did 'fit' fancy dress," my friend said. "That's not proper fancy dress. You have to do it so it's funny, not just 'fit'."

"In fact, not fit at all," someone else added. "Downright stomach-turning is best."

This is hard advice to hear when you're single. But, getting dressed generally when you're single, in fact, becomes a bit of a minefield. You daren't look ropey for one minute, JUST IN CASE. You worry that spending one more day wearing that cardigan means there's a large chance you'll die in it. And it turns out fancy dress is even more riven with potential pitfalls: you don't want to turn up looking dreadful, in case you ruin your chances with the devastatingly handsome French guy in the corner. But you don't want to turn up in bunny ears and a basque, because then everyone will go, "Oh well, she's clearly single," and the Frenchman might think you're American. What to do?

Thankfully, the theme of this party was "space travel" and the invitation arrived with inspiration pictures sourced from Nasa's archives. The host was not kidding around – well, he was, as he also referred to the invitees as guestronauts, but you know what I mean.

"Bought boilersuit online, going to spraypaint some plastic bottles silver, stick them to a rucksack and create jet-pack," read an email from my friend.

A boilersuit would work, I thought, as long as it was more Flashdance than Slipknot – it could even look chic, and there'd be no chance of being the single person who made too much of an effort because they're a narcissist. (Hem hem.)

"Boilersuit is made for an actual midget," came a follow-up email. "Ridiculously short in torso. I can't even stand up straight. Doing 'fit' instead."

And at that moment, I realised what my costume should be. Something stretchy and vaguely utilitarian, with a hint of disco. A shimmering, glittery gold-and-aluminium-coloured Spandex number by catsuit queen Pam Hogg, so tiny and tensile as to look like Barbie clothing before you fill it with your own corporeal heft. Getting into it was like trying to put a condom on a marrow.

But it fit, and it was "fit". I loved it: the perfect combination of hilarious and hip, without being too showy. It would look as good standing in a corner as it would on the dancefloor; it would even look good if I was being sick in the flowerbed. All that remained to do was to duck back into that hardware store for a sci-fi-style power tool to top it all off…

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own