Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Harriet Walker: 'I know exactly how the Oscars starlets will feel'

Ahead of tonight's Oscars ceremony, I would like to regale you with some tales of my own many red-carpet appearances. You see, I know exactly how those starlets will be feeling this evening, quaking in their Louboutins and holding in their stomachs.

My first appearance on the crimson snake was at an awards ceremony held by the women's magazine for which I used to work; I pulled up in a taxi that lurched to a sudden halt and sent me headfirst into the driver's partition. The throbbing agony left me dazed for a few seconds longer than it took all the attendant paparazzi to flash away incessantly, realise I was nobody of any import and disperse like teenagers outside a supermarket when the police arrive. "Hee, hee, hee, they've got your number," laughed the cabbie, as I winced, rubbed my head and paid up. "So what actual famous people are coming?"

The second time involved me walking through a curtain which cruelly disguised the several steps that lay behind it. I was like the kid on You've Been Framed who staggers off a stage dressed as one of the Three Wise Men. "A spectacular entrance at the back," sneered the compère, as I battled against the curtain and the tightness of my skirt to stand up again.

And I probably shouldn't admit this, as it makes me a sad person, but I got terribly excited last year about walking the scarlet mile for a cinema premiere. (Coincidentally it was Alice in Wonderland, which is a near-perfect allegory for my subsequent feelings that evening of being the one enormous person who had eaten all the freaky biscuits while everyone else had guzzled the small juice.)

After hours spent in make-up and prepping an outfit, I was ready and teetering in a pair of shoes I usually only wear if I know I'm going to be standing still all night. "Do you want to borrow a lovely dress?" asked a friend who works in fashion PR and whose job it is to be custodian of some of the most beautiful gowns in the world – when they're not being squeezed on to an up-and-coming actress or made fierce in front of the cameras by a model whose entire girth is equal to one of my thighs, of course. Needless to say, none of these dresses would do up, although an intrepid colleague did manage to hoist herself into one and subsequently slept through the entire film, a product of being a bit too hot and rather short on oxygen.

But after staggering through the crowds in the drizzle, our moment on the red carpet was traumatically brief and something of a damp squib. We hadn't expected to be mobbed by signature-hunters and photographers, but the plan had been to elicit at least a smidgen of envy from the crowds. I hadn't even fallen over, after all. But the only thing worse than being a red-carpet klutz is the almost-as-powerfully shaming sense of realising that nobody else gives a frock.

I've been the other side of the upholstery, too, of course, which makes it only too clear how little the onlookers care. Those people who stand out in the rain to see their favourite stars deserve more credit than they get – they're a discerning group. Just because someone took the time to make a glittery banner for Daniel Radcliffe doesn't mean they want to see, say, Emma Watson. In fact, they're likely to be even more scathing than the sofa-bound pundits.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a rainy Sunday afternoon hanging over a crash barrier at the Baftas in what was dubbed, farmyard-style, "the fashion pen". Rammed in between fashion editors and bloggers, I stood under a sneezeguard of a canopy, trying to maintain a sense of dignified hauteur at each even-more-elaborate creation that swished past me, while harassed PRs tried to "escort the talent to the fashion cluster".

"Who's that?" my neighbour, who works at a very different national newspaper, kept prodding me. "I don't recognise her. Where are the famous ones?" I pointed out that these were the famous people and her disappointment was tangible. "Well, I don't recognise any of them," she sniffed.

Tonight's glittering prizes have their work cut out; they're damned if they look good and damned if they don't. Flesh-coloured tights worn with open-toe shoes, elaborate tit-tape constructions that come unstuck, ruffles – just plain and simple RUFFLES. There are countless sartorial pits to fall into. And that's before you even start worrying about a ruck in the carpet. So good luck to the starlets this evening; I'll be at home on my sofa, shouting judgements, draped elegantly in my Slanket. It's red, you know.