Sarah Sands: My hoard of glam rock outfits tells a happy tale

Related Topics

Two retail strategies are competing in the high street this Christmas. One is the Marks & Spencer belief that women want "investment" clothes, ie, safe and wearable rather than fashionable. The other is that women want something to lift their spirits beyond knee-length navy blue.

The trouble with the first strategy is that a solid piece of clothing can last about 20 years, and you will probably need to replace a coat only twice in an adult lifetime, three times if you bought an Afghan.

Even fashion is far more predictable than it tries to pretend. It seems to me that there are basically four styles: vampish, military, gypsy and Sarah Palin (which, interestingly, is described both as secretarial and boardroom, perhaps because men cannot tell the difference). The fifth style, ignored by fashion, is jeans or a variation on pyjamas, comfy and slovenly, which is how many women dress when they are not at work.

So it is not a surprising statistic that women wear only 30 per cent of the clothes that they own. We hardly ever need new clothes, in the way that one needs to replace lost glasses or gloves in winter. We acquire clothes through false logic, fantasy and hope. The sales probably account for 50 per cent of unworn clothes. The rest variously disappoint us.

Every successful dress works in the same way – Kate Winslet's simple, confident cocktail dress, anything worn by Cheryl Cole – but failed outfits are individual tragedies. My wardrobe contains skirts that have capriciously shrunk since I last wore them, dresses that are designed for tall blondes, suits that are perfectly OK, except I cannot warm to them.

The Clothes Show, which came up with the 30 per cent figure, gently chides women for refusing to let go of their pasts. Like Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!, we recall past pleasures by hoarding glam rock silver outfits and six-inch heels.

Some clothes do have a haunting legacy. I have a beautiful, long, sleeveless black velvet dress with pearl buttons up the back and a white satin waistband. It was made for me by a friend called Magdalen Jebb for the opening of a film called The Killing Fields, in which my former husband played the journalist Jon Swain.

It survived the hopelessly youthful marriage and hung uselessly in my wardrobe for more than 20 years. The other week, my 14-year-old daughter, wearing the dress, stunningly appeared in my bedroom mirror. The Clothes Show must allow us a little sentimental value.

Fashion professionals regard the wasted 70 per cent in our wardrobes with concern. It is equivalent, to them, of a fridge full of mayonnaise and mustard past its sell-by. But I think the 70 per cent is the price we pay to settle on ourselves. The photographs of Kate Winslet in her perfect dress and fabulous shoes last week were accompanied in one paper by the old Kate in an unflattering black lace frock. It is a dress that anyone would have bought, as lace is sexy, a fashion perennial alongside military, gypsy, and Palin. It looked very expensive. I wonder if it has been thrown out.

Finding out what suits you, in clothes as in life, is trial and error. If the 30 per cent becomes 100 per cent, then the temperature drops. The reason that unfounded rumours about Anna Wintour's departure from American Vogue persist is that the risk is missing. Everyone has the right to fail, and the 70 per cent of lost wardrobes looks the right percentage to me.

Sarah Sands is editor in chief of British 'Reader's Digest'

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower