Terence Blacker: Reality fashion in pursuit of middle age

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The Independent Online

When Laetitia von Firstenschaven sashayed into The Independent offices this week, there was something recognisably different about her. Normally Titty, as she is known in the fashion world, has the air of someone who has been up since five in the morning to ensure that her hair, skin, make-up and clothes convey just the right kind of completely natural spontaneity.

When Laetitia von Firstenschaven sashayed into The Independent offices this week, there was something recognisably different about her. Normally Titty, as she is known in the fashion world, has the air of someone who has been up since five in the morning to ensure that her hair, skin, make-up and clothes convey just the right kind of completely natural spontaneity.

Now she looked like what she was: a women of a certain age who had ingested too many drugs and slept with too many men during the 1960s.

"Here we are again then." To my amazement, she slumped into my guest chair without bothering to kiss the air on each side of my face. She lit a cigarette in a vague, somewhat slatternly manner and settled back in the chair.

I laid down my pen and looked at her more closely. Only some momentous event in her life could explain this radical change of style. "Titty," I said nervously. "Are you feeling all right? You seem so ... different."

My old friend gave a hearty and uncharacteristic hoot of laughter and slapped her right thigh. She was wearing, I now saw, a rather ancient and baggy pair of tights with muddy knees.

"You noticed, you are a darling," she said. "I'm wearing the new look. It's everywhere - Paris, Rome, Martha's Vineyard - but I'm one of the first in London."

"But, Titty, you look like a - "

"Dog's dinner? Darling, you say the sweetest things. So, tell me - who do I remind you of?"

I pondered for a moment, then decided there was no point in being evasive. "I hate to be rude," I said. "But you really do rather remind me of Camilla - old Charles's new wife."

"Right first time!" Titty shuddered with pleasure. "And do I look as if I've had a heavy night at a hunt ball, slept in my clothes and couldn't be arsed to put on fresh ones because I've got horses to exercise after breakfast?"

"Yes, you do rather. Are you telling me that you actually want to look like Camilla?"

"We all do. It's la vogue Camille, the Camilla Look. It is just about as à la mode as anything could be. Models are buying up baggy old underwear and hats of dried flowers that look as if they have been slept on by a pack of hounds. Pre-stressed Barbour jackets are selling for a fortune on the Champs Elysées. If you wear high heels or a matching coat and skirts at a party these days, then you're just too last season for words."

She picked at a fingernail, then flicked it across the office. "One has to laugh, darling," she said. "All these years I've been trying to look like skinny 19-year-old. Now the little rats on the catwalk are all dying to look like me."

"So, it's all right to be middle-aged now."

"It's more than all right, sweetie. It's de rigueur. Thanks to that darling woman, middle age says experience, happiness, love, romance, happy ever after. We've had reality TV - this is reality fashion. Camilla has become the style icon of 2005. In Paris, they're teaching models how to walk like someone who's taking the dogs for a walk in the rain. Reading specs are selling out all over Europe. People have started faking an arthritic hip."

"So that explains why everyone looks so rough these days."

"Not rough, darling. Camillaesque. Of course, some people have had to take it all too far." Titty leant forward and pulled the taut skin on both sides of her face downwards.

I gasped. "Not Camilla facelifts, surely?"

"Reverse facelifts, they're called in the trade. It's not so much nip and tuck these days as sag and tug. Everybody longs for that droopy, contented, lived-in look."

"What about the people who have just paid a fortune to get rid of their lived-in look?"

"I know, poor Anne Robinson. The on dit is that she is busting her stitches with rage."

Titty stood up, stretched and casually re-adjusted her underwear. "Better be off now, darling. I agreed to do a feature on the Camilla look for the only magazine that matters."

"The Tatler? Vogue?"

"Horse and Hound, darling."

And with that she was gone, leaving in the air behind her the faintest whiff of Eau de Wet Labrador.

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