We all have a uniform. Some of us were bred into one: a Barbour jacket from walking age up, paired with wellington boots and a face full of mud. Some came later, settling down in prep school with a tweed skirt and braces, a blazer worn on top. This one lasted fifteen years, until what felt like the end of time, the end of school. And then came university, where there is no uniform but the vomitous stereotypes blown by the media’s vuvuzelas: students attending lectures in pyjamas, dressing gowns and slippers. I don’t know about you, but I’m not down for that. Maybe I’m too prepared of a morning.
It’s funny how some uniforms stay with you. My traditional uni-uniform matches my infant-on-the-farm jobby, deck shoes and a wax jacket, granddad jumper poking out from underneath a tartan scarf. And I’m your fashion editor? Well, yes. Because the thing about uniforms is that you get to take them off. They are appropriated with timetables of their own. Like school, you get to leave them behind eventually.
This week’s column was triggered by an oops-I-did-it-again. Don’t hurt Britney! I didn’t mean it, honest. But as it happens, it’s the perfect autumn hors d’oeuvre. A black wrap skirt, a little bit pleated – it’s almost a kilt. Which is great, really, as that was on my to-buy list. Blame Christopher Kane and his Scottishness, the wunderkid whose designs have captivated a global market. And it’s just as well that I bought it, they’re well in. Innit. I don’t ‘do’ trends, but a new uniform is easy to sniff out: the kilt revives days in tweed, itching in knee high socks on the path to summer dresses. And oddly, that’s a memory I’d like to hold on to.
But a final word on uniforms: beware. For it is too easy to be sucked further into that enviable comfortable state. Do not confuse effortlessness with comfortability: sometimes no effort really is no effort, not that Alexa Chung spin around the wardrobe we’d all like to perfect. The simple ease of a Friday night by the fire, a Jo Malone burning through the house is tempting, like my lecture kit. That coat is easy to don in an emergency, the black silk shirt too inviting to be left out. Sometimes these pieces shout over those other beauties hanging just behind. They might be whispering but whoever heard a COS suit shouting? I mean, really.
So consider your go-to get up. It is (not quite nearly) a new term, which means a fresh rail. Right? Well, if you like. Or at least, bits of it. The Emperor didn’t have new clothes for nothing. This time, it might mean a new you, or a modern mindset. And sometimes, that’s all you need.