diane.jpgIn her regular guest column about her stylistic misadventures, Diane Shipley, co-editor of our sister site Trashionista, writes...

As you would expect of a fashion misfit, fashion, and fashion-y people, intimidate me. One reason is there are always so many rules. And just when I think I’ve got the hang of them all, a new one pops up to take me by surprise. Recently, I was taken aback to discover that several of my friends would be horrified by the idea of wearing a three-quarter length coat with a long skirt. Yet I’m pretty sure I wore little else (apart from tops, and sometimes jeans, and pyjamas at night) the whole time I was a student. But whatever. I can see their point – mismatched lengths do look awkward now I come to think of it, but I would never have thought of it had someone not told me. I just don’t have an innate understanding of style...

Which is why I have no explanation for why I once found myself in an online fashion forum, where people were posting pictures of their new outfits for others to critique. I looked at these pictures and all I could think was how nice and thin and gorgeously groomed everyone was. Apparently that wasn’t the point though – so and so had the wrong colour shoes and someone else should think about a shorter top with those city shorts (who cares what you’re wearing with them? Just the fact that you squeezed into a pair without looking like Bella Emberg’s fatter, older sister is worth celebrating!)

Anyway, all the fash-pack talk made me feel like a complete outsider, plus it was exhausting: there’s so much to think about if you want to be ‘on trend’, and it all involves non-stop shopping and returning! Exhausting. I just want to find something that looks OK, keep it for ten years and be happy. And if I ask someone their opinion of my outfit, I honestly only want to hear confirmation that it’s acceptable. I’m not looking for suggestions! I know what looks all right – or I do after a few tryings-on – why bother to improve on that? Perhaps it’s better not to ask anyone with fashion sense how I’m doing…

Another, related, problem I have is the delicate issue of fashion timing. Convinced pashminas would never last, I held off buying one for about five years, and of course they’re really ‘out’ now that I’ve got one… Or I think they’re ‘out’. They might have fallen into ‘classic’ territory, I can’t tell.

Trying to get ahead of the pack can also be a problem: there’s nothing worse than buying something you think is original and unique and then seeing it on every TV presenter, in all the magazines and on your great-aunt Margaret within the same week. In these cases, it’s best to “lay down” the offending item (like the skull bag I bought two seconds before skulls got huge last year) until everyone has forgotten it was ever fashionable. Then you break it out and start the whole trend up again… Or you rescue it from the back of your wardrobe, cringe in horror and give it to charity. (Although actually I still like my skull bag…)

Of course, I could just wear what I like, refuse to give a stuff about fashion timings and say “rules be damned!”… Just like Ugly Betty. Or Helena Bonham Carter.

OK… maybe now I’m starting to understand the importance of fashion!

Read more from Diane Shipley over at our book blog, Trashionista....