Gemma Cartwright writes...

I have a friend. We'll call her 'Jo' (because, um, that's her name). She is one of those rare friends who - though never unnecessarily mean - will give me a completely honest opinion about my outfit. And I'm talking "yes, those high waisted trousers do make your arse look big, burn them!" honesty, not just the odd "I wouldn't buy that, Gem."

For the past three and a half weeks, she's been my one companion on holiday, and it was surprisingly refreshing to spend time with someone so blatantly not bothered by trends, and so sure of what she likes. I'm thankful to this day that Jo was happy to tell me in no uncertain terms that the button-down tulip skirt I tried on in Roxy looked sh*t, even though it was very 'now'. And her 'I told you so' eyes said it all when I confessed that the little denim shorts everyone else was wearing really didn't suit me when I tried them on (me + shorts = fat teenage boy)...

What's so admirable is that Jo knows what looks good on her, and is sure of what she likes (Oasis, La Redoute, spindly heels and bold jewellery). I, on the other hand, will give anything a go once, leading to many a concerned look when I try something new or quirky that, in retrospect, probably wasn't the best choice. I'm surprised she set foot out the door with me when I put on my oversize jewelled alice band. In London it's one of my signature pieces, but in super-casual Cairns, it was a bit more of a statement.

I've always found it interesting - considering we supposedly gravitate towards similar people - that none of my friends have a similar style to me. In some ways this is great as they very rarely want to borrow anything (people only come to me when they have formal events, since I have so many dresses) but it does make for some pained 'you look...er...nice' comments from time to time. These awkward moments date all the way back to when I was in my teens, wearing snake print boots, swirly nylon shirts and gold lace mini dresses (it was the 90s - I looked like an extra from a Deelite video). I will never forget the vapid "It looked good on you but I'd never wear it" comment I got from one ex-friend. Talk about veiled criticism!

I've long since got over that and learned that having friends with different styles can be useful. Who wants to be a clone of their best pal? It's far more fun to learn from each other, but to maintain what makes you you. A little bit of influence from a more reserved friend has saved me many times. Left to my own devices, I know I have a tendency to dress like I'm wearing a costume rather than an outfit. I don't know what to blame for that; my matchy-matchy mother, my love of fancy dress or my obsession with fashion history? Whatever it is, sometimes I go OTT and I need a Jo.

After all, if I've got the pencil skirt, the stockings and the heels I perhaps don't need the set hair, red lipstick and black eyeliner. And if I'm wearing the mini, opaques and boots I should probably leave the beehive at home...