I went to my new scent critic, Celia Lyttelton's book launch last night at L'Artisan Parfumeur in Marylebone High Street. Her book, The Scent Trail, I highly recommend, as it takes you on a journey around the world sniffing and snuffing up the delicious elements that make up our perfumes. She is going to write a column for me in my new magazine, extending the ideas in her book, and examining that which we spritz ourselves so casually with intense perspicacity. This is a new role for the UK, although I can see that the US is fragrant with perfume critics these days. We need to bring our peculiarly English sensibility to the subject, and Celia is perfect for the job.
It had been a grey day, but was a perfect London summer evening - the long light flooding the chic shopping street and highlighting a group of good looking, not young, women on the pavement outside. Wreathed, naturally, in cigarette smoke. All London parties are adorned in this way these days - often the most amusing people are outside. I haven't smoked for many years, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time with the smokers.
Anyway, they all wore the most beautiful clothes. Celia was in a one-shoulder vintage primrose chiffon cocktail dress, worn with palest lilac fishnets and delicate matching shoes. She looked like a goddess of spring in a pageant.
My friend, novelist Kate Morris, wore a wrapover black dress, spattered with yellow and acid green flowers, which stopped about three inches above her knees. "50p from a charity sale," she told me. I had never realised how stunning her legs were before, in playground and at home we tend not to admire eachother in quite the same way. They are endless enviably slender, in opaque black tights, with ravishing, dateless 15-year-old Stephanie Kelian Mary Janes, startlingly white, on her feet. Who says you should stop wearing minis after a certain age. Nonsense, if you have the legs. I, on the other hand, wore my last short skirt when I was 12 - having a very clear idea that my knees were not for public display, and luckily the maxi skirt came in that year.
The dress I wore last night came from a charity shop called Traid, which does £2 sales from time to time. It was 1930s style chiffon tea dress, cut on the cross, floral - rather on trend. Goodness knows when it was made but it is rather flattering to my curves.
Now, we are all writers, supporting families, keeping things going. Having a lovely time, being creative and amusing ourselves enormously. Naturally, we are anxious as well, and compare notes on how to get the best out of state schools. I am considered an expert as my eldest has now left school with very good grades and got into not only a top art school, but also a very good university, as a result.
We dress to suit ourselves, in a mix of vintage (charity shop usually), TJ Maxx, bargains from sales etc. We all know what suits us now, and we don't care where it comes from. With up to four other people to clothe, spending hundreds on a single dress just isn't an option.
We understand each other. What I don't like are the rich men's wives who, when I admire what they are wearing, trill, 'O, it's second hand!' or 'I have this friend who sells off Chanel samples for practically nothing!' That sort of sticks in the gullet. Someone needs to pay the full price for this stuff. And there is a creeping sense that they are condescending to us women who earn a living and keep our families, and don't have a banker as a bank. Trying to say, 'I am just like you really!'
Well, they aren't and they need to understand that we are happy as we are, and glad that we can earn a living being creative and having an exciting, if somewhat financially bumpy, time. We also love beautiful clothes, and don't care where they come from. It is fun to admire Prada, Marni or Armani up close, worn by a real woman who is not young, has had children, but retains her style.
Come on ladies, you don't have to make excuses! And, really, I am not remotely jealous.