WAY back in the mists of time I can still remember what I wore on my first day as a trainee reporter. It was a grey trouser suit carefully selected from the rails of Miss Selfridge, teamed with a meticulously ironed white blouse and black high-heeled boots polished until they shone.

This was the late 1990s and you had to be smartly dressed at all times. Even if that meant inadvertently ripping the backside of your brand-new suit trousers due to an ill-advised decision to climb a barbed wire fence you had been assured was a shortcut to a notorious fly-tipping site while covering a story.

Then losing a boot mere moments later after ending up knee-deep in a muddy field. And having to hobble along country lanes back to the photographer's car, until a passing dog walker kindly offered a carrier bag to put over your soggy sock. Who said this job isn't glamorous?

I was thinking about this the other day while ruminating on how modern dress codes are evolving. One of the big predictions about the pandemic is that it would trigger the most seismic sartorial shake-up that we had seen for decades.

After the dark months of lockdown, when laidback leisurewear was a staple for many of us, the theory was that, in the return to "normality", the stuffy suit would become a museum piece.

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But actually, that hasn't quite happened. It seems that just as there are those who have no desire to return to the shackles of rigid conformity, not everyone is keen to relinquish the traditions of the past either. Talk about confusing.

Instead, we have a hellmash scenario where some folks are donning voluminous sweatshirts and drawstring joggers to go about their daily business, while others are strutting around in tailored breeks and blazers like the Roy family from Succession.

We stand amid a chaotic no-man's land. If there was a coat of arms for this perplexing juncture it would depict an office worker sitting at a desk with a shirt and tie on the top half and grubby, food-stained pyjamas on the bottom like some sort of confused centaur.

There used to be a jokey cartoon – the kind that adorned postcards and fridge magnets in tacky gift shops – that showed a woman peering into a wardrobe full of clothes and complaining to her long-suffering husband she had nothing to wear.

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It was one of those wry quips that today is considered outdated and misogynistic and wrong on countless levels. But, somehow, I have become that woman in the cartoon.

When I have to dress for practicalities – walking the dog or pottering in the garden – it is a doddle, but when it comes to social occasions, I am stumped.

Christmas party season looms in a matter of weeks and I am undecided whether I should cut armholes in a bin bag, wear jeans with a jolly jumper or dust off the full-length, velvet ballgown I wore on QE2 circa 2002. Please send help.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald​


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