I’m not a natural fashionista. Left to my own devices, my sartorial inclination would most likely veer towards a frumpy, easy to wear look: Birkenstocks with socks, elastic waist trousers and roomy kaftans. However, since my teenage years, I’ve tried to follow a fashion mantra that helps me overcome my innate lack of chic and provides me with a vaguely stylish look. To those of you who know me, this may be a bit of a shock. But, yes, my wardrobe could actually be worse.
When shopping, having a haircut or attempting a new look, I ask myself WWDD? or What Would Debbie Do? (Obviously, I’m talking about late 70s/early 80s Debbie Harry panache here, not any fashion misdemeanours that she may have committed in the 90s or later…)
I could never quite pull off the full Blondie look; I wasn’t brave enough to leave the house in just a t-shirt and heels, or hot pants and kneepads. Some of her looks may have been a tad extreme for Gloucestershire in the 1980s but I loved her edgy, tough attitude and fearless style. I tried desperately to incorporate just a smidgen of that into my apparel.
So now as I peruse the shops or head for the hairdressers, I wait for Debbie to comment on my proposed purchases and makeovers.
Beige jersey trousers: WWDD? ‘WTF, lady? Why the hell are you even shopping in BHS?? Put them back on the shelf and get the hell out.’ (In my head, Debbie speaks with a Jack Daniels drinking, heavy smoking, Christine Cagney growl. I’ve never actually heard Debbie interviewed so I’ve no idea how true this is, but it provides an authoritarian edge to her instructions that makes me obey as fast as a perp throwing my weapon to the ground and putting my hands behind my back).
Sequined, black slashed top: WWDD? ‘Yep, Blondie circa 1981. Buy it.’
Layered, permed hairdo: WWDD? ‘Jeez, didn’t the old ladies finishing off their purple rinses under the dryers give you a clue? Screw this, I’m ringing Toni & Guy…’
Bleached blonde bob with eyebrow skimming fringe: WWDD? ‘Hell, yeah. That’s more like it!’
It’s not that I’m aiming to emulate Debbie, but rather to hit the stop button on my inherent frumpiness. All my fashion mistakes have happened when I’ve recklessly disregarded Debbie’s advice. Shopping alone, I’ve bought such monstrosities as brown lace-up flats, a patchwork velvet jacket and a pastel flowery cagoule. I’ve come out of the hairdressers with Mumsie haircuts, inadvisable perms and a fringe two inches too short. But when I’m with Debbie, I have the strength to walk away.
Debs, I know it’s been a hard slog and you’re not 100% happy with the results but you gave it your best shot. Remember when you stopped me buying that orange, leopard print rah-rah skirt from Chelsea Girl? Or how you stepped in when I was considering those Bo Derek cornrows? We make a great team and, for the many years you’ve spent, selflessly attempting to keep me on the fashion straight and narrow, I thank you.