Thursday, 12 August 2010
Don't get the London look
Tops, dresses, trousers and skirts are dangling from hangers off every door in my flat. They are ironed – something of a novelty as I normally try to walk out the creases in my clothes.
These almost-outfits are the culmination of my interview preparation. And I still don't know what I'll be wearing on the day.
I try on the most likely choice. I think I look professional. Tyra Banks would call me ‘fierce’. I hold my chin up high. Southern Man looks up from his bag of crisps.
‘You look as if you’re going out clubbing,’ he says.
‘No, this is the sort of thing features executives wear in my office,’ I say, tugging on the hem.
‘The interview is in Yorkshire, not London,’ he says.
‘They still dress like this in the north for work,’ I say, trying to sound as if I know what I'm talking about.
I put the dress back on its hanger on the door, put my jeans and Monster Munch T-shirt back on and hold my head in my hands.
Vogue and Cosmopolitan may be concerned with going from summer to autumn collections - for me the big issue is a seamless transition from London-look to Leeds-look. I don’t want people to stare, point and snigger. And I have previous for this.
I’ve always had problems picking suitable outfits for new places. When I moved from my village primary school (where I was one of three in my year) to a nearby town’s secondary, I was clueless. I was outed on the first 'out of uniform day' (and to think I had to pay 50p for the privilege). I thought my patchwork dungarees were cool, and my reversible Winnie the Pooh sweater was the height of pre-teen fashion. My favourite jumper had a hot air balloon knitted on the front with a pocket as the basket and an actual teddy bear inside it, attached with a bit of string. Other pupils were wearing lace vests and pretty chiffon tops that tied at the front. I had gone from a trend-setter at primary school to the biggest fool in the tuck shop.
I was similarly misguided for my move to London, many years ago, from my job in Hastings on the south coast. It had been a male-dominated office there and I fitted in. The only nod I made to being a woman was the occasional bangle. Being able to run for the bus and last orders was more important than looking the business. I felt decidedly underdressed for my first newsroom in the big city, hiding behind my monitor in my black cardigan while showbusiness reporters tottered around in 4in heels and Gucci dresses. In my current office there is one girl who has not worn the same outfit in the two years I’ve been there. Either she gets outfits free from PR people or is a prolific shoplifter.
Even my time spent in colourful Brighton, with its Cyberdogging youths and gays parading in PVC hotpants could not prepare me for London – especially the foolish fashions of Shoreditch. I think my teddy bear jumper would fit in well there, if teamed with a bowler hat and skinny jeans.
So all this is playing on my mind, and I am haunted by the words that employers judge you within the first few seconds of meeting you. Hence the fact I have spent so much time on the physical and not the mental preparation. As long as I look OK and can remember my name, half the battle is won.