It was very early in the morning, but I could have sworn I heard the mellifluous voice of radio presenter Noel Thompson referring to his annual presenting of the Proms in the Park programme tomorrow night (and very entertaining it is too), saying his co-presenter would be there in her lovely frock, while he would be wearing his “10 year old dinner jacket”.
Now, I’m guessing here that Noel hasn’t gone down the ‘vintage chic’ route and if suit is 10 years old, then it’s likely it’s the same one he wore presenting Proms in the Park last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. And this is where the rules of dressing for men and women separate.
Unless you’re Princess Anne who has been praised and criticised in equal measure for her ‘thrifty’ attitude to her wardrobe (and clearly doesn’t give a toss about what people say about her dress style), if you’re a woman you can’t get away with wearing the same outfit to a high profile or important event, twice.
Some people – some women – will remember it, and have an opinion about it.
Not that long ago the Princess Royal was photographed wearing a dress she’d first worn to the wedding of her brother Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.
If it had been me, I’d have been pushing the fact that I still managed to fit into the same outfit thirty years later.
Michael Parkinson once asked her about wearing an outfit that was twenty-something years old.
Her reply was “oh, it’s older than that”.
It’s the same sort of confidence you’d have if you drive a superfast car and don’t feel the need to rev up the engine at traffic lights.
Noel’s admission was quite a revelation; remarkable that he felt able to say it at all, however tongue in cheek, and perhaps even with a hint of pride?
A woman I worked with a long time ago used to boast that she had food in her cupboards that was older than some of the men she’d dated. She would never have made the same comparison about the clothes in her wardrobe, and indeed would have been mortified if anyone had said her shoes were last season’s.
And there’s the thing – men can wear the same black dinner jacket to every event, maybe and no one bats an eyelid.
I mean, does the style of a dinner jacket change that much in 10 years? Trouser width maybe, or lapel size, but a man can certainly get away with so much more.
A male news anchor in Australia put it to the test recently when he wore the same suit on television for a whole year – and no one noticed. He was making a point about how his female colleagues are judged for their appearance not only in what they’re wearing but their hair colour, make up, jewellery, and so on.
But there are so many fashion faux pas for women to get their heads around.
I heard the story of a colleague who went to a wedding with 380 guests at tables of 10 and at his table four of the men were wearing navy blue suits with white double cuffed shirts.
Each had a different tie on, but essentially the suits were the same.
Not one of them felt the need to go home and change into something different to avoid embarrassment.
So Noel, it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. And as Rod Stewart says, you wear it well.