Margaret Duddin: The three stages of a woman's life

Journal columnist Margaret Duddin says first women listen to their mothers, then to their hearts - and finally to their feet

Margaret Duddin
Margaret Duddin

Now retired, I consider myself to be very fortunate. I am rich in friends and rich in time, I have loads of it. In my dream world I would now be travelling extensively to further satisfy my curiosity about the world.

Throughout my working life I spent money lavishly on holidays and clothes and enjoyed life to the full. Unlike my friends I made no provision for a holiday fund – silly me!

So here we are, they are travelling widely and I have an enviable wardrobe of holiday clothes. So they borrow bits of my wardrobe which I am only too happy to lend.

In the last few years bits of my wardrobe have been on two Queen Mary cruises, to Boston, to Chicago, to Washington D.C, to Dubai, to Savannah, to Hong Kong and to Australia and they had, I am told, wonderful times.

They are returned to me refreshed, cleaned and welcomed home until the next adventure.

Frequent travellers can be easily spotted at the airport, their luggage is light. I am amazed when I see the vast amounts that people carry – cases the size of a small hut and hand luggage as big as my case. Do they pack all their worldly goods?

I hear that some airlines are now offering an increased baggage allowance. I foresee a time when passengers and luggage will need separate planes.

My favourite time on holiday is the sun-downer hour, drink, shower, make up, hair and something beautiful to wear. This can be achieved without carrying your entire wardrobe. I have travelled with friends to whom a 14-night stay meant 14 outfits and shoes to match.

Lovely, adaptable and “locally sourced” would best describe my holiday wardrobe. I have kaftans beautifully cut and in one colour, no stripes, dots or patterns.

If I could offer any advice to ladies who, like me, are YEARS younger than Joan Collins it would be not to wear tight clothes in hot weather, draping is much better. Caution! Carefully consider your shape before embracing new trends eg: leggings and cut-offs.

I would offer the same advice to pregnant young women. Why have some of them taken to wearing extremely tight clothes showing every contour of their shape? “Dignity”, now that’s a word to contemplate.

“No more clothes” is my mantra when in town but I love to roam around the dress shops in spring and summer to enjoy the rainbow of colours. Something awful then occurs. Just as the garden’s colours begin to fade, together with the remnants of our sun-kissed glow, the rainbow is obliterated. If you have a tendency towards depression stay away from our major retailers. You will be faced with drab, with dull, with hues as dismal as the darkening world outside.

As an example, let’s talk trousers. Having skipped through years of working, shopping and dancing in stiletto heels one’s feet begin to ache for flat, comfortable shoes.

I would categorise the three ages of women as 1: Listen to your mother 2: Listen to your heart and 3: Listen to your feet. Never relinquish the high heels, mine are now my official “going out shoes” as we all know you’re never fully dressed without a pair of them.

Having got the message I needed to add further bits to my wardrobe. I wanted warm winter cords, to wear with the sensible shoes. What a sad spectacle awaited me. Row upon row of black trousers, with a few in khaki and even fewer in a sombre shade of dead damson.

Now black trousers are practical and can be very smart, I wear them occasionally. But beware, look around, black trousers are morphing into a national costume a la Mao Tse Tung’s China.

Why could I not buy pink, or blue, or yellow, or cream? Which great arbiter of fashion dictates that winter calls for dark colours? No it does not, it calls for the rainbow to cheer us up, to lift our spirits.

Incidentally, did you notice all the blue lights around in December? Christmas is warm and comforting, it is red and green and gold, not ice blue. Don’t you dare attempt to drain the colour out of Christmas.

Back to my wardrobe, no bits away at the moment. It is an extensive collection which far from being vintage or once loved, is mature and still loved.

If I had to replace it, where would I go? Would I look through the fashion magazines for guidance? I think not. The sight of those morose emaciated girls makes me want to either phone the NSPCC or send emergency rations of broth and dumplings.

Last August I was lucky to be invited to a wonderful hotel in an affluent resort in Spain. Pieces of my wardrobe and I enjoyed every minute, especially the people watching. Some very fashionable young women, but not racing with those I see on my Grey Street picnics.

I coveted only one item to add to my wardrobe. It was stylish, authentic and well worn. It was the Gardeners Hat.


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