sunday life: fashion and my fraud complex

This week I make my philosophical peace with fashion.

If I may, I’d like to indulge in a run-down of my surreal fashion experience this week. It has a life-bettering point, of sorts, toward the end.

So, Wednesday I find myself tricked up with hair extensions and smoky eye, parading down a catwalk with a dozen professional models half my size and age. It was for charity and all terribly Sex and the City, specifically the episode where SJP trips over doing a charity parade in New York. Mercifully, I merely veered off course briefly, to make way for a model charging at me doing that curious “donkey gait” that models do.

To be frank, my part in things was an elaborate act of fashion fraud. I had two parking dockets shoved into the ball of my stacked heels to absorb the anxious sweat pouring from my feet, so I wouldn’t slip. The grey patch in my centre part, well, I’d coated it in mascara, as I do much of the year between hair appointments. And the Kirrily Johnston little black shift I wore was gaffa’d in place to hide the supportive bra I think women of my vintage should always wear. Entirely fraudulent.

OK, onto Friday. I get my first spray tan because I’m off to Hamilton Island for the annual Audi fashion/yachting extravaganza frequented by the big names in fashion to host a parade. (At this juncture, I apologise for the fashion bragging, but it’s heading toward a point.)

I’m terrified. Yachting and fashion folk are notoriously crisp-looking. I’ve always described myself as “rustic”, sartorially speaking, or as mum would say, “in need of a good soak in Napisan”. I’ve spent my life feeling I don’t look the part; everyone else has always seemed glossier and more… ironed. My friend Kate suggests A Spray and a wax to smooth appearances.

Apparently I’m the only woman left in Australia who hasn’t had A Spray, going by the spray technician’s incredulous expression. And apparently you’re meant to wax before A Spray. I was out rolling in dirt or something when that fashion memo went out. So my orange hue is now interrupted by eight rectangular strips of white flaring from my upper thigh.

Friday I also go shopping (for crisp resort get-up). I’ve been told I shop like a man. Every six months I swoop though the one department store, buying a handful of items by labels I know fit me well.  I buy the same make of bra and running shoes every season to avoid trying them on. Ditto with jeans.  A complete wardrobe overhaul in two hours!

But as I Ieave the mall the Fraud Squad calls. I’m serious. Because I shop so rarely, my credit card outburst lights up as “out of character”, prompting my bank to call and ensure my card isn’t being used fraudulently. I almost tell the detective it is. “I’m a fashion fraud; I figure I’d be found out eventually.”

And so to Saturday. Midflight to Hamilton Island I realise I’ve left behind the suit bag of crisp new clothes. So I spend much of the weekend in old shorts and a baggy T-shirt. Turns out, so do most of the yachting and fashion folk.

I’ve always been like this – a fashion ratbag. I piece together bits and pieces to get me over the line. When I was 15 I competed in the Miss Gee Bees modelling comp. I borrowed a prairie-style dress, which I hand-stitched in two sizes, and wore slouch socks and brogues with a split sole that Dad had Araldyted overnight. The other entrants wore spike stilettos.

To “create hips” (this was pre-waif) I’d inserted wads of tissue in the sides of my underpants.  You know where this heads…at the end of the runway a wad dislodges and drops to the ground in front of the judges. Scarred? Funnily enough, not really.

To round the week off, back home I agree to meet with a young woman seeking career advice. She’s a burgeoning celebrity chef who feels she doesn’t fit the part, that “everyone else seems like they know what they’re doing”. “Oh, you have fraud complex,” I say. “Don’t worry, even the world’s most successful people fear they’ll be found out as fakes. We’re all quietly faking it until we make it. All of us.” I tell her about my fraudulent fashion week and realised two decades of berating myself for faking it suddenly had a metaphorical point.

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