Since we moved to France, my dress sense has gone steadily downhill. It always strikes me as kind of bizarre, that whilst France is the home of haute-couture, it is also the country where the outfit of choice for rural womankind is a flowery overall (worn with gum boots) and the male equivalent is heavy duty navy blue trousers, held up with baler twine and topped off with a beret. If you are not yet old enough to carry off this look, the fashion choices are limited. There are a range of out of town warehouse type stores. These sell garments where the women’s wear features large quantities of black lace and ruffles (ideal outfits for the off duty hooker) and the men’s shirts crackle with static as they contain more nylon than an Easy Care Bedding set from the 70’s. Nice.
The preferred dress code chez nous is camouflage. The husband and nephew like old army surplus trousers. Cheap, comfortable, soft, fairly indestructible and ideal for wearing whilst renovating properties, as any concrete stains just add to the ‘desert cammo’ effect. Small son likes camouflage clothing too; he is still of an age where he plans to be a soldier when he grows up. The girls have several cammo items too for various reasons - I’m not really sure how this fits with their usual sartorial look but who am I to argue? I also own a pair, simply because they turned up in Emmaus (my preferred pret a porter outlet where everything is a euro) and, they fit perfectly.
This means that we have to be very careful not to all wear our camouflage clothing at the same time. Especially out in public. It has happened before now and I imagine that we look like one of those American families from the hills who have fifteen children, marry their cousins and are awaiting the Second Coming. Or Armageddon. I once invited someone for lunch and as she walked through the door, realised to my horror that all six of us were wearing black T-shirts and camouflage trousers. She probably expected James to tell the kids to go outside and shoot the lunch before cooking it.
So when we were invited to a wedding, my heart sank. The thought of finding clean, presentable clothing for all six of us, without looking like gangsters or mad survivalists, was daunting to say the least. Thankfully, the hosts had specified that the guests should wear ‘fete’ wear. In south west France, this means red and white clothing, along with a red scarf - foulard - all of which is easily and cheaply available at any supermarket throughout fete season. The only problem was, we are now well and truly out of fete season and there wasn’t a pair of white trousers to be bought in the whole of south west France. Frantic borrowing and an emergency trip to Emmaus sorted the problem and voila - we went to the ball!