Annabel discards her Wellies & dons heels

The older I get the less I like shopping for clothes in the high street. Firstly all the clothes look better on 5 foot 10 inches of bean pole (I know a generalisation but I am allowed to say it) and then there is the issue that I think I look a lot younger than I am so the sight of me in one of those changing room mirrors is quite a shock. However on Monday a friend asked me to accompany her to London to look at a dress that she was hoping to buy for her step-daughter’s wedding, a special occasion and so out of her comfort zone.  She had done some research i.e. shopped locally and found just the ‘thing’, something elegant, not to outshine bride’s mother, which would carry her through from day to evening perfectly and would be a great addition to her wardrobe for future events. It came in a midnight blue but sadly her size was not available locally hence the trip to Bruton Street in London where the correct sized dress had been brought over from a shop in Germany.

If you remember Monday was a dull, damp day and so we managed to find a parking space very easily in Conduit St., a stone’s throw away. At this point I diverse as we then tried to pay for the meter on my friend’s mobile phone which is the way now for most street parking in London, however the car was registered using her husband’s mobile and it would not accept that she was driving her husband’s car i.e not the car registered to her phone (which is how their computer saw it).  There was no option for her to give this vital piece of information so her husband had to be phoned to pay for the parking – luckily he was available and in this country otherwise this would have been an expensive couple of hours! Note to self, must write to Boris and complain about parking payment system.

Off we set to Maison Martin Margiela, 22 Bruton St., and the reason I am being so specific is that I am going to tell you about our experience and see if you want to darken their doorway.

We were both smartly dressed, not a splash of country mud visible, and as we entered the shop we were greeted by a tall, Frenchman (of a surly nature it was to be discovered later) and his much smaller Japanese female assistant, both wearing white lab coats!! Quite an extraordinary look and in my opinion not very welcoming as you felt like you were entering a laboratory and it gave off the vibe of cold and clinical (in the case of tall Frenchman it was quite an accurate vibe). The dress was delivered to Madam in the changing room, this was the first and last time any sort of politeness was used when addressing either of us.

Quel dommage – it did not fit, actually to be more precise it was the same size as the one she had tried on in Henley – woops! When my friend appeared from the changing room with unforgiving lighting and mirrors, the Tall Frenchman displayed an instant look of disdain and despair. She asked if he knew if it was meant to be so tight over the hips and his reply was “zis ees a cheap line that we do not stock so I do not know (read as do not care) and we shipped it especially so we ‘ave no larger sizes”  (nearly £600 not so cheap) and then he flounced off. I hauled him back and asked if he had another dress of this colour and he produced an extraordinary article that looked much cheaper and was over £1300!!

There was then a whispered discussion between now Surly, Tall Frenchman and his assistant and it was announced that he could only get the large (note the dropping of the ‘r’ here i.e. if you are over a size 10 you are large) size if my friend paid for the shipping charges – what a b***** cheek. We then adopted the flounce and departed this establishment vowing never to return. Are there finishing schools where expensive shops send their staff to learn how to be judgemental, arrogant and surly?

After a furious battle around the streets of the West End, exhausted and war weary, we had a quick bite to eat and returned home and the following morning, wearing comfortable tracksuits, walking boots and no make-up we met up with some other friends for a Nordic walk which was healthy and invigorating, and no signs of any tall, surly Frenchmen in lab coats as we marched across the beautiful English countryside!

One friend made an excellent suggestion…. go onto the Matches website, order a few dresses, when they arrive invite a few girlfriends around and whilst enjoying a nice glass of wine try them on, choose one with the help of the people who know you best, and return, for free, the unwanted dresses!

However one useful tip I have learnt from Monday’s expedition, if Youngest Daughter fails her final year of Bio-Chemistry I do now know where she can go with her lab coat for a job!!