When I talked to Gill on the weekend, she told me that she and a friend had been sitting on a deck on the bank of the river near her flat. The other woman had been wearing a light cotton, sleeveless pantsuit and a lightweight cardigan. Gill was wearing jeans, a thick sweater and a scarf. Same season, two different approaches to comfortable attire. Her friend, however, the one dressed optimistically for summer (well, it IS June), was freezing. The strong wind coming off the water made it unworthy of the name summer — an insult to beach lovers everywhere.
Another friend revealed to Gill that, until she lived in Britain, she didn’t know what a ‘summer coat’ was. Had never heard of such a thing. Now she knows and wears one on a regular basis.
Gill confessed that, when she first arrived in the UK, she was dumbfounded to see a summer outfit consisting of shorts, long-sleeved heavy wool sweater, scarf and trainers. In fact, this seemed to be the outfit of choice for the younger set. “Where is that an acceptable or even sensible option?” she asked me.
“I’ve got nothing,” I said, equally aghast. “Shorts with a tank top and flip-flops, okay. I get that. Makes perfect sense. But if it’s warm enough for your legs to be featuring shorts and flip-flops, it’s too warm for a thick sweater and scarf.” Or perhaps it’s a nod both to reality and wishful thinking. They realize it says summer on the calendar, and they want it to be summer, but it feels like winter. Hedging their bets. Perhaps if the top portion of their body is warm, their legs will be fooled into thinking they too are warm. Like having your cake and trying to eat it too.
Now I realize that those of us who live in Canada have nothing to brag about in the weather department. Why, this May alone, we had hot days with the air con blasting and days so cold it snowed! But at least we know how to dress accordingly. And we never actually put our winter clothes in storage — that’s just taunting fate and asking for a blizzard. Nope. If you keep your winter jacket and mitts on the mudroom hook, you’ll be safe at all times and assuring that Murphy’s law doesn’t kick in to give you snow on July 1.
The Brits, it has to be said, need to learn that if it’s cold, it’s cold all the way down to your feet. If it’s hot, it’s similarly hot all the way to your feet. If you’re wearing shorts, you wear a tank top. To do anything else (like putting on a sweater and scarf) makes no sense whatsoever. The footwear is negotiable — I know that a good, fashion forward boot can be worn almost anywhere at any time. Flip-flops, though frowned upon by fashionistas and lovers of protocol, can apparently be worn even to the White House — if you’re on a winning athletic team. I doubt, however, that The Queen would be amused if you showed up at her garden party in them. The Chinese think she dissed them at a recent event, calling them ‘rude’? Ha! I doubt that even Michelle Obama could get away with wearing flip-flops in Her Majesty’s presence.
Perhaps a compromise option for a summer wardrobe might be to wear ripped, holey jeans ( a fashion trend) and tops with cutouts. You’d achieve maximum air circulation to beat the heat, but if the day turned cold, you’d still have some coverage. Of course, you’d always have to carry a knapsack with an extra sweater, brolly, and Wellies just in case. And I do remember, from my time in England years ago, that they have a saying:”If you don’t like the weather now, wait five minutes and it will change.”
So I guess, given that Gill has lived in the UK for ten years, I shouldn’t be surprised at some of her fashion choices. At least there’s a reason she dresses the way she does.