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A catalogue of errors

January 27, 2015

When I was younger my Gran used to sell things through catalogues. Me and my sister would spend ages flicking through the giant shiny pages of underwear, clothing, toys and all kinds of household objects. Everything looked appealing in the slightly plastic, glazed-expression world of GUS and others. Even the most perfunctory, unsexy, utilitarian bras, sold in packs of three (black, white and beige), seemed to promise a world of smooth lines and subtle curves. Of being a grown up. Of being in control.

I didn’t really ever buy anything until the day I saw the jeans. Since memories of chaffing thighs as a child, denim and I had always had something of a rocky relationship. When I did get jeans that weren’t torturous to wear, they never had the right amount of hugging on the bum or flare at the bottom. Anyway, one day, there they were. The perfect Diesel jeans, casually modelled by an incredibly cool woman. I fell into the trap and assumed that all of things that 17-year-old me loved about her would magically be transplanted on to me via these trousers. (See also: cutting books at hairdressers; trouser suits.)

You always had a chance to try before you committed, so I must have thought they were ok when they arrived. But almost as soon as Gran entered my name in her perfect handwriting into the little book that recorded who owed what, I began to hate them. Paying them off, a couple of pounds a week, for what felt like years served as a powerful deterrent to casual purchasing. Maybe that’s why most of my clothes now are either second-hand, falling apart, or both.

I loved that my Gran had this sideline. And I loved that no-one took me off the hook by paying off the debt for me. And I loved that I learned relatively early that models and advertising exist purely to sell stuff and not to give you any actual indication of how products – and people – may look, work or be in the real world.

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