ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Want to see my furious face? Tell me to cheer up!
For all these years, there was I getting merely annoyed by various little remarks that rubbed me up the wrong way.
Now I realise those irritating comments would today be classed as ‘micro-aggressions’, meaning I can be properly outraged.
If it’s a new one on you, all you need to know is that a micro-aggression is the modern term for casually insensitive phrases that, according to a lecture given to NHS bosses recently, are capable of being more harmful than full-blown prejudice.
So in an effort to prevent anyone even unintentionally upsetting me in future, I have compiled a guide to my personal micro-aggressions blacklist.
Top of the pile, no question, is ‘Cheer up’.
Those of us born with an angry resting face don’t need to be reminded of it constantly. Indeed, we find it the observation positively offensive.
Alexandra Shulman, pictured, says she becomes irritated when people tell her to ‘cheer up’
It would be lovely to beam like Little Miss Sunshine all the time, but without resorting to cosmetic interventions that’s not going to happen. There’s no need to draw our attention to the fact.
‘How’s retirement?’ follows a close second. When I left my job at Vogue aged 59, I didn’t announce I was retiring… because I wasn’t. I was simply changing the work I do.
I have no plans to sit back with my watering can and slippers. You wouldn’t say the same thing to someone who left a job in their 40s, would you?
‘You’re looking well’ is next on my list. Since when did that remark come to be regarded as an acceptable greeting?
And one that is increasingly replacing the infinitely preferable, ‘You’re looking great.’ Neither, of course, might be true.
But the latter is lovely and perks you up while the former is, well, utterly blah.
It manages to imply you are past the stage when anything more could be expected of your appearance, that you find your health a subject of interest – and that, on other occasions, you looked a bit dodgy.
Not good. Not good at all.
In black and white… Coleen’s court cred
Who needs catwalks when you’ve got courtrooms?
The Wagatha Christie trial in the High Court and the continuing saga of Heard v Depp in Fairfax County Court, West Virginia, are providing first-class opportunities to study the nuances of courtroom dressing.
What to wear in the witness box is genuinely an important issue. Our opinions are usually affected by how people look and juries are no exception.
When it’s a celebrity in the dock, the sartorial stakes are even higher – not just for the jury, but in the trigger-happy court of public opinion.
It’s a minefield. Look too highly styled, and you’ve lost before you start. Nobody trusts someone who appears to have spent too much time thinking about their clothes. But turning up as a bit of a mess looks disrespectful to your situation.
Wearing wildly expensive outfits is always unwise when the dispute is over money (not really an issue in Vardy v Rooney) since the wearer looks profligate. But if you are wealthy, wearing cheap clothes makes it look like you’re working the system.
Coleen Rooney, pictured leaving the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Friday, amid her ongoing libel trial with Rebekah Vardy
So I wasn’t sure about Coleen Rooney’s Zara minidress, but then she did compensate with a Chanel bag.
Brand choices are relevant and Alexander McQueen, the Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite designer, was chosen by both Rebekah Vardy and Coleen on different days.
The Royal connection has given the brand suitable Establishment gravitas and it has understated chic – although I doubt either woman would top McQueen’s list of favourite ambassadors.
Along with labels, medical apparatus is often helpful. I draw your attention to Winona Ryder in her sling during her shoplifting trial.
While Coleen’s mediboot is not an attractive accessory, it makes her selection of Chanel and Gucci footwear on the other foot seem less ostentatious.
Vardy, with no injury to come to her aid, has stuck to another Royal favourite – high-heeled pumps. Not a sexy ankle strap or platform in sight for the high-profile walk into court.
Meanwhile, over in Fairfax, Amber Heard is rocking the simple peasant girl look for all it’s worth, with her Ukrainian-style braids twisted round her head and her plain shirts and jackets.
Johnny Depp, though, hasn’t dressed down at all and has stuck to his own playbook with wide gangster-style ties, blue-tinted glasses, man bun and jewels.
A sensible decision since if he’d come over all Jacob Rees-Mogg, he wouldn’t have fooled anyone.
In general, men suffer fewer pitfalls with their suits, since most people can’t tell whether you’ve dropped five grand in Tom Ford or you’re in off-the-peg Reiss.
I can’t remember the last time a man’s courtroom wardrobe was subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as a woman’s.
Who knows how the Wagatha trial will end, but at present Coleen has the better grip on courtroom cred, sticking to the safe combination of black and white.
Who could forget Nigella Lawson’s arrival as a witness at the trial of the Grillo sisters (her personal assistants), a formidable Boudicca in her armour of black coat and puritanical white collared dress, utterly transformed from the more familiar va-va-voom, steamy domestic goddess?
They may have been acquitted, but that outfit shouted loud and clear: don’t mess with me.
Deborah makes it OK to be scared
There’s so much to admire about Deborah James, the Bowelbabe cancer podcaster who has been honoured with a damehood.
But I was particularly struck by the phrase, ‘I am just a scared girl’ in her interview last week.
Deborah James, the Bowelbabe cancer podcaster who has been honoured with a damehood
You so rarely hear the word scared in the vocabulary around cancer.
Fight, battle, survivor, brave… yes.
But scared, which is of course what most people are, is rarely mentioned, and Deborah saying it out loud will make it so much easier for others to follow.
Does one day of 20C count as a heatwave?
In preparation for the forecast heatwave, I put out the geraniums, put away my winter clothes and stocked up on rosé.
But heatwave there is none.
Or have we reached the point where one day of 20C sunshine qualifies?
Wise line that ended the puzzle over pegs
Following last week’s item on how best to hang clothes on washing lines, a 90-year-old reader wrote: ‘If you wear it on the top, peg it by the bottom. If you wear it on the bottom, peg it by the top.’
This may well be the most helpful piece of information I get all year.
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