Licentiate Column 29/08/13: The Night of the Short Shorts

– Courtney Stodden, age 19. Courtney, I salute you as a sartorial inspiration to teens everywhere. I really do. Pic via a website called ‘Hawt Celebs’ – yes, really.

There’s a lot to be said for female permissiveness these days. Actually, wait, there’s a lot to be said ABOUT female permissiveness these days, the loudest bleatings often coming from men and women who still think that society at large is the boss of the female body and not the female herself. Similarly, parents can and will police what their children wear, with varying degrees of success.

I’m from Tralee, a fact that I don’t shout about in this column because a) It’s not Cork and b) It’s really not Cork. Everyone knows the Rose of Tralee. It is the original version of Father Ted’s Lovely Girls competition, except with drinking on the street, a blanket bar exemption and an overpriced, oversubscribed funfair in a carpark.

I’m an old hand at the Rose and don’t really partake in the festivities anymore. Still, I like to wander around the town and indulge in a spot of people watching. Observing people opens your mind to a lot of new ideas. One walk around the funfair and all I came away thinking was, “How the hell do all those teenage girls get through the parental barrier and out the door in those shorts?’

Hot pants. Proper bum-baring, arse-out, hello-world-this-is-my derriere short shorts. All the kids are wearing them. I’ve never felt so out of touch in my life, except maybe for the time I tried to engage a friend’s daughter in a conversation about my favourite member of One Direction (It’s Liam, by the way. So underrated).

I felt a little disconcerted and not a little bit scandalised, in a sort of conservative, reactionary Daily Mail sort of a way. They’re so young! Why aren’t they gambolling through verdant green fields instead, like sheep?

It’s hard to be a teenager. Your brain goes all fuzzy and you can’t do what you want and the slow dawning realisation that no-one truly understands you makes choosing what to wear a matter of little consequence. You wear something because your friends are wearing it, despite how uncomfortable it might make other people feel.

But really, it’s not the fault of these girls that we feel so uncomfortable. It’s our own fault. We’re so, so uncomfortable as a society with the notion of young women wearing provocative clothes and maybe, just maybe (deep breath) becoming sexually active (employ the smelling salts) that we push logic to the back of our minds and say that they’re scandalous, they’re slutty, they’re going to get themselves into big trouble if they go out dressed like that.

That’s ridiculous, really. Women don’t get into trouble because of their clothes, except in practical situations – you wouldn’t wear a bikini to work in a coal mine. Young women are especially vulnerable to criticisms so, in the future, if you see a child of yours going out the door dressed like THAT, maybe just tell her that she’ll get a cold in her kidneys.

Licentiate Column 01/11/12: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

What I think I look like in pajamas. The reality is more heffalumpish. Pic by Nina Leen for LIFE

Are you cold? I’m cold. I’m bloody freezing. My toes have turned to icy nubs that jolt me awake in chilly shock whenever I shift about in my sleep. Two hot water bottles and the occasional hot port have no alleviating effect. The fuzzy pink Penney’s pajamas I discovered in the airing cupboard make me a little warmer, not that that’s any consolation to the people in hot countries who slave away (in some cases literally) to make us our cut-price winter warmers.

I have taken to working in bed. The pajamas stay. I lump on brightly coloured shawls, hats and jewellery – the jewellery is a smokescreen to make me believe that I am making some kind of effort. It’s like aspirin – I don’t know quite how it works, but it really does. I look like a person who has gone on a gap year to Peru and decided that the locals know where it’s at, wardrobe-wise.

I think that this is perfectly acceptable. I still get my work done, I get to stay warm and no-one sees me looking like an ersatz bag lady/Olsen twin. It’s not my priority to look nice, or even presentable, when I’m at home by myself – the priority is to be cozy or, as a friend of mine who lives in Copenhagen says, hygge. ‘Hygge’ is a great word. It may even be a cozier word than ‘cozy’.

When I step outside the house, though, I am less ‘hygge’ than ‘hyggledy piggeldy’. I have yet to master the gentle art of layering that comes so easily to tall, sylphette women and less to to shortish, vaguely lumpish ones with, y’know, curves n’stuff.

Still, we shall struggle valiantly on, trying to strike that balance between beguiling and well-swaddled. Until the average person’s social life revolves around wearing pjs and never, ever going outside, we will have to spend our time socialising, running errands and attempting to have some semblance of a romantic life wrapped in several layers of fuzzy fibres, making a person look like a less jolly Sta Puft man.

It’s not a lot to ask to want to look both presentable and be warm during the wintertime. Here are a few tips.

1) Take care of your bod. Your face is the one part of your body that will repeatedly be exposed – and the elements we are exposed to are harsh ones. Take your multivitamins, change to a richer moisturiser as the weather will dry out your skin and invest in a few hot oil treatments for your hair. A healthy, glowy person wrapped in a soiled blanket will look better than an unhealthy sniffling one in Burberry.

2) Embrace technology. More specifically, embrace the new generation of thermal underwear, which adds no bulk but is still soft, breathable and snuggly warm. Best of all – it’s available in most high-street stores.

3) Proportions are key. Wearing a lot on top? Keep it slim on the bottom. Skinny jeans (with thermal leggings underneath) tucked into mid-heeled ankle boots will nicely balance out whatever millefeuille duvet-like concoctions we can come up with.

Licentiate Column 26/07/12: Naked Makes More Sense

If supermodels can do it, so should we. Oh, wait a minute…

It is hard to dress for Irish weather at the best of times.  Every year I think that it’ll be the year I get to talk about swimwear and shorts, but it’s now reaching the end of July and the majority of the population still have yet to buy their first summer ‘99 (with extra Flake, please).

At time of writing, its is warm during the day, but cloudy and also rainy.  It it freezing at night.  Wear a jacket, you boil.  Take it off, you get soaked.  Jeans go clammy in a matter of minutes.  Opaque tights are uncomfortable.  Unclad, untanned legs look at bit like chicken fillets that have been left to defrost and unfortunately forgotten about in the kitchen sink.

How best to dress for comfort in this weather?  Go nude.  Carry a blanket and an umbrella around in a hold-all for cold/wet situations.  There is no other way to go in terms of comfort.  The only by-product of your comfort is the extreme discomfort of others when you decide that the blanket that covers your shame would also double as a nice picnic blanket for lunch in the Peace Park.

Or try a dehumidifier suit.  I’m pretty sure that they haven’t been invented yet, but surely someone will find a way (just to let you know, I demand 10% of the profits right off).  You will be cool and cozy – with the added bonus of scaring small children, scattering them like confused pigeons as you stroll down Patrick Street of a Saturday afternoon.

Go into a department store and try on everything over your suit.  Cause a fuss when nothing fits and rampage out like a 1950’s B-Movie monster, perhaps taking a few celebrity perfume ad cardboard cut-outs with you.  If your summer is as boring as this weather is, you’ll thank me later.  If you get sued, we never met and you definitely didn’t get that idea from me – by the way, I still want that 10% of the humidity suit profits.

If you’re of the school of Gaga and determined to make your personal sartorial expression independent to the whims of the weather system, you’ll have to make the ‘slightly sweaty ham’ look a Summer trend.  Whether it’s black jeans or a full-on fur coat, wear it with pride, bring oil-blotting pads for your face and under no circumstances should you attempt to wear a fringe, even if it does hide the glowing, struggling pink beacon that is the forehead.

It may be tempting, but please, please do not give in to the urge to wear leggings as trousers.  I know it’s easy breezy.  Its the clothing equivalent of eating McDonalds for every meal; it’s too convenient and you may eventually die inside. Case in point – today I saw a picture of a woman on a bus wearing incredibly tight, nude leggings.  To my myopic eyes, it looked like she had forgotten both trousers and underwear.  I can never unsee that. Never.  And neither will anyone else.