Billy Keane: 'This is my first ever fashion column - but men, worry not, there's a long section about bras'
'Were you out foreign?" I ask. "No," says she. "I was sprayed brown at home by the beautician."
And brown she was. As brown as the top of an old polished mahogany table of the kind found in a great house, or a bishop's palace.
It was then it dawned on me.
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For certain, there's a lot that can go into the togging out of a woman from head to toe, even if it's only for the one day, or the one bit of the one day, like say a wedding, or the like.
As ever, we strive here to be of assistance. This is the first fashion column I have written in the 17 years of writing for the Irish Independent. It would be no harm either for men to read the rest of this helpful piece and not to go turning over the page.
We will start with the brassiere. I wandered into the bra part of a big department store in Tralee, for research, and the different kinds are as numerous as daisies in July or the stars that dot the Milky Way.
There were three rows of pop-up bras and some were only half cups but were the same price as full cups. Bras are priced differently to coffee.
Bra sizes are measured from the back rather than the front. This came as a great surprise to me. I thought bras were all about the front.
I was also surprised at the amount of padding that goes in to the bras. One man I know who is very well up on such matters said the women should be reprimanded for false advertising.
There are all kinds of bra sizes which are described by reference to letters and numbers. I think maybe one or two of the larger bras go up as high as bus numbers like the 46A.
Some bras are stuck on when the woman wears a backless dress. I'm only guessing now but the stick-ons must surely be measured from the front as there's no back to them. So I wonder if there's a different grading system. I didn't like to ask.
There's waxing to be done then down below. I had my chest waxed for charity one time. They stick this strip onto your body hair and then pull it off suddenly. It was very painful and the chest hair never rightly grew back. The lady who was pulling off the hair strip had a few drinks in and took away skin an' all.
I can only imagine the pain involved for women in removing all the undergrowth down below and then, after all that trouble, only a very small few probably ever get to see the end product. I didn't really do any more research on this part as I didn't like to ask. We will just mark it down as another job to be done.
There's hair under the arm to be removed as well. When I was a boy the chiffon scarf test was the big one on the TV for testing how smooth the women's legs were. I think the stuff they creamed on was called Immac and it was very good for removing hair smoothly and without leaving any stubble.
The model on the television stretched out her long leg and the scarf skidded slowly to the floor. The idea was that if the Immac wasn't as good as it was, then the chiffon would stick on the spiky stubble.
One of the lads in our class at school was sent to bed early by his mother in case he saw the chiffon test ad, which scandalised many of the viewers.
I know a good bit about make-up from going on the television. There's a lot of skill in getting the face just right. I was in there one day getting done up with Dáithí Ó Sé. He took one look at me and said, "Sure that man needs no make-up. It's like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa."
Then there's lipstick. And the eye liner with the false lashes. And perfume. Like I said, there's a lot of work in the getting ready for a big day out.
The shoes are very important too. I have heard tell of a man by the name of Jimmy Choo who sells shoes for thousands. I used to think his name was Jimmy Shoe but I checked and it's definitely Choo. I'll bet his nickname at school was Atish.
Jimmy had better be careful, what with the compo culture here in this country, he might get sued if one of his customers falls off her heels. I think high heels are gone slightly out of fashion though. I'm not sure if this is down to claims or not. Let's just leave it by saying the Choo shoes are another box to be ticked.
Then there's the bag and jewellery. I'm always finding bits of broken jewellery in the bar but I have yet to find an opal or a diamond or any gold of any kind.
There's a good bit of work goes into the finding of the dress. I think women still go to the actual shops to buy dresses for big occasions. The internet will not make you a coffee and tell you honestly if the dress is nice. I'm all for backing Main Street. By the way, Listowel has more independent women's clothes shops than many big cities.
The hair must be done. I didn't know until lately trials have to be done just to be sure the hair is great on the big day. The hair can take hours and hours. There might even be extensions needed and it is very important for men to say the hair is lovely after the job is done on the big day.
The nails on the hands and on the end of the legs have to be done up and painted. I had my nails done one time for a piece I was writing and I have to say I found the process very therapeutic.
Right now one my toenails is like a scimitar. If the gardaí ever see my toe I will be done for carrying an offensive weapon. I could stick my toe up on the counter of the bank and the teller would hand over the money immediately.
I can't bend down to hack it off as the back is bad. So I can understand why the toes have to be done.
We haven't even got to the knickers yet or the tights.
There was a woman in the bar the other night and she was telling me about the Magic Knickers which tucks in the tummy without any need for gastric bands, diets or gyms.
I didn't mention the teeth whitening, or the picking out of the hat.
It's hard to be a woman. I bought a new suit today in John Sexton's for a wedding and it took me three minutes max.
I have never met a bad looking woman but when you see a lovely lady dressed in all her finery it's like looking at a favourite painting.
The togged out woman truly is a work of art.