Wednesday 19 September 2018

The weather decided it in the end. I simply had to lose the ‘American nun’ navy tights and break out those legs for summer sunshine

Bairbre Power
Bairbre Power
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I am a creature of habit and comfort. When it comes to clothes, I have my absolute seasonal favourites that I tend to wear like a uniform and over the past few months, it was my Helen Steele dropped waist silk dress. So admired when I'm abroad, the jackeen in me takes great pride in explaining her prints of Dublin lighthouses and harbour imagery based on photographs that Helen's great grandfather took.

I especially love this dress because it's transeasonal and, best of all, I love it because I can wear it with my uniform of navy opaque tights and suede ankle boots.

However, the arrival of sunny weather represented something of a conundrum last week when we were finally down to just two seasons in one day as opposed to four. Reality was staring me in the face - I'd have to break out those summer clothes, pull them down from storage and crank up my Chinese laundry on a sunny day when there's good drying. But with the summer clothes out, what would I do without the crutch of my uniform navy tights?

The problem with morphing into summer clothes is you can't really wear dark tights with a lovely pale cream outfit. There was nothing for it but the tights had to go and it was hello bare legs. I thought I'd take it in baby steps and just expose the ankles, so I dug out my favourite 40s jumpsuit with its above-the-ankle hemline and off I went to style some foodies. I was all over the place - in town collecting props and clothes and then out in the suburbs - and somewhere along the way, I got bitten. The mozzies or some hungry insect feckers got to me and had a bloody good lunch on my ankles. That night the ankles itched like hell and I dreamt of that crazy week on a boat in Venice when the mozzies dined royally on my ankles and I woke up each morning with unsightly, bloodied ankles I'd scratched in my sleep.

With the gardening chores done on Saturday and a brand new turquoise deck chair from Homebase set up for some sunbathing, I got around to tackling the legs which weren't exactly mummified over the winter and spring. Sure, they had seen action at the gym during those cold months and in the pool, but staring down at those milk bottle pins, I despaired as I rubbed on the P20 sunblock. Until I get some freckles and natural colour, there are two options open to me and I hate both - nude tights or worse again, a skim of false tan.

Nude tights are just an anathema to me which may sound hilarious as I'm so committed to the opaque, 'hide all' tights in cold weather, but I struggle with nude tights in hot weather. It always intrigues me how some women go to the trouble to wear them but then cut the toes off so their newly painted piggies can be seen!

I felt sorry for Kate Middleton when the new Duchess of Cambridge had to succumb to royal protocol of always wearing tights, but sassy Kate made it her own by developing her signature look of satin sheen sheer hosier and her colour of choice: American tan. I'd say if you opened the top drawer in Kate's dressing room, unopened packets of American tan tights would tumble out because she's never without them. Heck, she was even wearing the tights on Monday afternoon as she emerged from St Mary's Hospital just hours after giving birth to an 8lb 7oz baby, her biggest baby yet. I can't imagine very many new mums wanting to climb into tights after that but that's royal rules for ya.

I kind of like the sassy style of Meghan Markle who has displayed flashes of fashion rebellion, but she was reigned in by the press when she shunned royal protocol and went out in bare legs. Court insiders - don't you just love how we are now eating up all these little crumbs of royal life ahead of the wedding? - say that nude tights are regarded as a steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires. Oh dear Meghan. What have you taken on? Somehow I think wanting to bare her legs is the least of Meghan's problems right now. She has bigger fish to griddle.

Closer to home, I'm writing this while occasionally looking down and surveying the white limbs before me. No varicose veins, which is good, and the knees are not what you could describe as cottage cheese, but I am thinking those calves are maybe a little bit more chunky than I last remembered. And have those ankles thickened up too? Nothing that a few weeks of spinning classes won't undo.

Then there's the joke about the lady who found herself five kilos lighter when she got around to shaving her legs for summer. Thankfully, hair is not my problem, that maintenance issue is sorted. It's the colour of the milk bottle legs that irks me. One thing is for sure, you will not spot me in those hideous glossy tights that make your legs strobe in the sunlight. There's no going back now. I've binned a giant bag of opaque tights. They served me well and even the expensive Wolfords were packed off in case I weakened and went back to look for them when the temperatures dropped.

I hesitated slightly when I set off on Saturday night and after a full day of sunshine, it was new white trainers with designer spikes and a white dress. I caught a glimpse of myself passing a shop and thought "oh God, I look like an ageing ball girl at Wimbledon" but I pressed on. One wag suggested I might use false tan on my legs and do some judicious shading, like young wans do on their chests to create the illusion of cleavage. In my case, I need to lose the thickening calves, not trompe-l'œil them. I'm not a fan of false tan and the idea of doing paint by numbers on my limbs to slim them down seems like the most horrendous past time on the couch on a Friday night. I'd prefer to eat my leg without salt I announced, quoting a phrase I heard from couturier Peter O'Brien who, like me, detests orange limbs and has been known to ask if anyone has a baby wipe so he can wipe it off.

Starting into week two and the milk bottle legs will remain just that - white and au naturel until I get a few real freckles of my own.

In the meantime, I'm skin brushing like a maniac and moisturising like the clappers. When the sunshine comes back, the legs will be ready.

Irish Independent

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