This is my Heckler piece from The Sydney Morning Herald that appeared last year. I was very VERY excited – and am now a little discombobulated that it was actually a year ago!

Concrete jungle looks more like little house on the prairie

October 7 2002

Whatever happened to business chic? In her foray to buy a new wardrobe, fringes, florals and flounces lay in wait for Kim Palmer.

I’m not sure what has happened in the fashion world, but last time I looked Australia – and, more pertinently, Sydney – wasn’t the wild west.

Nor was its summer climate breezy enough for multi-layered denim constructs.

Admittedly, my wardrobe for the past four or so years has been predominantly focused on surviving small children.

We’re talking no whites, no crushable fabrics, nothing that requires dry-cleaning, and easy access clothing – not for amorous moments, as I had to keep reminding my husband, but for the apparently endless years of breastfeeding.

Now, as I venture back into the real world of paid work, a desk to call my own and the opportunity to drink an entire cup of tea while it’s still hot, the suits from pre-breeding life are just not cutting it.

So off I went. For the first time in four years I was in a shopping centre, on my own, with what felt like limitless time to browse, try on and, deep breath, buy clothes for me.

I was almost giddy with delight, with that heart racing sensation you get when you feel you’re doing something really naughty and you’re just waiting for the hand on your shoulder (similar to the sensation of secretly scoffing chocolate in the pantry and being caught out by your four-year-old).

But as I drifted through racks of clothing I felt more giddy-up than giddy. I know Madonna did the cowboy boots, hat, tassles and gingham shirt in one of her more recent film clips, but are we seriously meant to wear these things in real life? It’s one thing for a cool legend of rock to bootscoot on a film stage, but for us mortals to wear it all to work?

It’s as though all the TV shows that I grew up on are materialising before my very eyes.

From Little House on the Prairie, through Swiss Family Robinson to some scary constructions that look way too Eight Is Enough for peace of mind – there they all were, hanging on racks, laughing at me.

Sydney is humid, diabolically so come January and February. The long, denim, panelled – panelled! – skirts will be like wearing a wool-lined Drizabone in a sauna. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

There is no place, on any body, for horizontally panelled white skirts. Think back of the bus, think “does my bum look big in this?” and answer “yes, and so do your thighs”.

White suits – what are we thinking? I even saw white stilettos in a window display. I didn’t know whether to point and laugh or admit defeat and cry.

Has no one watched porn lately to know that, unless you really want the hooker look, they are to be avoided at all costs?

Then we go off-the-shoulder and into the bizarre world of one-shouldered tops. I blame that blonde-haired creature from Big Brother who did the off-the-shoulder thing with everything and tried to compensate for that fashion disaster with another – lip gloss. Formally known as fly-ointment.

I just don’t get it. One bare shoulder in day wear looks ridiculous.

For evening – I’m thinking Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn – sure, it’s a sexy winner. Even the Baroness in The Sound of Music came up a treat, but in day wear it looks as if you’ve lost a sleeve. That, and you always end up with one boob sitting higher than the other, although that could be a personal problem due to the aforementioned years of breastfeeding.

Anyway, I was crestfallen. After a day of uneven hemlines, things that looked way too much like the 1980s for my sanity (I was beginning to expect a torn T-shirt with ‘wham!’ scrawled over the front, fluoro bobby socks and bubble skirts to appear) and clothes that were simply ugly in design and ugly in colour, home I went.

Of course, my husband was thrilled.

A day of shopping and not a penny spent – talk about your dream wife!

So as I go to work in my suits, skirts and shirts from about six years ago – thrilled they still fit and even more thrilled that my investment in classic lines and looks has paid off handsomely – I’ll sit tight for the florals to disappear, the flounces to deflate and sleeves to make their comeback.

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