Any breach of my table manners caused my father to remark that I would never be asked to dine at Buckingham Palace. And he was right, I have not been asked to dine – a reception with an 8.30pm start suggests one is expected to have had one’s tea. No worries about using the correct cutlery then, only worries about what to wear on an occasion which requires White Tie or National Dress. Orkney’s national costume of boiler suit and bunnet paired with floral pinny and headscarf was a delicious prospect – for all of 30 seconds.
In reality, it is easy for him; a trip to Moss Bros and he is sorted. I, unfortunately, have to go shopping for a floor length evening dress and I am a big woman.
Many shops later, I have learnt several facts. The choice in size 18 is limited and within that miniscule selection, the gowns which suit a wrong-side-of-55- but-not-yet-70, 5ft 10in matron with bat wings are non-existent. A green beaded number made me look like a sickly armadillo; a navy silk and lurex number would require corsetry a la Queen Mary; a black number with a raised collar, which looked initially promising on account of the sleeves, turns me into a cross between Mrs Danvers and Snow White’s stepmother; Grecian, with a flowing skirt hides the fat but requires a cantilevered bra to produce a (crepey ) cleavage and some sort of shrug to hide my shot-putter shoulders and the aforementioned bat wings. (Barbara Cartland boleros are not the answer.)
And there is another lurking problem. Etiquette states that white tie for him means gloves for her, and a sleeveless gown means above-the-elbow ones, preferably silk or kid. A quick Internet trawl confirms my suspicion that these come expensive unless one is willing to settle for nylon from the dominatrix website. So, if anyone knows of a shop stocking extra long flowing dresses with sleeves and only the hint of a cleavage, please let me know. Then I just have to find some shoes for my size 8 bunioned feet.