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Valerie Hill: Remember, two sarongs will never make a right.

Byline: Valerie Hill

ON HOLIDAY in surprisingly sunny Wales last week I was caught on the hop, sartorially speaking.

I usually have an outfit for every possibility (rain, hail, bumping into a member of the Royal family) with matching epaulettes of peanut butter, porridge or whatever else Conan the Barbarian (son No 2) had for breakfast that morning.

But the fact that we were going to a stone cottage in late May near Aberdovey didn't bode well on the itsy bits, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot bikini front. In fact,as far as clothes went, I almost tempted to just pack an industrial strength tarpaulin with bust darts and haved one with it. And I am very particular as far as certain types of garments are concerned.

I have work suits, I have dressing up frocks,I have evening gowns (I'm probably the only person in Whiston with abustle),but I don't have ``playing out'' clothes any more.

I just can't do smart casual. I kind of give up when I get to the lemon Pringle sweater and Everprest slacks.

I have, therefore, two looks: smart or frightening the horses. So when it came to packing for a self-catering holiday, it was a case of a box of Weetabix,a jar of Vim and, er, do I need anything to wear other than a bin liner with a boat neckline?

Of course then the sun had to go and spoil it by cracking the flags - or the sand dunes of Harlech. I must have been the only person on the beach that day with an Inverness capeon. (It had looked a bit overcast in the distance that morning, but my husband informed me that was Snowdonia). Still,fashion dyslexic or not, I still didn't look as bad as some of the sartorial accidents I'd left at home. I mean, what's all this with wearing pyjamas in the street? Wincyette is never a fetching fabric in the wee small hours of the morning; in glaring sunlight it makes the owner look positively hirsute. At the other end of the social scale things are not much better. Yoga wear as day wear is enough to set your chakras on edge. Yet just pop into Heswall for a loaf of organic bread on a Saturday and the rattle of floral-beaded slippers is deafening.

And a loose flap away from flowing saffron trousers are the odious cropped satin combats. Which sick mind dreamt these up? Satin should be limited to children's bridesmaids dresses and the padding for Yardley's English Lavender gift boxes.

Remember ladies, ``satin'' rhymes with ``fatten'' and pants made from this stuff will make your hips look fractionally narrower than the Wirral peninsula.

Such things a reoften teamed with another fashion abomination: the mesh vest. This article looks OK on Kylie, who is about the size of a Polly Pocket doll,but not on grown women with chests. This point is proven also by Jordan, who has also been known to do aRabC Nesbit impression whilst out and about in Leicester Square.

Another summer fright are tiny shorts. Too-short shorts a la Geri Halliwell parading her pooch in LA a rejust not the thing for walking the West Highland terrier in NB (as in New Brighton). Killer shorts should be limited to double measures at Happy Hour - they should not be let loose on cottage cheese thighs and viewed without a government health warning.

The bottom line is that if a garment requires you to get a bikini wax and it is not abikini, then don't wear it.

Men still seem to be in a fashion nightmare timewarp. Their horrors don't vary from year to year. Sandals with socks,beer bellies bereft of shirts hanging flaccidly over grimacing belts teamed with Hawaiian tops that looklike an atomic sunset.

Oh, that's not quite true. The younger generation have slipped in those ridiculous calf length trousers teamed with sporty mules sporting a le Coq Sportifmotif.

AND if you believe that men should just let their fashion urges run riot, two words of warning: DavidBeckham.

What a big girl's blouse. Plaits, nail varnish, hair-bands, diamond earrings; what next? HRT? Remember that wrap around skirt he once went out in a few years ago? Or was it twice? Someone should have told him, ``David, two sarongs don't make a right.''

Still, there is something quite endearing about the British lack of fashion sense, whatever the season. It's a sort of inverted version of the maxim that style never goes of fashion. More a case of it never having made any impression in the first place.

LIVERPOOL'S well-deserved win in receiving the title of European Capital of Culture should be taken to heart by everyone.

And really ought to include the myriad of city centre restaurants.

When Ann Monsarrat, widow of Cruel Sea author Nicholas, visited for the Battle of the Atlantic 60th Anniversary she expected Mediterranean opening hours, coming,as she does,from Malta. What a shock to find that a leading hotel like the Pier Head's Crowne Plaza didn't serveSunday lunch.

Good thing the judging committee's stay at the hotel didn't include that day ...

INCREASINGLY people in public life are unwilling to admit when they've made a hash of things. Twiggy has recently been whining that she was bounced off hosting ITV's This Morning for every reason other than the real one: namely she was a useless interviewer and couldn't hold the lengthy programme together (and she had an irritating laugh).

But prime candidates remain the Archers (Jeffrey andMary,not the dum-di-dum-di-dumlot).

In unison the Archbores bleat on about the unfairness that his Lordship suffered in being sent to prison and how others in similar cases received lesser sentences.

Can none of these characters admit their errors and take their punishment like a man (or a woman)?In other words, really set a good example for once.

PUB chain J D Wetherspoon has banned swearing in its hostelries. To misquote the late great Dorothy Parker,``How can they tell?''

Swearing is now so prevalent that, as Shaw predicted,it's just the new small talk.I'mold enough to remember when grandmothers tut- tutted over the younger generation's sloppiness in saying ``Y'know'',and ``Kind'a''as verbal pauses while they thought of what next to say.

Now people merely shove in a few potty-mouthedAnglo-Saxonisms before giving vent to their next blinding observation. It's called freedom of speech,although objectively one might regard it as rather dismally repetitive.


UPBRAIDED: Should Beckham be seen as a style leader?; DRESSED TO THRILL: Just when you think you'vegot this fashion thing all wrapped up, you suddenly get it sarong
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 6, 2003
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