The new brand NRBY very kindly sent me last year a pair of their luxe joggers to say thank you for me mentioning them in a piece in the paper (the gift came after the fact, I ought to point out).
They had underestimated the size of my arse and they were a little tight, and I thought anyway they would really suit my friend Sue. I passed them onto her along with a Suquu lipstick that I also knew would suit her. She was grateful for both but looked a little askance at the trousers.
“I’m wary of these kind of pants,” she said (she is American). “I have got ninja complex.”
I don’t get it, I said. “Ninja complex,” she said. “You know, no mandarin collars, nothing that looks like pyjamas.” She said it like pyjammas. I suddenly understood: Sue’s parents are from Korea. “You know?” she spun her hands in the air, “I don’t want to look like a ninja.”
Sue is the source of my other favourite dresscode phrase, which is a “buffet dress” or an “all you can eat dress” which is basically something loose that you can hide a bloated stomach in. As you can imagine, Sue and I are pretty good friends.
It got me thinking – what is my dressing complex? What do I cleave to, looks-wise, that I wish not to look like? I think it comes down to barmaid. Not that I have anything against barmaids, I have been a barmaid more than once.
But I have got barmaid complex, which is why you will never catch me, never so long as I ever will live, in animal print. Or a “bright lip” or ruffles or sequins. I wish someone would mistake me for a damn ninja.
Funnily enough, Sue looks absolutely terrific in all the things I swerve. She looks dynamite in a bright lip and a ruffly dress. Sometimes I see her dressed up, (daytime she usually goes for East Coast preppy), in some gorgeous diaphanous thing with her pink lipstick and her swishy hair just so and she looks she made a billion dollars that morning and then spent it all on art. Then she opens her mouth and says something like “Oh my guard if I don’t have a drink in the next nine seconds I’m, like, going to bite someone.”
How about you? What is your complex? Please leave a comment in the handy box below.
“ I’m, like, going to bite someone.”. I think Sue speaks for all of us here.
Frumpy middle-aged hag. Sadly I find it hard to avoid this look despite trying – I do casual badly but there’s not much call for semi-tailored in my current life.
I can’t talk, I’m wearing a Ganni muu-muu right now
I live in a rural area and have an aversion to pastels and florals. I avoid the usual uniform of Joules/Fatface/White Stuff/Seasalt/anything tweed like the plague. I just cannot identify with that “look” at all. It terrifies me. It is so aging. And unflattering. It’s the magnolia paint of fashion looks.
Lesley Somerville says
OMG yes, it’s the female equivalent of a rugby shirt and chinos in my book.
Anything ruffled= Milkmaid Complex
Small, springy prints= Euro toddler Complex
Mules (Birkenstocks not included) = Slaggy (in a bad way) Complex
Those AWFUL cold-shoulder tops (bad on me, hideous on pre-teens)= Butlins Complex
Unnecessary zips= 90s clubbing Complex
Butlins complex made me choke on my bagel. But, yes to Cold-shoulder. Awful awful awful.
Librarian frumpy chic is best avoided if you are, in fact, a librarian.
The ‘sexy’ look. Anything short, tight, low cut, high heeled. One of them, sure. But all of them together no way! I’m very hourglass and some stretchy American Apparel whatsit that my beanpole sister can just chuck on to go for a coffee makes me look like a streetwalker :-/
Tits OR legs out. Although I think cleavage has had it’s time? Agree re cold-shoulder tops and ruffles (Mrs Slocombe springs to mind).
Cleavage feels a bit… 90s? I don’t get the boobs out any more. Legs though (in 40 denier mind)!
Agree with someone else: milkmaid. Barmaid possibly also. I am scruffy with ratty hair and big boobs, so…
– Jersey-type fabrics = mumsy
– Tight or glamorous clothes (that look glossy on friends with shiny hair and trim figures) = brassy
– Gingham and ruffles = Bavarian beer maid
I would fucking love to look like a ninja
‘Try hard’ complex is mine. I am never knowingly over dressed for an occasion. I am married to the complete opposite type. We look ridiculous when we go out.
Is it just me, or has anyone else been watching Sex & the City reruns? ‘It got me thinking…’
“Oh my guard if I don’t have a drink in the next nine seconds I’m, like, going to bite someone.”
I love your friend, Esther! This is my new catchphrase.
Emily A says
I have a Grayson Perry as Claire Complex – I’m just under 6 foot, so anything too frilly / gingham / trapeze line and short makes me think I look like Claire. Even without the bows.
Emily this is BRILLIANT. I really love how evocative this is. I have that a bit, too.
My complex would be Ageing Monaco Divorcee in Denial. No clue why I fear this as I am a 45 year old, happily married mother from Cambridge, but there it is.
All I do in life is try to look like a barmaid. I guess my complex is ‘secondary school teacher’ (I’m not one) – unfortunately all I do in life is look like a teacher, regardless of what I wear. One time at Victoria coach station I was hungover, in leopard print and DMs, smudged eyeliner and lipstick across my chin and this teenager looked me up and down and said, ‘Oi. You know what, your swag is very teacher.’ That was a bad day.
“you know what your swag is very teacher”? I wouldn’t even have understood what the teenager meant by this
Emily A says
Speaking of youth culture – has anyone here heard of VSCO Girls?
I had to ask a down with the kids friend. But it confirmed my worst fears.x
Primary school teacher for me is white stuff dress and leggings and I think I look like a drag queen in anything vaguely girly or high heels. I’m 5ft 4 and a tomboy so doubt this very much but it does inform much of my shopping choices.
I have been known to wail “she’s just closing up at the liiiiibraaaary!!!” at my own reflection in the manner of Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life when George asks him what’s happened to his wife in the timeline where he wasn’t born. Except of course she still looks incredibly glamorous despite having to live the nightmare life of a FULFILLING JOB and having to wear GLASSES. I envy people who can put their hair in a bun and look cute and not like Professor McGonagall without the magic. Can I just add in my experience that librarians are often stylish, so forgive me for invoking the stereotype.
Frumpy! I’ve put on about a stone and a half and I’ve only gone up one dress size but suddenly it’s all so much harder. All my weight goes to my face and I look so…I don’t know…suburban? I just feel so much cooler with cheekbones and non-elasticated waists but I don’t want to buy new clothes, I want to lose weight and get back into all my lovely pre-existing wardrobe!
“Frumpy Mum” 😖
Wacky lady academic, since I already project that energy to an alarming degree. So no ‘bold lip’ and also no short cardigans, oversized jewelry, shoes with straps across the feet, Lagenlook, Marimekko, colour of any kind. Have recently started, cautiously, to do a statement earring but I can’t say I’m unambivalent about it. Basically I have to avoid anything NOT CAPSULE.
Orthodox Jew. My hair is thick and can look like a wig if overly styled. I like a midi dress but has to be styled carefully for me.
Meant to comment on this ages ago – but my fear is MUTTON. That trying too hard to still remain young thing. Also, barmaid. I have been an E cup sadly since I was 17 and anything at all that shows cleavage I LOATHE. I just look like I’m in some awful Hammer Horror film as the wench about to be feasted upon by Dracula. If I could spend my days in white Ts, jeans, trainers and black slouchy jumpers, I would. Hold on I do. I wistfully gaze at heeled shoes, ‘Fashun’ and ‘trends’ and then wear basically what I have been wearing since I was 17.