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Fashion writer Jane Shillingford on when discretion should be the better part of valour

There’s a right way and a wrong way of doing most things, and one of the rites of passage for ladies of a certain age is learning to judge when keeping on trend is just no longer worth the candle.

Whether sporting beyond-shoulder-length hair, jeans at functions when flanked by your teenage daughter, five-inch heels, calf-length leggings in any colour but black and wearing anything by Alexander McQueen are acceptable after forty – let alone forty-five – is a matter of taste, bravado and ruthless self-examination.

We’ve all made mistakes. One of my juiciest, about four months after Julia Roberts had created a sensation by appearing on the catwalk with unshaven armpits, was arriving to present the ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the London Fashion Awards with a veritable forest sprouting from my sleeveless lime Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dress. As I rose from my seat and reached to collect the award, I sensed a distinct collective gulp of horror from the crowded lunch tables and immediately realised that I might have dropped a clanger about the size of Big Ben’s. Fortunately one of my closest friends, Julien Macdonald now best known for his appearance on ‘STRICTLY COME DANCING’, was bold enough to come up and hiss waspishly in my ear the advice for which I shall remain eternally grateful – “Get off the stage, you old cunt – you look like a gorilla!”

When ‘Mad Gwen’ Paltrow paused on the red carpet at the ‘IRON MAN 3’ premier in her delicious Antonio Berardi gown this autumn, she stopped the paparazzi in their tracks and caused a media incident with her side-bum ‘reveal’. A thousand feature articles and imitators later, it seems that ‘side-bum’ has become this year’s leading-edge look.

Personally, it is not a look I would recommend to anyone, let alone a harassed, post-thirty eight year old with three kids and a developing cellulite problem.

It’s been discussed within my circle of friends, of course, but given a universal ‘thumb’s down’ – even by those who are having affairs. In fact, particularly by those who are having affairs. Jenny, one of our most voracious and brazen cougars, swears that the secret of attracting (and more importantly, keeping) a super-fit lothario in his twenties is to remember to keep your clothes on, and the lights off.

Take it from me – if ever you see a row of ‘side-bum’ gowns in the racks at Harvey & Knicks, there’s a message in there somewhere. It’s saying “Don’t even think about it”.

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About Jane Shillingford

Jane spent the bulk of her career working on women’s magazines. Now retired and living on the south coast, she has no regrets and 'would do it all again'. More Posts