So there I was in Accessorize with a four-pack of decorative hair clips in my hand – just the thing for the party season – ready to pay. And then the whole exercise became tangled with questions.
Sophisticated turbans, as explored in this esteemed publication earlier this year, are one thing. But a twinkly grip? Were those pearl-trimmed clips pretty – or bordering on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Plastic junk destined for landfill, or a harmless indulgence that would give me pleasure for years? Dumb question. This is Accessorize. It’s not there to bring lasting pleasure.
They were pretty, though. I unhooked the packet from the rack that I’d already backed away from twice. After all, it wasn’t hair clips that made Baby Jane freakish so much as the trowelled-on panstick, tarantula lashes, Alice in Wonderland frilly dresses, psychopathic behavioural patterns and the proclivity for trying to murder her sister. All those fabulously elegant Edwardian dowager aristos didn’t have any qualms about wearing jewellery in their hair well into their 70s. Play it right (complete with a slinky, 1930s-style evening gown) and sleek hair, and a twinkly hair pin starts to look very Singer Sargent, or Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby.
Or would it? Theirs were all real. Maybe there’s something a bit defeatist about wearing cheap zirconia in your 50s. Back on the rack they went.
Or is wearing obvious fakes a witty Coco Chanel gesture? Come to think of it, what would Coco have made of Accessorize? Hover hover.
God, shopping has become an exercise in uncomfortable self-examination. It’s not just the bills and Marie Kondos and the Gretas. It’s all those other will-I-look-ridiculous niggles. In your teens and 20s, you can wear a pearl-trimmed bonnet with feathers and a fake tiara and possibly get away with it. In your 50s, it’s not a slam dunk.
Gold-plated emerald hair slide, £180, Bibi Marini at Net-a-Porter; Resin hair slide, £580, Gucci at Matches Fashion; Pearl hair clips, £8, Accessorize; Pink bow, £8, River Island; Crystal-embellished, £340, Saint Laurent at Selfridges
I backed away from the clips (the willpower) and found myself walking straight into Zara (for research, you understand), where I bought a Very Useful velvet belt with a minimalist gold buckle that will look so effortlessly evening-y over dresses and trousers. It’s the kind I’ve wanted for ages and never found. No, really.
But it wasn’t sparkly hair clips, and later that day, after both my 20-something daughters and an older friend showed me their jewelled hair grips, I wondered whether I’d been too puritanical.
But the Lord testeth and the Lord rewardeth, because with zero difficulty (they were on a shelf in my bathroom) I found a set of carefully preserved ‘diamond’ flower hair clips I bought in Accessorize or Monsoon at least five or six years ago, all in perfect shape. Moral one: not everything cheap has to be disposable. Moral two: visit your high street occasionally – you’ll spot things there you miss online, like that wonderful velvet belt. Moral three: age must never determine your hair-clip aspirations.
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