I went strolling through Sydney’s Bondi Beach recently, window-shopping with a fashionable friend, in 30-plus degrees heat accompanied by 1000 per cent humidity.
In one store, I pulled out a lovely stripey linen dress and showed it to her. It was a pale sand colour with a Nehru collar, mid-calf length, a bit Moroccan-inspired, with a “let’s have a mint tea and then go to the kasbah and buy some leather sandals” feeling.
My friend is an artist and textile designer in her 70s and, trust me, knows her fabrics.
“Yueech, imagine how hot that would be to wear with those long sleeves,” she said emphatically.
“But, but, linen always been considered one the best fabrics to wear in the heat hasn’t it Mary?” I protested, trawling through all the hackneyed colonial references in my brain, much like Melania Trump in Egypt.
“If you come from a cold country,” said Mary dismissively, which is when the penny dropped. Linen is hot. So are long sleeves. As a combo, they are deadly to any women over 50 who feel the heat.
But of course, I don’t like my upper arms, so short sleeves have never been in my personal fashion vocabulary, which explains why I have had pools of perspiration pooling on my top lip since 1980.
I decided to change that. I started pulling out the most offensive, heat-inducing pieces in my wardrobe, like a disgusted therapist on an episode of Hoarders. A-ha, this ankle-length, slate-grey, cotton, button-through can go now, as can this expensive navy silk one. They have long sleeves. That’s the problem, now I see it.
That blue denim dress, out. The long-sleeved, silk-print blouses that I love so much. Hmm, maybe not. The white, cotton, man-style shirt. I need to think about …
So I hit the internet. Short-sleeved shirts and dresses, let’s do it. I hit Everlane. It is a nice US brand that sells simple separates, not expensive. The cut is a bit cool, a bit hipster, not too regular.
I found a stripey, sleeveless dress, a bit like a caftan. A black button-through silk shirt, with wide, short sleeves. Done. A blue cotton popover shirt, again short-sleeved. Exciting. Possibly life-changing. Then they arrived.
Ladies, if you have biggish bosoms and you want to add 15 unflattering years, then opt for a pale-blue, short-sleeved shirt. They work for policewomen, nurses and emergency services because they spell business and they are awesome. But for me it spelled bowls club.
The black silk was a winner, however, because a) it was black and b) it was black. The dress, okay, I could think of a couple of circus tent jokes and I didn’t exactly feel like Barbara Hutton in Morocco but it will do.
I went back to my wardrobe and hung all the long-sleeved, silk blouses back up lovingly.
I then went back to the internet and typed in “personal fans”.