There is no new black

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
Is that a homemade skirt then Miss?" asks James. A surprising response given that we are reading Macbeth and discussing his mental decline.

I glance nervously down at the skirt. "Homemade James? I don't have time to sleep let alone sew clothes." The class stop breathing and lean forward as one with an expectant air. The silence is palpable and much more riveting than Macbeth.

It's one of those challenges college and experience never quite prepares you for. What are they doing looking at my skirt when they should be focused on the text?

"Well, I hope you didn't pay a lot for it Miss. Did you Miss?"

It's a barb worthy of Trinny and Susannah. Not that my dress sense hasn't been the cause of previous enquiries. The bright red jacket that I thought made me look colourful and professional but that Year 10 exclaimed made me look as if I was an air hostess with Virgin. The floral summer frock that I thought made me a 1940s English lady but which Victoria loudly announced just made me look older. Older?

Year 7 has nominated this term's best-dressed teacher and sadly it isn't me. It's the head of music who always manages to look freshly groomed in a sleek fitted suit and chic silk scarf, knotted at the neck; very Parisian.

I tried that look and felt all trussed up and restricted like a turkey.

Other colleagues get around the issue by wearing academic gowns. Tried that as well except that I looked and felt like a demented flapping crow.

Anyway, it was black and I am trying to break out of wearing black after Elizabeth asked if that was my favourite colour and wondered why I never wore pink. Trying to explain that black not only didn't show the daily battle marks of classroom warfare, but also was the easiest thing to co-ordinate at 6.30 in the morning seemed futile.

I tried being daring with my shoes, but this was too uncomfortable. The kinky fashion boots with stiletto heels and pointed toes have been ditched for flat, black, sensible soles that enable charging across rooms and are designed for those who never have a chance to sit down.

In the changing rooms I struggle with potential new school clothes for spring, bending every which way to ensure decency is maintained. Too low? Too see-through? Too tight? Trying too hard? Too trendy? Not my age? Too like the kids wear?

As I emerge panting, the assistant asks what I'll take. Just the plain black trousers, again.

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