Take a navy guernsey over a striped shirt with the collar turned up, add a denim skirt and top it all off with pearls or a fob chain and what have you got? The fashion magazine in which I read this description called in the country clone and was not impressed.
I’ve failed to master the art of stand up collars, don’t own a fob chain, am more likely to have a merino top than a shirt and prefer jeans to a skirt. But I have to admit the general affect is much the same as the one the fashion writer described so disparagingly.
I understand her lack of enthusiasm because the wool and denim ensemble gets more points for comfort than style. But that’s precisely why we country women choose it – although it’s predictable it’s also practical.
It may not be sufficiently stylish to claim the label classic but because this look is never in fashion it never goes out of fashion either. And while they may be a long way from the look of the moment on city streets the “country clone” clothes are well suited to a quick sprint across a paddock if the wearer is called on to lend a hand before she dashes off to town.
You may be able to opt for style if the nearest you’ll be getting to the great outdoors is a gentle stroll down a well paved foot path and you can favour fashion if you have nothing to pick up but the groceries. But when you might have to rescue an old ewe which has cast herself in the cattle stop before you leave your property and you know your shopping list will include sacks of grain, large containers of drench and grease-encrusted parts for the irrigator it pays to choose clothes that will cope.
Just how necessary it is to put function before fashion was brought home to me the day I decided I had the luxury of enough time to dress with care before going in to town. I had just put the finishing touches to my outfit when there was a knock at the door. It was the dog-dosing man looking for someone to help him. My farmer was away at a sale and I had no idea where the other men were but I knew which name went with which dog so there was no reason why I couldn’t act as doser’s assistant.
It may be possible to remain immaculate while catching and holding thousand-acre dogs but I’m not sure how. I’d taken the precaution of exchanging my high heels for gumboots but they didn’t protect my tights from a liberal splattering of mud. I also acquired a patina of dog hair on my skirt; the imprint of one of King’s very large paws on the front of my once-white blouse and the perfume with which I had sprayed myself lost its battle with what could best be described as “eau de kennel”.
Next time I had a yearn to dress up for town I ignored it and reached for my jumper and jeans.
I do enjoy donning smart clothes for those occasions when it’s necessary to play ladies. But following fashion is folly on the farm. When choosing an outfit for every day wear and going-to-town the question I ask myself is not whether it’s fashionable but how will it look with gumboots?