With spring finally coming, what styles should I wear to mark the new season?
Carolyn, by email
Colours! Bright, bright colours! As you rightly note, Carolyn, it looks as if the tedium of winter has finally passed. (Winter is rarely bitter in Britain – there is none of the bone-shattering cold and mountains of snow that I associated with winter when I lived in the US. Instead, winter in south-east England is not “bitter”, or “bleak” or “cruel” or any of the words the poets traditionally use for winter – it’s just tedious. Try to create beauty out of that, Christina Rossetti.)
But this weekend, we were able to emerge, blinking and dazed, from our duffel coats and central heating, like beleaguered woodland creatures awakening from a long hibernation. But how to celebrate this momentous (if, admittedly, annual) occasion? Look, I could spin you a line about how you absolutely have to wear a knit skirt from Céline or buy a pair of Prada clogs in order to ring in the arrival of spring 2015. But – dammit! – I’m not going feed you that guff. No, I’m going to rebel. Think of me as your friendly renegade, the Axel Foley of fashion writers, one who just won’t toe the line pushed by the dyspeptic police captain because I am too busy determinedly pursuing the truth. And going to pole-dancing clubs. Wait, sorry, that’s just Axel Foley, not me.
Anyway, as I was saying, I’m pursuing the truth and the truth is colour. I know we should all wear colour in winter to cheer us up but when it is grey outside my wardrobe somehow takes on a grey pallor of its own, like a sartorial chameleon. So when the sun finally breaks through I go from being a grey-and-black beast to someone bearing a remarkable resemblance to Kimmy Schmidt.
Who is this Kimmy Schmidt, you ask? She is only the protagonist of Tina Fey’s new sitcom, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, starring the delightful ray-of-sunshine-as-human Ellie Kemper. Kemper plays the eternally optimistic Schmidt, who keeps smiling despite a slew of hurdles that would drag any other person down (the theft of her life savings in a nightclub, working for the Manhattan teenager from hell, the loss of 15 years of her life to an apocalyptic cult). I’ve only watched two episodes so far but I already like it a lot – not as much as 30 Rock, obviously, but then that’s a vertiginously high bar to scale. I like the use of tacky New York settings (not enough TV shows foreground the awfulness of Times Square), I really like the weirdness of the premise (who among us isn’t fascinated by what happens to people when they escape from a cult?) and I especially like Kimmy’s delightful cheerfulness. Part of the joke of the show is, of course, that Kimmy maintains her happy mien while all around her grumble, even though she has the most to complain about. But I think watching the show from Britain gives it a slightly different spin: Kimmy’s good cheer isn’t so much as notable as downright exotic.
There are many confusing things about moving from America to Britain. There’s the different definition of “rubber”, which can lead to all sorts of confusions. There’s the lurking panic that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road. And most painful of all, THEY DON’T SELL TWIZZLERS IN BRITAIN! But for me, the most bemusing is the very British attitude that the cup is not only half-empty, but because it’s always like that no one ever expected any more, and it’s bloody typical, really. Optimism is dismally uncool, let alone any sign that one might be trying to improve things, because things are never really improved anyway, are they, oh well, let’s have a cup of tea. This is not the British attitude Mary Poppins led me to expect of this country. When an American goes on holiday and finds the hotel lacking, they will complain vociferously to the manager and take to the TripAdvisor comments board because they truly believe that matters can get better; if a Briton goes to this same disappointing hotel, they will simply spend the whole week grumbling away to their spouse and any fellow British guests. I understand why hoteliers dread American guests, but I think they are underestimating the toxicity of the British ones.
All of which is to say, watching Kimmy Schmidt be lauded for her cheeriness, as opposed to being mocked and knocked, is a balm for my soul. Also, with the seasons now turning, I am especially admiring of Kimmy’s characteristically cheery wardrobe. As far as I can tell from the first two episodes, Kimmy has only one outfit but I enjoy it immensely. She looks like a model for Kate Spade – a brilliant label that should be far more appreciated in this country – with her pink trousers, patterned blouse and yellow embellished cardigan. How can anyone be glum in such an outfit? And how can anyone be glum looking at it? I’m not a massive fan of her flashing trainers (the show emphasises that they are just an expression of her stunted childhood so I expect they’ll be jettisoned soon). But the colours? Never. Look at Kimmy, Britain, and learn from her. This season is all about Kimmy, and beyond, too.
Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email email@example.com