Puttin’ on the Ritz and cheese for the wedding
Is it unlucky to reveal what the bridegroom is wearing before the big day?
No? Good. The wedding plans are moving on apace. The wedding cake, which is a three-tier cheese*, has been selected and caterers are hired.
When Mark paid a flying visit a couple of weeks ago, I despatched him haste-post-haste to the best local gentlemen’s outfitters to choose his hire suit. There is a bewildering choice for today’s groom.
It was either lounge suits or morning dress when I got married in 1978 and, thankfully, we opted for morning dress. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to see me on the wedding pictures for over-sized collars, flares and Kevin Keegan perms.
Fast forward 30 years and men are spending almost as long as women choosing their perfect wedding attire.
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Today, there are frockcoat suits, tail coat suits, morning tail suits, Nehru-style suits, velvet and brocade suits, highland wear, shervanis and sherwani outfits, plus accessories.
The Mahatma Gandhi obviously didn’t catch on.
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When Mark, his bride Caitlin and I emerged blinking from the lift to be confronted by a huge range of wedding wear for men, my only instruction before I high-tailed it to the ladies’ clothing department was that it would be best to avoid a kilt.
It wasn’t just because of the ancestry – we are slightly less Scottish than a Yarmouth bloater and have failed to track down the McMortimer tartan (although we once had a McDonald’s Happy Meal).
No, it was more of a leg thing.
Men who look good in kilts – and there were a couple of them at Newmarket Ladies’ Day, on July 8 – tend to have sturdy legs. You need a pair of chunky pins when you’re a Pict or Scot intent upon rushing Hadrian’s wall with your home-made axe and doing some indiscriminate marauding among the English.
In fact, I asked my lovely cousin Jilly, who is the indefatigable organiser of our annual outing to Newmarket if she thought it would be okay if I went over and gave the tanned, muscular, hairy legs of the kilted man a quick stroke. She said it absolutely wouldn’t be okay so I had a bit of a sulk.
What, I observed, is the point of a Ladies’ Day then? I am 55. When do I get to behave outrageously?
All day at the races and I didn’t even get to stroke a horse let alone a well-proportioned Scottish calf. Anyway, my son who is tall and slender with dark hair and very pale skin, does not really have the right sort of legs for a kilt. It would be better to have something with trousers, I advised.
After that, I left them to it and wandered off to look at frocks and tops. As I am still determined to make it into a size 14 for the wedding, next April, I didn’t try on anything that would fit me.
I am trying to incentivise myself by looking at smaller clothes.
The power of positive thought will make me slim. Additionally, I am prepared to forgo chocolate three days out of seven… weeks.
This particular men’s outfitters is the sort of place where the sales staff take one look at you and can tell. My husband walks in the door and is immediately directed towards the 42” jackets. Men don’t seem to mind that sort of thing.
Although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the staff in the ladies’ department can also instantly tell what size you are, they are far too discreet to mention it, so you can lie if you want to.
There are also some reassuring phrases that can help a woman sustain the myth that she’s a 14, such as: “Yes, that range does come up a bit small.”
So much nicer than: “Yes, you’ve come up a bit big in that range.”
I tried on a couple of dresses that came up a bit small and have decided my chest is the problem. If it was a bit smaller I would be able to get the dress over it instead of tugging fruitlessly at a garment bunched up round my neck.
If I had, by some miracle, managed to force it over my painfully flattened boobs, I suspect they would have had to cut me out and would still have been tactful.
“No, we often cut people out of this dress. They’ve obviously skimped on material.”
In fact, it’s not all bad news on the hips and bum front (and back).
My friend Katie, who hadn’t seen me for about a month, greeted me: “Lynnie (only she gets to call me that), you’ve lost weight!”
“Maybe a little,” I said, grinning stupidly and waiting for more.
“Your face looks thinner.”
Looks as if I shall need the same size knickers but a smaller hat, then. Back at the men’s outfitters, Mark and Caitlin arrived at my side looking sublimely happy. The groom will be in black tails and classic striped trousers with a cream waistcoat and olive tie, as will the bride’s father, the groom’s father and an as yet unconfirmed number of ushers.
As for accessorising, and men are allowed to do that these days, Mark was torn.
Being theatrical, it was clear he was tempted by the entire array of costume additions but, in the end, he rejected the top hat and opted instead for a cane.
Immediately I was torn between two versions of Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz. One of them features Fred Astaire in the film Blue Skies, the other is Frankenstein’s monster performing the routine in Mel Brooks’s comedy Young Frankenstein.
“You’ll have to learn to tap-dance,” I said helpfully.
* Apparently more and more couples are having cheese instead of cake. It neatly sidesteps the problems with marzipan and candied peel.