For the last three Saturdays, I've been shopping for my mother-of-the-bride outfit. I've been dreading this, and postponing it until I actually lost all the weight that I was obviously going to shed before Daughter 1's wedding. However, eventually I had to admit that time was running out.
Friends had advised me that the place to go for m-o-b outfits was a particular shop in a small town north of here which specialises in such things, so my husband decently agreed to drive me and my mother up there. I don't like driving on motorways. I had convinced myself that this shop was going to feature rows of neat suits appropriate for matronly ladies, and that all I had to do was to choose one with its matching blouse and hat and then head back to Edinburgh, stick it in the wardrobe and forget about it.
Did this happen? Not exactly.
We found the shop and it did indeed specialise in m-o-b outfits. Outfits suitable for tall, slim ladies who really aspire to stand out from the crowd in sleeveless, silk, sequinned, beaded gowns, matching coats and hats the size of cartwheels. Think Charles and Camilla's wedding. And then think fancier. Also think £700 for the outfit and another £200 for the hat.
I was traumatised. I felt a fool, totally unworthy to be there. I slunk out of the shop - "No thank you; we were just looking" - my mum behind me. My husband was waiting in the car along the street and had just settled down to do the crossword when he got the phone call to say that it was all over. We went and had coffee. Then, on the way back to the car, we passed another, much less fancy shop. We went in and there was a suit that fitted me. It wasn't all that wonderful, and it cost much more than I would ever normally spend on clothes on one day, but it was vaguely weddingy and my mum liked it so I bought it. Turquoise.
Anyway, that was the suit, but I still needed a blouse, which took all of last Saturday in Edinburgh. But I got one - cream with turquoise and pink flowers (quite faint ones). Then my mother got me persuaded that I needed light-coloured shoes, and since the mother-of-the-bridegroom (who is a really lovely person but is also slim and elegant) is going to be wearing a hat, I supposed I needed one of those, too. So that was yesterday: hat, shoes and matching bag.
The shoes were surprisingly easy: John Lewis, the first pair I tried on. Cream. £35. The hat - the smallest that Edinburgh could offer without being on of those "fascinator" things (half a budgie attached to a comb and a bit of net that you pinion to the side of your head) - I got in Accessorise. Cream. £25. But the bag. Even I, not a smart person, can see that if you have cream shoes you need a bag the same colour. And Edinburgh contains dozens of cream bags, all subtly different shades.
The last shop I went into was Debenhams. By this time I was thinking: a) I really really want to go home and b) I'm getting inexpensive accessories - good. And there was a bag of just the right shade of cream. It was even rather nice: a few little dots of coloured leather to fancy up the creamness. That'll do, I thought. Then I looked at the price. £60!!
But recklessly I bought it anyway. It was late and I still hadn't finished reading the book for the book group that evening. Then on my way out of the shop I saw another bag, almost as good a match for the shoes. £5. (How can a shop make a profit on selling a bag for £5? What does the maker get paid?) I bought it, too.
Which one should I keep?