I was also invited to join them, and as these were old school friends of Anna’s, I was really looking forward to seeing them again. So, as is my wont, I gave some thought and consideration to how I would look.

I decided to wear the pretty blue Whistles dress I’d bought for Christmas Day, and to accessorise it with my long string of pearls and matching earrings, and, on the day I washed, carefully blow-dried and styled my hair and took time and trouble with my makeup.

Perhaps you can imagine my bemusement when the guests arrived wearing what I can best describe as very relaxed clothing. Very much ‘dressed down’ as opposed to my ‘dressed up’. For instance, one of the female guests was wearing jeans, trainers and a woollen sweater, with her lovely thick hair ‘au naturel’ and not a scrap of makeup. Did I feel over-done for what was clearly more of a kitchen supper than a dinner party? Only briefly, and then I thought ‘I’m a different generation to them and our expectations of such an occasion are clearly miles apart. But that’s ok. I look fine for me and they look fine for them.

What then started to fascinate me about this experience was how and why changes in custom, habit, expectations and behaviour happen overtime. How they happen can be slow and almost imperceptible, or they can be quite sudden due to, say, a change in legislation or a single unexpected event. For instance smoking was banned indoors in 2007. Quite suddenly, from that moment, it was possible to visit a cinema, eat in a restaurant and fly on a plane without worrying about sitting next to someone who would be blowing smoke in your face. The cashless society has arrived almost overnight thanks to the Covid pandemic, along with working from home and a huge growth in online shopping with the expectation that our ordered goods will be delivered to our door, preferably the next day. We may bemoan some of these shifts but they’re here to stay.

But how do the slower and more subtle shifts in mores which I experienced at that dinner party come about? This is about the gradual changes in attitudes towards formality and informality in particular in relation to standards of personal presentation and grooming.

My Mother’s Generation.

My mother was in her late twenties in 1950. She was always very conscious and concerned about any judgements that might be made of her physical appearance in the small Suffolk town where we lived. For instance, if she spent the morning at home doing chores and cooking lunch, she’d always change her clothes if she went out shopping in the afternoon. She also worked in the family business and had a wardrobe of smart work clothes which weren’t worn for any other occasion. She abhorred ‘sloppy dress’ and in particular jeans, and always gave me the evil eye if I turned up wearing them when I visited after my marriage in 1970. Every week of her life she visited a local hairdresser who did a ‘shampoo and set’ in a style redolent of our late Queen Elizabeth. She loved makeup, wouldn’t be seen dead without it, and applied it immaculately every day of her life. For her, grooming was about ‘standards’. There were rules for what was acceptable and these must be adhered to.

My Generation.

When I first got married over 50 years ago, I can remember emulating my mother by ‘smartening myself up’ to go out in the afternoon if I had been doing chores. This lasted for a couple of months before I decided it was truly nonsensical. The Equal Opportunities legislation of the 1970s gradually translated into a more masculine aesthetic in dress for women at work. Out went feminine dresses and frilly blouses and in came tailored trouser suits, invariably with big padded shoulders. My work wardrobe was full of these when I became a Management Trainer in the 1980s and 90s. 

For evenings either for dinner in a restaurant or with friends, I would wear something more feminine, most often a smart dress with high heels, and I’d also take time and trouble with my hair and makeup. Do you remember Margo in the sitcom ‘The Good Life’? Or Abigail in ‘Abigail’s Party’? Even for an evening with friends next door, Margo and Abigail were ‘done up to the nines’, wearing long floaty dresses which wouldn’t have looked out of place at a dance. Whilst I’d not go to those lengths, I liked to look as though I’d made an effort, and that’s the approach I still take.

Unlike my mother, I only visited the hairdresser about 6 times a year to get a good cut and then managed my hair at home by blow drying and styling it carefully. That continues to this day and I still hate my hair to look and feel ‘messy’ because I prefer to look well groomed and, naturally, I wear a full face of makeup every day. 


Penelope Keith as Margo in the 'Good Life'  - Image from Daily Mail. CREDIT - BBC. See here


Alison Steadman as Beverly in 'Abigail’s Party' - Image from BBC. CREDIT - BBC. See here

Generation X - My Daughters’ Generation.

My impression of the attitude of my daughters to dress is that there is a continuum from very relaxed (jeans and sweaters) to smarter clothes (pretty blouses, tailored trousers, dresses, heeled shoes and boots and jackets) but that these can be worn almost interchangeably regardless of the occasion. There seems to be a blurring of distinctions between casual clothes, work clothes and ‘occasion’ clothes.

At work jeans are often perfectly acceptable and these may also be worn for a trip to the cinema, theatre or for supper out with friends, especially when teamed with a more dressy top. Smarter clothes may come out for a business occasion or worn for a special and more formal event. However there are far fewer rules governing dress than I was consciously following at their age, and they’d find the idea of changing their clothes just to go out shopping absolutely hilarious.

And so it goes for their hair and makeup. Both my daughter’s have longish hair and for the most part it’s trimmed occasionally and then washed and left to dry with no styling. For dressier occasions both Anna and Suzy use the services of a home blow-drying and styling service on hair that they have washed themselves. And for both of them, makeup is a choice, worn or not according to time, mood and circumstances.

I think one of the best illustrations of how attitudes to dress and grooming have changed over the past seventy years was how we Boomers approached lockdown compared to my daughters' generation and most Millennials. Apparently makeup sales fell off a cliff for the younger generation, whilst sales to our customers at LFF stayed relatively steady. They saw it as axiomatic that if they weren’t going out into the world, it was fine to live in trackie bottoms, trainers and sweatshirts, with no makeup and hair pulled back in a ponytail.

I knew that if I stopped bothering with my appearance, an essential part of me would wither and die. To maintain my morale, I decided to live as normally as possible with the same daily rhythms of self care. So I’d get up, wash, dress in something nice, put my face on and style my hair. I know for sure that even without Super Troopers, Teatime at the Ritz with Tricia, weekly Bright Spots with Leonie and Lindsay and the live Tricia Talks to give purpose to my daily grooming, I’d have made the same effort. 

And I will continue to do this every day, not in the hope of emulating Ann Lesley Smith (66) who has just snaffled 92 year old Rupert Murdoch - lucky girl!  No, not at all -  I will keep doing it entirely for me, because being well groomed is an integral part of who I am.

Tricia x

Disclaimer: Look Fabulous Forever do not own all of the images used in this blog. Please note that all images and copyrights belong to their original owners. no copyright infringement intended.

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Upcoming Events:

Friday 31st March


Film Club: The Swimmers

Available on Netflix

Watch the film beforehand and join us for a group discussion!

Day:  Friday 31st March 2023

Time: 4pm

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Monday 3rd April


Makeup Magic

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Day:  Monday 3rd April 2023

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