Sweetie, sweetie, SWEETIE DARLING! Come here, closer. Let me tell you a little secret. Just a little one. Tip-top exclusive darling. See what I’m wearing, yah? Lacroix, darling, Lacroix. Second hand, not that anyone need know. I told the fashion editor of ‘Here! There! Then!’ that it was from Harrods. The look on her face – well, it would have been a look but with the amount of botox she’s had it was more a flicker of eyelashes. And the jacket, yah? 100% absolute genuine bona fide vintage. 90s is SO the new now. Betty Barclay, dontcha know? Had to fight it out with some silly little supermodel with legs up to her hairline at an exclusive boutique event in Shoreditch (I was top of the guest list, natch) – she wanted to donate it to a charity for orphans or something equally worthy. I mean charity is what I DO! Me just wearing it – that’s charitable to all those around me who get to witness this fabulous ensemble. It nearly came to blows, but on realizing that I’m a woman who doesn’t yield easily when there’s a multicoloured quilted mess to fight for, she backed down. So I obvs headed off for lunch to promenade the outfit – there’ll be a feature on the Mail’s Sidebar of Shame by the end of the afternoon.
The other day a memory floated up for no discernable reason. I love the way that the idle mind does this - sometimes halting at a specific moment, making it fresh again. This particular image was of me and a friend aged 16, just after we’d completed our GCSE exams. We decided that the best possible way to celebrate was to have a day of wearing silk pyjamas and watching Absolutely Fabulous. We carefully saved up between us for a half bottle of Bollinger champagne (“A little Bolly darling?”) and eked it out over several episodes. It was as about extravagant as we could imagine, a silly touch of opulence needed to commemorate leaving our poorly-behaved, not-much-liked secondary school.
There’s been plenty of re-watching of episodes since (and a little more champagne drinking). There are so many quotable moments and lines. “Sweetie darling” is so much a part of the fabric of the everyday that my mum and I drop it into conversation with each other all the time without thinking. It’s amusing as my mum will sometimes talk of playing Saffy to her own mother’s Eddie-style tendencies.
The other line that comes up every now and then is “Lacroix! Lacroix!” The dress pictured above is an actual Lacroix item (though from some kind of diffusion or collaborative line) – bought in a charity shop after a slightly excited squeak on seeing the label. In my head it’s a name inextricably woven up in the image of Eddie simpering “People will think, wow, it’s a Lacroix” – neatly capturing the worst fringes of consumerism and status in just seven words.
Perhaps part of the irony is that some 20 years on, although still farcical, Ab Fab seems closer to catching elements of fashion and celebrity culture than ever before. The choice of trends may have changed (although the current 90s renaissance means that Eddie’s attire may soon be the height of cool), but the ridiculous-ness remains relevant. The inanities endure – be it in the continuing delight in all sorts of buzzwords briefly picked up and dropped again (totes, amaze, adorbs etc); the fact that the pronouncement made by the beauty editor at the magazine Patsy works at, that “skin… is in!” isn’t that far from the headlines in certain publications; or the ways in which the two main characters’ attempts to remain young seem tame in comparison to the more extreme treatments one can now buy anywhere.
There are other continuities. If there ever were an Ab Fab character who’d get stopped so often at LFW that she’d never make it to her destination, it would be Bubble. In fact, I’m surprised that no-one has made a Tumblr to document her outfits (see some of the best moments here). Some of her outfits err very closely to the whole naïve, girly 90s aesthetic that’s springing back up. Then there’s the hair twisted up in ribbons, those stripy shorts and tape measure around her shoulders, pink tutus, dogs in bags, dodgy headwear, military jackets, fringed cowboy ensembles, and that general ability to layer up frills, flounces, smocks, shirts and spots like there’s no tomorrow (and no shame).
Yet could Ab Fab exist with the same relevance and hilarity in the same way today? It seems that the revived episodes last year couldn’t quite match up. I wonder if that’s partly because we’re beyond satirizing, too busy turning ourselves into parodies without need for someone else to mock? It’s not enough to say, “Hah, Twitter and manufactured controversy; hah, Instagrammed pictures of meals; hah, silly advertising hashtags; hah, Made in Chelsea; hah, selfies; hah, Cosmo headlines; hah, ‘micro-pearl dermal abrasion therapy with super-active Mongolian yak protein and diamond moisturizing particles with some gold-coated kale and chia seed rejuvenating facial scrub on the side’ (or whatever else is “scientifically proven” to make one look ten years younger); hah, Facebook witticisms, hah, hah, hah.”
We poke fun at these things already. Pointing out that people do silly things on social media won’t cut the bill. So, maybe it's time for a new comedy with bite – something functioning on the edge of absurdity as it sends up the silliest parts of modern culture.
All the clothes are second hand or family hand-me-down, while the jewellery is vintage (mostly from family). The bomber jacket is dangerously similar to one that Eddie actually wears - pictured below. The shopping bags were sourced from various locations (the only thing I've ever been able to afford to buy in Selfridges is the odd magazine or two) and of course, what I really needed was a Harvey Nichols bag. The champagne half-bottle usually sits on my windowsill with a candle in it.
(Image from this rather delightful feature on BBC America titled 'How to Dress Like Edina From Absolutely Fabulous')