Last year, Sarah Millican turned up to the Baftas wearing a dress and shoes, probably like most other women in attendance. And you’ve probably heard what happened next – she checked Twitter on the way home and saw a barrage of self-appointed fashion experts who felt compelled to tell her she looked fat and ugly in her disgusting dress. And we won’t even mention the black shoes she had the audacity to pair with it.
It was enough to make her cry. A grown woman, a comedian, no less – who we can’t imagine crying, ever.
A year later she writes an article for the Radio Times to tell the rest of us – the ones who don’t have the image of her dress burned into our memories – what happened to the one of the loveliest, funniest people in the public eye, before wearing it again, one year later, to perform a stand-up gig.
If I see someone walking down the street wearing florescent harem pants with stilettos and a beret, I will internally raise my eyebrows (or externally, if they’re facing away from me). I pass judgement in an instant, but then I just as quickly regret it. The adult side of my brain scolds the insecure part – because we all know that’s all it is.
The fact that this is just the way my classmates and I behaved throughout my school years isn’t a good enough excuse, nor is the fact that everyone around me does it now. But voicing those opinions, and directing them to the person in question, goes way beyond just correcting something we've been socialised to do.
It’s the sad truth that what happened to Sarah won’t come as much of a shock to most of us. But before we just label it as sexist and continue with our lives, we should look at another, equally vicious culprit: fashion. Out-of-context fashion, to be precise.
Last week I read an article picking apart the fashion choices of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in BBC Two's The Trip to Italy - another example of comedians being condemned for their fashion choices. It makes as much sense as criticising a musician for having less-than-perfect shoelace-tying skills.
As lovely and pretty and aspirational as it is, sometimes fashion – and people who impart its questionable ways on those who have better things to worry about (like providing a distraction to our inevitable impending death with their brilliant senses of humour) should just shut up.
The way Sarah described picking out her dress with her friend, and ‘oohing’ at it in the changing rooms, was extremely cute. And most of us can relate to it in some way – we go somewhere feeling great, only to find out others don’t quite agree. And it doesn't feel good. And to know Sarah's bubble promptly exploded everywhere at the hands of people sat in food-stained pyjamas and mismatched socks is a little bit heartbreaking.
For all it matters, I think her dress was lovely. But that's just the point: it really doesn't.