• Rosemary Mac Cabe

VIP Style Awards 2019 | Will this hell ever end?

I’ve written about the VIP Style Awards before. Hell, I’ve shown up on the night and taken part in TV3’s Xposé fashion police segment. Myself and Courtney Smith sat backstage with Aisling O’Loughlin and waxed lyrical about the outfits we loved – and the outfits we didn’t.

It was, after all, a fashion event; the outfits were fair game, weren’t they?

That is, at least, the defence people give when confronted about their decision to lambast Oscar nominees on their choice of frock. The style on the night is as much a topic of conversation as the awards doled out – so, when it comes to an actual style event, well, there’s no limit to the ways in which one is allowed to be critical.

It has never been difficult to pen a scathing takedown of women in bad dresses. Fashion may be a matter of taste, but it is possible to be relatively objective when it comes to sartorial critique. Great minds think alike (or, fools seldom differ) – and, even if you do get it wrong, and criticise someone whose outfit is generally adored, you can defend it; it’s all personal taste, after all.

The thing is – and I am not in any means starting a revolution, or in any way forming an original thought – in 2019, my heart’s just not in it. I mean, sure: I hated a lot of outfits on tonight’s VIP Style Awards red carpet. I always do. I loved a few other outfits. (We’re talking women; I barely noticed the men, bar a couple who’d overdone the contour.)

Perhaps this is down to maturity (although I’d argue that I’m no more mature now than I was five years ago) or perhaps (more likely) it’s down to a jaded cynicism that’s truly found its roots in my psyche in the past year or so – but taking cheap pot shots at women who’ve spent time and money and skill (especially those who did their own makeup – major props) preparing for a fun Friday night out feels, well, somewhat vulgar.

Like I said, it wouldn’t be difficult – and it would be fun. I am fond of a scathing critique or seven, after all. But it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that (a) I know anything about fashion (I would argue that I did, once; it was, after all, my bread and butter) or that (b) my opinion counts for anything. The most I could hope to achieve would be to ruin someone’s memory of an otherwise wonderful night.

And you know what I saw, when I looked at tonight’s red carpet? I saw Rosie Connolly, who’s just had a baby girl, Remi, looking stunning – and delighted with herself – in a fun, floral number. I caught a glimpse of Suzanne Jackson (tanned to the heavens, obvs) looking like a fucking Kardashian. I spotted Louise McSharry, wearing make-up I could only dream of pulling off, looking like a pregnancy dream.

I saw dozens of incredible, talented, smart, ambitious women putting their best feet forward – and succeeding, despite the fact that, let’s face it, the odds are stacked against them from the minute their chromosomes are lined up in the womb.

All that positivity aside, I promised you a fashion critique (clickbait is alive and well; praise Zuckerberg), so here you go. Have at it.

I wore this outfit to London Fashion Week in spring of 2012. I had my photograph taken by a Getty photographer as soon as I showed up at the show venue; I felt as though I had finally made it. There’s a lot of pressure, going to London Fashion Week – or, at least, there’s as much pressure as you put on yourself. In my last few seasons going, when I was writing fashion in a weekly column for The Irish Times, I stopped worrying quite so much, but in the early days I planned my outfits meticulously.

When I looked for the photograph on Getty Images a few days later, I couldn’t find it; I sent an email to the photographer (she’d given me her card), asking her if she could share it with me. She told me she’d submitted it to Getty, but that they hadn’t accepted it. “You mustn’t have had the look they were going for,” she said. “I’m sorry.” It wasn’t her fault – but it did explain why we so rarely saw street style photography featuring fat women (or women who weren’t models). Even when the photographers did take the pics, the photo services rejected them.

That handbag was my pride and joy – the Diane von Furstenberg Stephanie bag, which had been released while my sister worked at DVF, designing handbags for the New York-based brand. It was massive, which meant I could never find anything in it, but also, that it fit everything I could possibly want to fit in it.

I wore this outfit to the launch of a new boutique in the Westbury shopping mall; I had flat shoes in my bag. My heels were from Miss Selfridge and I could barely stand in them, never mind walk, but I felt great – even though I had a stain (olive oil? Coffee?) on my top. I don’t think I knew until the photographs came out.

I swear, we did not colour-co-ordinate our outfits. This is a dress I wore when I was feeling very body confident, at the height of my “no carbs, please” phase, when I was working out seven times a week. When Iooked at it in the mirror at home, I was all curves and sex appeal. When I got outside, stopped looking in the mirror and relaxed my breathing… well. It was all nipples and tummy, wasn’t it? I still think I look great – but just, y’know, not the “look” I was going for. (That bra has since gone in the bin.)

I was there to judge – the irony! – best dressed at Taste of Dublin, with evoke.ie. James and I paired up to spend the afternoon seeking out stylish women to commend for their efforts. Writing that down now seems so ridiculous, not just that I, of all people, was tasked with this job, but that it’s something that’s done, at all, more generally. “Well done! You picked good clothes today! Here’s a prize!”

The main thing these photographs say to me, though? No one’s ever going to wear an outfit that everyone else loves. It doesn’t even matter if you have a stain on your tit – the most important thing is that you’re living your life, on your own terms, and, ideally, that you have more to worry about than what you’re wearing.

If you’d like to support my work as a writer, content creator, podcaster and general oversharer, you can pledge as little as $1 a month over on Patreon. It really helps me to keep doing what I do.

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