Feeling Blousy. Viva the Pussy-Bow!

It is a warm London night in the early 90s. An arm encircles my waist and I feel hot breath in my ear.

“You do have a quite fabulous… pussy-bow,” I hear. My heart beats a little faster, for this arm belongs to a young man who will go on to become a leading city analyst and who could be the answer to my parents’ prayers (my previous boyfriend having been a juggler by trade).

I turned to look him intently in the eyes.

“It reminds me of my Auntie Vi,” he added. “She runs a nursing home in Spalding.”

Within minutes I was on the bus back to Ealing.

And that was the last time I wore a pussy-bow blouse. Or indeed, any other kind of blouse.

In fact, so incensed was I by the comparison with what I assumed to be a middle-aged, matronly type in charge of placing orders for incontinence pads and support stockings, that I grew actively antipathetic to the very word ‘blouse’.

It was also the last I saw of the man with the encircling arm, much to my parents’ disappointment.

I had taken to wearing blouses when I worked (briefly) for a small tour operator in Notting Hill. A blouse in my book, said ‘This woman is to be taken seriously in the workplace.’

My job was to write the resort descriptions, which I did beautifully.

However, computers were very new to me then and I deleted my efforts faster than I created them, which made me the least productive member of staff.

In total I think I lasted five weeks before it became clear that the cost of training me to work on the computers in the office would far exceed any value I brought to my role, no matter how efficient I looked in my pussy-bow blouse.

I blame my school. Computers were very new in education in the eighties and I can remember to this day the arrival of the first IBM computer in our Maths department.

Never had I seen Mrs De Grey-Warter so animated. A rotund woman whose wardrobe seemed largely to comprise hand-me-downs from Demis Roussos’ 1970s collection, she positively sprinted to the desk upon  which it rested to marvel at it in all its futuristic glory.

Breathlessly she announced that a new subject, ’Computer Studies,’ would be taught to those with an aptitude for maths or who hadn’t torn up their trigonometry tables and stuffed them in their damp lacrosse boots.

I had no aptitude for maths.  And anyway, who needed Computer Studies when you could have a free period to hang out in the common room listening to U2 or Chris de Burgh?

I mean, it wasn’t like computers were ever going to be important, right? 

But I digress. Back to the blouse.

Blouses left me confused.

Sue Nicholls as Reggie’s secretary Joan in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin looked efficient and ready for work in a blouse but at the same time suggested that one wrench of her pussy-bow and she’d be happily bent over the photocopier.

Princess Diana looked oppressed by her pie crust collars, uptight in her side-tie pussy-bow and just plain Sloaney in Liberty prints.

And you just never saw Debbie Harry in a blouse at all.

After the Auntie Vi comment, I decided to let go of the blouse-based mode of dress and instead settled for the body (in spite of its press-studded, chastity-enhancing gusset) and the low V-neck sweater.

This look served me well for a good deal of the adult life I’ve accrued so far. It wasn’t until Hobbs started producing a medium weight jumper dress that I jumped ship. Talk about taking the stressing out of dressing!

In the past few seasons however, I’ve seen younger women sporting blouses. Blouses with low bows, big prints, twisted backs, slit backs and low tails.  None of which shrieked ‘Kidnapped by Laura Ashley circa 1982.’

I mean, they actually looked funky. And sexy. And youthful. Teamed with jeans and ankle boots…

Friends, the sales are on. I already have the jeans and the ankle boots. Did I have the courage?

Do what I have done. Revisit your offending past and buy something that frightens you a little bit. No, not the computers! The deals on tech are rubbish. 

I frightened myself in Zara for a mere £12.99. I’ve bought a bloody blouse. It’s time. After all, if not in Executive Youth, then when?

It has a low V and a slashed back in a print featuring kittens and wool balls.

Don’t tell me I can’t do irony. (Auntie Vi, eat your heart out.)

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