Noelle McCarthy: Keeping up with the Irish

By Noelle McCarthy

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The fit-and-flare coats at Dolce & Gabbana have trickled down to the European high street, where looking like you have made an effort matters. Photo / AP Images
The fit-and-flare coats at Dolce & Gabbana have trickled down to the European high street, where looking like you have made an effort matters. Photo / AP Images

There are only two style axioms I know to be true. "Breakfast radio makes you ugly," is one of them and the other is, "it doesn't matter what you bring on holiday, once you get there, nothing will suit you".

So it is here in Ireland, where all the silks and weaves of my New Zealand wardrobe feel strange and out of place on the streets of Cork and Dublin. This is no fault of the clothes themselves - they remain things of beauty - but rather my way of putting them together. What looked good in the Auckland sunshine - my jewellery, my lipstick, my sneakers - takes on a different cast entirely against the grey stone and leaden rivers of Irish cities.

It doesn't help either that we're in a different season. It's autumn here, and all the girls are decked out in the colours of the coming winter - deep plums and greens and burgundies, with lots of velvet and lace for texture. It's cold too; I feel stupid wearing Chuck Taylors in what is clearly boot weather.

The upshot of my "packing light" experiment is that I have only one coat with me; a leather jacket. Two weeks ago, I thought it would be perfect - the sleek little basis for an entire holiday wardrobe. Now that I'm here, it just looks boring.

It's no match for the stand-out coats of the season as modelled in this hemisphere; the snuggly textured cocoon shapes in nubbly wool and animal prints, or the beautifully cut fit-and-flare numbers inspired by Christian Dior and Dolce & Gabbana. Ireland, like the UK, is high-street heaven of course, the girls here are wearing the Zara versions of designer looks a few weeks after the Paris collections.

And well they do wear them. There's a lot of glamour on this side of the world. The handbags I've seen in the past few days had me hiding my canvas tote under the table. The "lipstick only" policy I've adopted or the past year or so is not going to cut it here either; nobody leaves the house without eyeliner.

It's been a humbling start to the holiday. I came away thinking my style would travel easily, only to find that it needs some tweaking.

I shouldn't have been surprised by this; style is like money. Different countries have different currencies and what has value in one may not have the same cachet in another.

At home in New Zealand, it's about ease and looseness, not looking like you forced it. Over here, more is more, and there are kudos in looking like you made a big effort. The values are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but there's got to be a middle ground somewhere, once it comes to the actual business of dressing.

There's a pair of Chelsea boots in my case that will work with silk dresses instead of Chuck Taylors. I never was much good at eyeliner flicks but now's as good a time as any to get better.

- VIVA


* Follow Noelle on Twitter here.

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