What would you save if your house was on fire? One of the great, fail-safe questions of the fashion journalist. There's no stylist, singer, designer or actress you can't put it to.

Even the biggest divas aren't too snitty to tell you what they'd grab from the wardrobe, shoe-stand or jewellery box in the event of an emergency. Useful as it is hypothetically though, it's not the sort of thing you think you'll ever see in real life. But last Tuesday I was on holiday, and the place we were staying in caught fire.

One minute we were all singing along to Supertramp, the next there was smoke everywhere. As the adults were running around yelling, and trying to google the Spanish word for "fire'', the eldest daughter of the house ran upstairs to her bedroom and filled a bin bag with essentials.

What does an almost 13-year-old rescue in the event of a conflagration? Her mother's wedding dress and her grandfather's sailing jersey. The dress was a Vivienne Westwood pink silk tartan with a corset and a bustle, proof not only of her mother's good taste, but her daughter's excellent style instincts in saving it.


When she took the fishing jersey out of the bag, we wet ourselves laughing. Her grandfather is a big chap, it was about 10 times too big for her.

Was it intended as a dress, I wondered? Or a tent, if the worst befell us? She said she had to take it - he gave it to her only a few days ago. This was perfectly understandable, in my view. What woman could leave behind anything new? The last thing in the bag was a beach sarong, pink and crocheted, a somewhat puzzling choice, given we were several miles inland, and Spain is heading into Autumn. But then she explained that her auntie gave it to her.

At the age of nearly 13, this girl is not yet into fashion, but I thought her selection process faultless. She chose all garments on the basis of sentimental attachment, yet what she ended up rescuing were key pieces and design classics.

A wedding dress, a sarong, and a fisherman's jersey. That's the basis for a workable, take-you-anywhere capsule wardrobe. The sarong doubles as a scarf, obviously, and the Westwood dress has street value, should she need a cash injection.

A stripy jersey, even oversized, goes with everything. They were clever things to reach for in an emergency. As for me, I'm glad it was only a small fire, and that the truck came quickly. We might have been left in the clothes we stood up in, had things ended differently.

I'm pretty certain I could go on indefinitely in a Miss Crabb playsuit and a pair of Converse, but I'm glad I don't have to. I suppose she would have lent me the wedding dress, if I asked nicely.