As this week marks the opening of the Garden Museum’s Fashion and Gardening exhibition I thought it would be a good moment to make a confession.
For most of my working life I have been used to waking up,checking the weather and more or less climbing into the first clothes that come to hand. With or without an extra sweater or a thermal underpinning. Occasionally this includes shorts but this happens much less frequently than before and never in a public place.
At one point I used to scavenge gardening clothes from my mother-in-law and could be seen skipping about in odd shaped trousers and slightly girly shirts.
However, deep down I am a bit of a sartorial show off and rather like an outfit. At various points in my life I have built trellises while wearing a kilt ( tricky preserving decency whilst climbing a ladder), visited nurseries while clad in tweed plus-fours and laid paving while dressed as Eric Von Stroheim in long boots and jodhpurs.
Now that I am older this compulsion has tempered somewhat although I am a sucker for a good suit. In fact this is in danger of becoming a compulsion ever since my accountant said that I was allowed one new tax deductible suit a year. As a result I now have an expanding wardrobe of decidedly unhorticultural gentlemen’s suitings:
A black linen Paul Smith suit for Judging at RHS Shows.
A rather snappy single breasted blue number for the summer.
A natty birdseye and a dark grey check ( with double blue line) for whenever.
An inherited three piece dark birdseye from a grandfather.
A tweed number that was made for me when I was about 25 and which I still fit (although the trousers hold themselves up without braces due to my slightly expanded shoreline)
Another inherited tweed suit.
A three button blue suit in brushed cotton: warmer than some and quite informal.
I also have, gleaned from various places, four morning coats, a knickerbocker suit in blue velvet and white ruffles (which is very van Dyck and I have only worn once), an Egyptian djellaba (good for hot summers) and two sets of evening tails.
This last is the whole Fred Astaire white-tie-and-tails kaboodle and I long to have an excuse to wear it but I am very seldom invited to formal balls or the presentation ceremony for the Nobel Prizes. Perhaps the Society of Garden Designers (at whose awards ceremony I was officiating last week) should upgrade their dress code. That said it was a very sparkly occasion where a great deal of alcohol was consumed. Andy Sturgeon not only won three awards but every time he did he was dragged off to pose for photographs with some very gorgeous girls wearing low cut dresses. If he had been wearing proper evening dress then these encounters would have been less raucous and would have involved an exchange of dignified bows and coy curtsies.
Next week I am going to the tailor to commission, I think something in Prince of Wales check.
So that is my confession: the outing of a closet dandy. I sometimes think it would have been fun to be a Fop but all that powdered wiggery might be a step too far for anybody.
The picture is of a mossy tree trunk with foxglove seedlings.