20, College Approach, SE10

A dinky little Ladies clothing shop that I DO go into, but always feel rather awkward inside.

Why? Well – it sells clothes for grown-ups for a start and while that is something to which I one day aspire, I never seem to quite get there. There is an unerring sense here of a certain class of style rather than vulgar fashion which somehow leaves me feeling a bit small and grubby, however dressed up I thought I was when I left the house.

Belle’s adverts in local magazines always include photos of beautiful Pre-Raphaelite-esque waifs looking wistfully into middle-distance, wearing boiled wool cardis with interesting buttons and timeless floaty cotton frocks with quirky detail. The clothes are not so much fashionable as classic – and I guess they ought to be at the price.

The shop, in the pretty-classic-itself College Approach is painted white inside, with plain floorboards and walls with Louis-style armchairs, rococo mirrors, scarves and jewellery draped casually across them which look wonderful until I catch sight of myself in them, spoiling the illusion entirely. Curiously, when I came to write this I couldn’t remember whether they actually have chandeliers and lacy drapery, but my impression is that they do. It’s that sort of shop. And any regular readers will know I am a big fan of chandeliers. There is a single table laid out with carefully folded knits, and a few rails with delightful skirts and jackets, each given enough room to be admired. Upstairs there are more mirrors and more rails of discreetly cute designer wear, never actually full, of course, darling. This isn’t a bargain basement, you know. Just a few pieces, each individually selected for cut and colour.

Nobody’s ever been snooty with me here – I always receive a friendly greeting and discreet offers of help, but I still don’t feel comfortable. I know it’s in my head, but I never feel quite right until I stop cluttering up this serene, exquisite emporium.

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