This time last week, on the day of the Grand National, the Daily Mail published a light-hearted (NOT my usual style!) piece they’d asked me to write – to accompany the snaps of sexily dressed race-goers at Aintree ‘Ladies’ Day’. The pictures were predictable; the words were not. Because even though my newspaper is habitually critical (even moralistic) about such excess, I wanted to do something very different. I wanted to celebrate – in fact, to write a sort of love letter to those women who dress to please themselves, not their po-faced critics. Needless to say, there were plenty of those po-faced moralisers lying in wait. Rather to my horror, in online comment. plenty of them showed the utmost scorn and contempt for the women. God, it made me angry! Who do they think they are? Do we all have to be the same? What also annoyed me is how many people perved over the the pictures, read the headline and then assumed I was being snobbish myself! The sad truth is, most people do not READ. They scan – then post their stupid comments. So I’ve decided to print my words here – with no pictures. My aim in writing was to include all the criticisms people make about the women who under-dress at Aintree (and other places, of course) – but then to counter them with affectionate praise – like saying that Rennaissance painters would love them! Personally I do hate ‘hooker – chic’ and to say that isn’t be be po-faced. Anyway – Here it is:
A few years ago, in Liverpool, my husband and I were taking the lift in our hotel – when suddenly it was invaded by a posse of frightening females. It was mid-morning on a chilly, grey April day – but their spilling cleavages, dimpled knees and flashing thighs spoke of sex, sun and sleaze. Small bats had settled on their eyelids; sequins and talons glittered; the air was heavy with the famous WAG’s own scent, Coleen X. My other half didn’t know where to look. Or rather, he did – and that was the trouble. Towering heels hoiked those magnificent melons right next to his nose. Not being a gal who follows the gee-gees, I was dozy enough to ask, ‘Excuse me, is something happening today?’ Being Liverpool women, they were friendly enough not to laugh at the foreign fool, but squealed merrily, ‘It’s Ladies Day, love!’ The lucky guy with them – an Irishman, smartly turned out in his suit and tie, to be sure – looked dazed that people could come to the ‘pool not knowing the Grand National was on.
Every year we’re treated to the pictures – hundreds of Aintree ladies doing their best to beat the idea of being a ‘lady’ into the ground. And are they good at it – all year round. On bitter winter nights, when the wind off the Mersey would make a polar bear cry for a pashmina, the girls queue outside clubs semi-naked – buttocks and bosoms (small and very large) defying the elements. And it’s the same at Aintree, rain or shine. In recent years well-meaning folk have tried to suggest a dress code, but they might as well ask the Liver Bird to fly. Nothing will stop the Liverpool lasses flaunting it – and all the more if the snobs down south think they’re a bit…you know…common.
Aintree style wasn’t always like that. I look back at vintage photographs of race-goers and wonder where it all went: the elegance, the style, the class. Then svelte suits (or costumes, as they were called) topped with fur stoles showed Parisien chic. Silk chiffon fluttered at the ankles of willowy ladies with billowing sleeves and sweet cloche hats. Now gaudy, shiny fabrics strain at flesh – any fight for modesty over before it’s begun. At Aintree ‘Letting it all hang out’ require a uniform of diminishing clothes and big…well, big everything else. Ladies’ Day gets brasher year on year. Why? In my Liverpool ‘fifties childhood, working women like my mother, grandmother and aunties dressed carefully, wanting to look neat but never to draw attention. Now Ladies day at Aintree epitomises a very different culture: the daughters, mother and grandmothers of today want to look (ital.) sexy (ital.). Hooker chic rules. Tattoos were once the badge of the merchant seamen and dockers who helped make the Port of Liverpool boom. Now the Liver Birds are inked with abandon, and (once again) the bigger the better.
I won’t ever understand why everybody – from 48 year old Jennifer Aniston in her horrible, one-shouldered, leather mini-dress to the average twelve year old pouting her latest selfie – – wants to look like an easy lay. But they do. It’s the effect of porn-culture and it’s everywhere. There’s another change too. When you look at old photos you notice immediately how body-shape has altered. Women (of all classes) brought up in the pre and post-war years ate in moderation, because that was the norm. Now fast food and fizzy drinks make some of the ladies at Aintree look as if they’ve been on the pies and chips since conception. How the great artists of the renaissance would love their voluptuous glory! Famously, magnificent Dolly Parton quipped, ‘It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.’ And it needs confidence too. For me, that sums up the glory of Ladies’ Day. There’s a swagger to this particular style which defies those who think it shows no style at all. These flamboyant lasses (all ages) totter boldly where Guardian females fear to tread – swigging champagne from miniature bottles and proclaiming proudly that they’re All-Woman. As good as anybody – and better than most. Such sassiness despises middle-class girls who go to the theatre in scruffy jeans, disapprove of make-up and drone on about gender-neutral issues. Aintree ladies shriek to the sky their gutsy philosophy – that no matter how bloody tough life gets, you shorten your skirt, slap on the lippy and have a laff. It’s called surviving.
Born and brought up in Liverpool I have nothing but fond memories of the great city’s marvellous, unique character. Though we left when I was 14, that sharp wind off the Mersey created who I am – and I love it. My days of revealing a fine cleavage are over, but I’d grab my eye-liner from a fire, because my mum taught me that you should always dress your best and present a cheeky face to the world. What else is there to do? So even though a part of me does wish that hooker-chic didn’t rule everywhere (and maybe that they didn’t have to get quite so drunk) – I still love the Aintree ladies. You can smile patronisingly at their antics and murmur words like ‘vulgar’, ‘tawdy’ and ‘garish’ – but in secret I bet you wish you were brash enough to join the gang and have that much fun. And one thing I’m sure of – Liverpool women are just so wildly fabulous that, if any catastrophe were to hit God’s own country, they would rise high into the air like a flock of glorious, muscular, multi-coloured, butterflies – ready to terrify the life out of anybody who dared take ‘em on.