Watch out sunshine - here come the girls
AS WE remain optimistic about the arrival of some spring sun, let's try to avoid a flesh fest and fake tan messes. Instead why not show off your natural beauty to the world...
To say that it's been a long winter is a bit like saying Georgia Salpa is fond of a Twitter selfie or two. Fake fur, thermals, headgear ... it's become a second skin for Dubliners for the past few months.
And while Twitter and Facebook feeds have been a quagmire of grumbling and general bah-humbuggery of late, it's perhaps time to look on the bright side. That fake fur has hidden a merciful multitude of sins (namely, months of eating chocolate Kimberleys and stew). Sitting next to an open fire with a hot whiskey wasn't so much an indulgence as a necessity. As for all that time you've saved not shaving your legs? Well, you could have written the great Irish novel if you were so inclined.
But that was then ... and this is now. The change feels incremental now, measurable by a few measly degrees, but the signs of spring are everywhere. Lambs frolicking in fields, a stretch in the evenings, streaky fake tan as far as the eye can see. Irish women are beautiful, but once that mercury hits double digits, something curious happens.
Last year, I arrived home on St Patrick's Day after a couple of months in Australia. It being consistently sweltering Down Under, the Aussies do warm weather dressing exceptionally well. They are used to the sun, so they rarely lose their reason in its presence. A cheeky shoulder here, a hint of midriff there, legs until Tuesday every which way you look ... it's all very showy and sexy. But, curiously enough, rarely slutty.
By contrast, what happens in Ireland around this time of year warrants its own soundtrack; a mix of the Boots advert's Here Come The Girls track and the Jaws theme. Big coats and chunky knits are consigned to the back of the wardrobe, while out come the hotpants, the singlets, the skirts that have roughly the same amount of material that an ant might use to dry his undercarriage. Is this flesh fest because we're just perilously stubborn about waving a resounding 'bye, now' to winter? Or are we just undyingly optimistic about our chances of sunshine, in that 'if you dress for it, it will come' kind of way? I know we Irish are a hardy lot ... but seriously.
"Spending my time between Dublin and London, I see a big divide between Irish and London women," observes Darren Kennedy, journalist, stylist and presenter of ITV's Fashion Sense. "Women in Ireland are quite trend-led and go sexy, while in London they tend to do the dressed down, tomboy thing. The latter lends itself much more to transitional dressing.
"Some people make the mistake, when the weather heats up of showing more flesh," he adds. "I'm baffled that some women clearly don't do anything to keep in shape, but have no problem showing off their muffin tops."
Though the media – teeming though it is with sexy stars wearing not much more than lippy and an attitude – are doubtless to blame, Darren has another interesting theory.
"Look at the very Irish phenomenon that is the Irish photocall model.
A lot of what you see is boobs and ass. Now, these girls are gorgeous, always in shape, and look good in a bikini. But they are out in the cold months, wearing not very much and selling KitKats or whatever.
"When Irish women get it right, they have some amazing style," he adds. "But on the whole, it's wrong to take the lead from a 6ft model who'll look amazing in hot pants and crop tops."
Instead, we would be better off learning the fine art of layering: "As soon as the sun so much as winks, out comes the summer wardrobe," laughs Kennedy. But we don't live in a climate that merits that. There's nothing wrong with hot pants or cut-off denims, but when there's a wind chill factor of minus 2, it's probably sensible to wear leggings.
"I do see some really cool women who have nailed transitional dressing," he continues. "They wear a long line cardi or chunky sweater over a dress and biker boots. A really gritty chunky pair of biker boots are perfect for spring. Also, introduce colour, prints, like printed trousers that are cute and fresh but cover you up. If you like dresses, go for cutesy granny day dress and layer up. And when it comes to coats, go for a classic Crombie in canary yellow, emerald green or cobalt blue to get the best of both worlds."
Of course, the other big question begs to be answered ... do we sex it up in the hopes that summer lovin' might just descend a little bit early?
In the same way that people always seem to get lucky in the run-up to Christmas, it always appears as though everyone has popped out of hibernation full of intent. No doubt evolutionary scientists would mention that, it being a season of rebirth and change, we're all feeling a bit frisky. There's a feeling of cobwebs being brushed off, and of fresh, new beginnings. No better time for a style reinvention.
A recent survey conducted by UK energy company WET certainly backs this theory up. According to their poll: 67pc of respondents said they become more interested in sex when the weather starts getting warmer.
Some 74pc said that they feel sexier during the warmer seasons. More than one-third (38pc ) of respondents said they found that their inhibitions were lower in the warmer months, while almost half (49pc) are more likely to flirt with a stranger when the weather starts getting warmer. What's more, 38pc of respondents are more likely to have a one-night stand when the weather starts getting warmer. In simpler terms, we're more likely to be out and about and not shouting at The X Factor in our living rooms ... and feeling pretty good now that the bleakness of winter is behind us. Friskiness is a foregone conclusion.
Sprucing up for spring serves another purpose; it affords us a chance to reboot those New Year resolutions that never quite got off the ground. Who doesn't like a second chance to right carb-related wrongs?
People are gearing up for summer holidays and are hitting the treadmill on their own personal Operation No Carbs Before Marbs.
Besides, starting a gym membership in the Baltic winter months is pure madness. It stands to reason that we might be more inclined to give Bikram a bash when it's a bit more balmy.
And while we might be feeling sexy, sometimes our bodies are just a tad sluggish from all that hibernation.
"It's a natural cycle," agrees personal trainer Karl Henry (www.karlhenry.ie). "It's dark, it's tough, it's hard to stay fit and healthy during the winter and your body craves carbs all the time. I think the awakening of nature does drive you to think about your holiday this summer. There's definitely more of a sense of 'I can do it now' in spring."
Happily, our craving for comfort foods naturally goes on the wane when the mercury rises: "Now's a good time to switch to slow-release carbs and salad and soup-based meals. Setting goals are important too at this stage, so book that holiday and work towards feeling good in a bikini."
Even if we're not headed for the tropics, we're still getting our bare skin back out in the open for the first time in ages. We Irish tend to come in one of two hues; bordering-on-blue ... or mahogany sideboard. For some reason, we all believe that we have an inner Georgia Salpa.
Georgia's burnished gold skin is all natural, but it certainly doesn't stop the fairer among us from trying to recreate it.
"Fake tan is responsible for so many fashion disasters," says Kennedy.
"There's a real sense of 'I have a tan, so I'd better show it off while I have it'. This is a hangover from the time years ago when we'd get two weeks in the sun in the summer, when people worked that tan for all its might."
Make-up and beauty guru Leonard Daly (www.beautybaked.com) concedes that when it comes to fake tan, some Irish girls are repeat offenders: "If you buy your tan for €3, it's going to be a horrific colour. You're better off spending a little more money on a tan that makes you look like you might feasibly have been away for the weekend.
Also, be sure to put body moisturiser on ankles, hands and knees to stop your tan becoming patchy. "
Daly also contends that spring is a good time to break out from heavy smoky eyes and experiment with colour... to a degree.
"Add brightness with an orange lipstick or a bright eyeshadow," he advises. "Have fun with it and use funky colours but use them wisely.
"You see so many Irish women wearing a load of turquoise eyeshadow when a tiny amount would do the job. You look awful and it's really ageing."
Again, making it work for you is key, rather than taking Nicki Minaj's strong fashion-forward look and nicking it wholesale.
"Exactly," says Leonard. "I mean, if Nicki Minaj was a normal girl and you just saw her in town waiting for the bus, you'd think she looked mad, right?"