When I heard that the Ritz Hotel was allowing people in for breakfast wearing jeans, I was surprised to say the least.
The Ritz, both in London and Paris, has been one of the last bastions of a civilised, elegant dress code, and even though it has specified that the jeans must be “very, very smart” and no trainers are allowed, I can see standards going in the direction of all respectable establishments – downhill.
I haven’t liked jeans for years – probably because their ubiquity has become terribly boring. Do people really want to conform to looking just like everyone else?
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Yes, I know denim is hard-wearing and practical, but do the ladies who lunch really want to wear long-lasting utilitarian gear, teamed with chic Chanel or luxury leather on top, while showing off at the Ritz or smart restaurants such as San Lorenzo and the Wolseley?
A pencil skirt and opaque tights or simple dark trousers would look infinitely more elegant.
Jeans have never been sophisticated, though I admit I coveted a pair the first time I saw a woman wearing blue jeans.
It was in the 1950 musical Summer Stock – starring Judy Garland.
All the girls were wearing full, tightly waisted dirndl skirts with petticoats and white bobby socks, except for one tomboy, who wore sassy high-waisted blue jeans rolled up to mid-calf. I was impressed.
As an impressionable teenager, this epitomised to me what a modern, emancipated woman should look like, and the rolled-up denims emphasised the character’s desire not to conform to the demure buttoned-up collars and white gloves look of that generation.
Fashion for teenagers was non-existent in the early Fifties. Girls still wore mini-versions of their mother’s drab frocks or twin-sets.
Never one to abide by dress rules, I begged my mother to buy some blue jeans for me, which she reluctantly agreed to do – and then hissed to my father: “Why does Joan want to wear those ugly slacks – they look awful?”
So off we traipsed to the shops in search of women’s jeans, but they were nowhere to be found.
Then someone at Rada, where I was a student, suggested buying the smallest size in men’s jeans and shrinking them to fit.
I discovered a shop that sold them, but the smallest size was still far too big for little old me.
Undaunted, I bought them with pocket money I had saved up. Back home, I sat in a boiling hot bath in my jeans for more than an hour, as I had been advised this method would shrink them to fit my body. And what do you know? It worked!
When I rolled them up at the hem and swanned around proudly showing off to all my envious classmates, I was one of a kind because no one else had a pair.
Once, I wore them with a plaid shirt and was photographed by Picture Post, then the equivalent of Hello magazine. As I was unknown at the time, I was described as “the girl who dresses tres-jazz”.
I loved those jeans and wore them endlessly, until they finally dropped off me.
In 1978, soon after I had made the (now slightly) risque movie The Stud, fashion businessman Philip Green contacted me to ask if I was interested in launching my own line of jeans.
I met Mr Green, then known in the rag trade as the “Bond Street Bandit”, at his West End shop, where he sold designer clothes from previous seasons. Even then, he had enormous entrepreneurial spirit.
I thought it would be interesting because designer jeans were not as common then. So the Joan Collins Jeans line was launched and off I went to flog them in various department stores in the provinces.
They created quite a stir, as they were extremely well cut and very flattering. They were made of the darkest blue denim and fitted perfectly in all the right places.
Sadly, however, the line didn’t last, and a rare pair of JC Jeans now apparently goes for a pretty penny on eBay.
Fast-forward a few decades and suddenly there is nothing nouveau or counter-culture about wearing a pair of blue jeans. In fact, it’s more like wearing a uniform.
Today, so many people wear jeans all the time that they no longer have any individuality from the waist down.
They are just a sea of blue-legged homogeny, in different shapes and sizes… and what shapes and sizes there are!
I rarely see anyone, male or female, wearing a pair of jeans that flatter them.
Fat people just look fatter, particularly in the low-rise hipster type which leaves a mass of blubber hanging over the waist – not a pretty sight.
It’s even more hideous when the exposed flesh is adorned with various colourful tattoos.
Tiny people with thin legs tend to look like giant spiders when they wear the “skinny jeans” so beloved of fashion editors on the glossy style bibles and celebrity magazines.
There’s Kylie, Cheryl and Victoria et al flashing their slender legs in tight bottom-enhancing garments looking lovely from the waist up – but completely conformist from the waist down.
Then there are the high-waisted, Simon Cowell-type trousers, which give the wearer the faint appearance of being strangulated, or the hang-low short shorts with frayed hems and paint splotches, which look as though they should be worn only by the homeless.
And let’s face it – jeans are just not that comfortable. When I wear a form-fitting pair, I find myself constantly rearranging them in the midsection because they feel so uncomfortable.
Then again, they are horrible if they are loose fitting – I think I look like Michelin man, particularly if I’m also wearing a sweater. And the “chafe-factor'” caused by the seams rubbing against your thighs is the same with either style.
So they are really not my garment of choice, particularly because when you do find a pair that fit really well, they usually shrink the first time they are thrown into a washing machine and never quite fit as well again.
It astounds me to hear some of my friends talking about their designer jeans that cost upwards of £500 (about R3 500) – what a waste of money!
I own about six different coloured pairs of jeans, but even though I’m reasonably slim, I honestly don’t like how I look in them, and I think this holds true for many women d’un certain age.
I see little difference between these and the knock-off styles abounding in the High Street shops.
I won’t give up wearing jeans altogether, but I do pick the places where I will wear them. For example, in St Tropez, where we spend most of the summer, I wear them to the market or grocery shopping, and if it’s really cold, on a boat.
When I’m filming, I’ll throw on a pair in the early morning, but in general, I will wear jeans only for the purpose that they were originally designed – functionality, not glamour.
I would certainly never dream of wearing jeans to the Ritz or to any of the restaurants I frequent.
However, I did wear them recently on a movie and dinner outing with my husband, Percy, daughter Tara and her two children in Weston-Super-Mare.
Since there was nowhere open after the cinema, we hit the local McDonald’s, where several of the clientele appeared shocked to see me dining there.
I think it was probably the fact that I was wearing old blue jeans which surprised them most.
But I stand by my sartorial decision – jeans belong in McDonald’s, never the Ritz.
– Daily Mail