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Up on the catwalk

06 May 2011

I was recently featured in Harper’s Bazaar as part of a story celebrating women’s achievements in various areas and International Women’s Day. No prizes for guessing: mine was to do with banking and finance.

But I have to say I think the achievement was coming out of the photo shoot with my dignity in tact. Not that it was an unpleasant experience but let me paint the picture.

Glamorous prestige fashion magazine rings me with preconceived idea about how top flight banking executives (not me, but their idea of the industry) should dress (read: top to toe sleek designer label, heels as high as Everest, windswept hair and nude makeup). They want my dress size, shoe size, etc. for the stylist to source clothes for the photo shoot.

I answer: Now, you are thinking about this aren’t you?
They answer: Yes, Larke… distractedly chatting about Hermes and Chanel and Akira?
I stress: You need to visualize this. I’m 59, 5 foot 3, size 16, with very fine blonde hair, the wrinkles of life, and although my foot is a 38, please don’t expect someone who has been on them all their life to be able to slide comfortably into some sort of strappy Jimmy Choo.
But I know they so don’t get the picture.
Sure enough, I arrive on the day at the appointed time and there in front of me is a rack of clothes and accessories suitable for Victoria Beckham.
I had the feeling this would happen, so I have brought a few of my favourite pieces with me. The stylist views them with undisguised horror and before I know it, I’m inside a little changing tent being manoeuvered into a mini skirt.
My only comments are there is more material going sideways than lengthways and I’ve given new meaning to the term horizontally challenged.

But all is not lost. I have my plan and drag out the pieces I brought myself. Eventually, my dresser is convinced to see reason. I pop on my own fashionable Melbourne black pieces and emerge to appreciative noises from the crew.
The whole incident reminded me how important it is to have a plan in life but to stay open to opportunities and to always keep a sense of humour, especially when it comes to not taking yourself too seriously.
I’ve heard some frightening statistics, lately, about the growing rates of homelessness and poverty for women. It’s that thing about saving, and super again. We need to get back to some of those values our parents and grandparents had. We need to put away for a rainy day, rather than accruing lifestyle debt because we think we have to have everything and it has to be now.

It’s the numbers that are not adding up: more people retiring, less people coming through to support that retirement. More costs associated with healthcare. Less being generated by an under supplied labour force. And the fall out is on women who have either not been able to, or have fallen behind in their super payments or who have been too frightened to face their super short fall because of lack of confidence in financial matters.
Having a plan, and actioning it now is what matters. It is what will leave you with dignity because in the end it may provide for, if not all, at least some of what you need.

My daughter who has just turned 40 is moving into that time in her life when she is taking a few more risks, opportunities might be another way to view it. She has worked hard for others and now she has opened her own restaurant in Swan Street in Richmond: Union Dining. It is exciting but there’s also the unknown. She has the skills and has educated herself on the commercial level as well. It can’t just be a hobby. Instead, she knows you need a sense of commercial reality, having the ability to picture how something you do can deliver a profitable outcome is important. It’s the plan.

Back on glam magazines and the ABC drama Paper Giants about the birth of Cleo has been a huge success – getting the look and feel of the era and the melodrama absolutely perfectly. Having had a close association with Ita Buttrose over the years, and especially for our Power Of 100 publication in which she figures and for which she is compering a series for pay-TV’s Bio Channel, I thought the casting was fantastic and the male chauvinism really gauling. It reminds me that being responsible for your own life plan is just that, your own responsibility. The romantic notion of some sort of Prince Charming – be it a man, a supposed inheritance or anything else that gets in the way of women planning realistically for their own retirement – has to be discarded. It’s time to go from cautious to confidence and that means educating and arming ourselves with knowledge and networks of support and having a plan.



  • Michelle Jewels-Parsons

    Michelle Jewels-Parsons 8 years ago

    Thank you Larke, I needed an afternoon giggle! I have only just read this, been run off my feet and hadn't logged in for a while. I can only imagine your experience. But is sounds like you stood proud and tall (no pun intended)and yet after all the suggestions and 'makeover' manoeuvers, what prevailed? That you are absolutley fabulous just the way you are! Who would have thought?? Kudos to you for taking the step and challenge. Michelle