In Search of the Izzard in You by Victoria Coren
What is the secret of a fashion icon? At the beginning, they're unique: nobody dresses like them. After a while, everybody dresses like them.
Eddie Izzard has managed the first bit. On stage in his new show, Glorious, wearing a shiny red suit, heels and make-up, he looks terrific and happy a bold and enviable fashion statement.
What about the second bit? Men still see their roles in women's clothes shops as skulking at the back, clutching their girlfriend's hand lest anyone think they're actually interested in hosiery themselves. This is appalling fashion cowardice, particularly in the "coolest capital in the world".
But is London still so narrow-minded? I was determined to find out, and all I needed was a willing man. All right, who owes me a favour?
"No way," said Charlie. "I am NOT going out in public wearing women's clothes ..."
We began at 9am. Communal changing rooms were a problem: aren't they always? We had the same conversation all the way along Kensington High Street: "You can come out and show him when it's on," the girl would say.
"But it's for him," I'd reply.
"Sorry," she'd say. "He can't go in."
When we finally got him into some skirts ("It's like Mission: Impossible," muttered Charlie, as he struggled to climb in and out of them before anyone saw) we realised they'd never do. Charlie used to play tennis for his county which is evident from one look at his legs. A trouser suit was the only option.
High street shop chains were more accommodating than designer outlets which cater only for Kate Moss's thinner sister, but we couldn't find anything nice in a size larger than 12. We realised he was going to have to wear an old velvet suit of mine - which, I hasten to point out, is much too big for me. We found a lovely Lycra leopard-print blouse in Selfridges and were very disappointed when it didn't stretch far enough.
"My friend wants to wear this top, but it's not quite right," I told the salesgirl.
"That's twisted," she snapped.
"You're being a bit harsh," I said.
"No, the top's twisted," she said. "It will fit perfectly if you adjust the back." She was right.
Four hours later we located a pair of shoes in Charlie's size: Lilley and Skinner tall-and-small department. "Is there nothing with an open toe?" I asked. "I want his fishnets to show."
"His what?" said Charlie. I ignored him. But there wasn't a wide choice in size 10. We opted for a pair of simple, black court shoes, with a three-inch heel. "Cool," said Charlie. "I'm a six-footer at least."
Buying makeup was easy. Nobody at the Clinique counter batted an eyelid as they recommended colours for Charlie's skin. I could tell he was starting to enjoy himself as several exquisitely made-up women fluttered around, brushing his cheek; and he was fascinated by the names of lipsticks. Eventually I had to drag him out of the shop, still muttering "I want a Creamy Nude" as he went.
Putting on the make-up was another matter. It was like trying to give a cat a bath. He squirmed backwards in horror as I tried to get a kohl pencil near his eyelid - hence the Dusty Springfield effect. He shouted "ugh, it's all slimy" as I applied foundation. He giggled as I applied lipstick - he has "ticklish lips", it transpired.
The fishnets didn't make him much happier. He yanked them up over his boxer shorts and squeaked with discomfort. "Pull your tights down a bit," I advised. Charlie looked at me in horror: "What kind of a girl do you take me for?" Eventually he was ready. Though I say it myself, he looked fantastic.
The drinkers at Charlie's local, the Grove Tavern in Camberwell, were not ready. A northern lad at the door shouted: "Look, a queer in woman's clothes. Now I know I'm in London. "The young men in the Grove were far more uncomfortable with Charlie's colourful presence than the women.
When I asked one couple for an opinion, the girl said: "I think he's very brave," and the boy spat: "Get away from me." Another girl remarked: "He's got a lovely face" ("that's the first time anyone's ever said that," said Charlie, chuffed) and her boyfriend snarled: "If he walked down my street, he wouldn't last two minutes." But an older couple, the delightful Dave Pickle and Iris Trunley, had no problem at all.
"He can wear what he likes as far as I'm concerned," said Dave. "Izzard wears women's clothes and he's a great comedian. I wouldn't wear them myself, but then I'm a solicitor." Iris thought Charlie's suit was "lovely".
Next we went to TGI Friday's - Charlie's least favourite restaurant. "The waitress is giving me so much eye contact," observed Charlie. "The kind you give when you're trying to stare down an Alsatian."
But he was becoming more relaxed by the minute. He actually returned the admiring glances he was given by the gay couple at the next table.
"I'm starting to like this look," he admitted. "It's striking. I saw myself in the mirror and thought WOW, yeah." It could have been Izzard himself speaking. "I think it's cool," Charlie added. "I might even try it again." When the minicab tout outside TGI's took one look at Charlie and walked away, Charlie just laughed. At Vogue club in Wardour Street, ladies get in free before midnight. The doorman waved us both through.
At 11.30pm, Charlie changed back into his jeans and T-shirt in a doorway - he didn't fancy braving the Tube alone in his Izzards. Reluctantly, he wiped the make-up away.
"Why do men have to wear such dull things?" he said glumly as he checked his reflection. "I feel sort of two-dimensional now. Can I keep the shoes?"From the Evening Standard Online