It started last summer. Clothes adverts flooded my Instagram feed, and it was uncanny. One minute, I’d be envying a friend her Agnès B boiler suit (it has a bumflap, so you don’t have to take it off when you go to the loo: so French); the next, I would be served an ad for a more or less identical boiler suit, except without the flaps, and only £24.95. Had Instagram accessed the microphone on my phone and listened to my chitchat? But I hadn’t even spoken that envy out loud. They had seen inside my head.
I wanted dungarees, because they reminded me of the 80s, when I had a babysitting racket and spent all the money on them. I also wanted a maxi dress, because it seemed to meet my newly acquired aversion to tights. These things, while not profound, were intensely personal, or so they seemed. And yet there they were, telepathically, on my feed.
Steadily, I also started to see people wearing these clothes in real life. The world and her dog suddenly had the dungarees. When I went into the kind of bar whose uniform would once have been tight-jeans-fancy-top, I was confronted with what looked like the warm-up act for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. And even though this did blow a hole in my presumption of idiosyncrasy, now that everyone had my stuff, I wanted it more.