Healthy advice

How should you dress when full of cold and flu?

There are two things I am so far enjoying, sartorially speaking, about January. One is that the cut of trousers this past autumn was so much more forgiving. I noticed this as I swapped the trousers of winter 2006 for those of 2007. Whereas, for the past 12 months, sitting down had exposed my lower back, now I can sit without having to hoick down my top. So waistbands have gone up slightly, which is good for muffin-tops. And the bit around the bottom/top of the thighs has got more generous, so the 2lb gained over Christmas, by eating apple crumble as if it were life-giving (I secretly think it might be), are not so noticeable.

It is dangerous, I realise, to think you're slimmer than you really are; sometimes tight clothes serve a useful function, in that they remind you, by digging in rudely, that you need to eat less. But at the moment I take simple comfort from roomier-feeling trousers.

The other thing I'm enjoying, immensely, is hearing that the fashion followers among the population will be wearing jumpsuits. Again. Just under five years ago, in this very organ, I wrote about how jumpsuits were supposedly fashionable (you can read it online; just type in "jumpsuits" if you're interested). No one wore them then and no one will wear them now, for the simple reason that they flatter very few people. I can't believe we're being offered them again. Really, only misguided people think jumpsuits have anything to offer anyone who doesn't have to crawl under a car for a living.

Far more useful would be to offer seasonal advice on how to look good when you're so full of cold and flu that your skin is hypersensitive and your nose is red and chafed. But does anyone ever touch this? No. Get pregnant, be fat, be super-tall or super-short, and the fashion world helps you, however begrudgingly. But be ill, and you dress alone.

Tip number one: when you are feverish it's best not to dress/undress too often, because doing so hurts. There's really nothing wrong with going to bed wearing the same clothes you wore during the day. For a day or four. Really, if you usually wash and launder regularly, your clothes can handle getting really dirty for once. Then, for perhaps the first time, you can follow the instructions on the back of the clothes-detergent bottle for "really tough soiling". Two: scarves hide many sins, including dried-up body fluids on the front of your top. They also hide warm but ugly thermal vests that would otherwise peek out. In Italy we have an old wives' tale which says that red scarves help you get over a chest infection or sore throat.

Three: if you can face looking like a poser, wear sunglasses to hide those rheumy red eyes. Four: Dr Greenfingers has a lovely balm, aptly called Winter Cheek and Nose Soother, that indeed does soothe noses that have been blown a hundred times in one day. Finally, five: elasticated waists were made for: a) Christmas and b) times of sickness. Be not ashamed to don them. Just remember to ditch them as soon as you get well.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 21 January 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Art is the new activism