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Epic Fails

The Tale of the Misguided Book Shirt Epic Fails

The Tale of the Misguided Book Shirt
A purple paean to literature

Britain, as Julian Barnes famously said, is “the land of embarrassment and breakfast.” Embarrassment is embedded in the British psyche, although some people do have reason to be more red-faced than most. Editorial and marketing assistant, Maudie Powell-Tuck, shares her most embarrassing internship story. Read it and cringe…


It was purple. It was vintage. It had a pattern of a bookcase on it. How could I resist it? Rewind back to 2009 when I first saw my book shirt on the rail in a vintage fair. £12? Bargain. Little did I know that this little purchase was going to bring a trail of embarrassments and one downright disaster.

The shirt makes its debut

Having spent university shamefacedly avoiding wearing the book shirt to English lectures, I left to pursue a career in publishing and, with that, lost all my previous book shirt wearing inhibitions. To hell with it, I’d bought the damn thing and I was going to wear it with pride. I got a part-time job in a children’s bookshop and wore the shirt, marvelling at its camouflaging properties and causing one short-sighted pensioner to confuse me for a small human-shaped bookcase.

“So we can see you really love books."

After a while, I managed to land myself a series of work experience opportunities at various publishers. To each one, I sported my purple paean to literature with pride, ignoring the strange looks and the bemused smiles. One small misguided part of my brain was telling me: “If they see you wear the shirt, they’ll know just how much you love books and give you a job.”’As if a slightly crazed passion for books is all you need to secure a job in publishing. I even, and I cringe as a I write this, wore my book shirt to a job interview at a publishers. The first comment of the interview was: “So we can see you really love books then.” Oh god.

Even that would not buck my insistence to wear the shirt. I needed one final embarrassment to shock me out of my ill-advised sartorial choices. The shirt wasn’t only purple and covered in a book print; it was also made of a very light material and very loosely buttoned, a precarious item of clothing. On the final day of my work experience in the children’s department of a publisher, I decided to wear the shirt.

The great exposure

At the end of the day, I was required to go into the director of publishing’s office to show her my day’s work and talk over my experiences. Just before, I dropped a bundle of papers on the floor and hurriedly stooped down to pick them up. I then rushed into the director’s office and spent five minutes quickly going over my work and thanking her for the experience. She gave me a strange look when I entered (I associated that with the shirt) but that was it.

On leaving her office, I looked down to find that my loosely buttoned shirt was completely undone. When I had bent down to pick up the papers, my shirt must have split apart, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to reveal the full splendour of my Primark bra. It was no sneak preview, rather a full screening. My brassiere and midriff was out for the whole world to see. I had just spent the last five minutes talking to the director of publishing practically topless.

I never wore the book shirt again.

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