On wardrobe malfunctions, in which I unwittingly flash an unsuspecting Cheltenham Science Festival

Marilyn Monroe

Me at the Cheltenham Science Festival, apparently

There are two aspects of my life that I struggle with (that I am prepared to admit in public, anyway) – one is dressing myself, and the other is being ladylike. Not once but twice in the past fortnight have these collided with hilarious humiliating consequences.

Earlier this week, I was happily minding my own business in a meeting of our entire directorate at work – a couple of hundred people I’d reckon. About half an hour before the end, I notice that the back of my dress is sporting a gaping tear, which is probably the result of cycling to work that morning.

Luckily the dress had two layers, protecting my modesty to a certain extent, though begging the question why nobody thought to mention it to me over the entire day. Clearly, my colleagues are gits. Or hate me. Or both.

Cue a swift trip to Dorothy Perkins to buy a replacement before heading off to the protest-fest that was the Richard Dawkins/PZ Myers discussion/arm-wrestle at the IoE.

But worse happened at the Cheltenham Science Festival a few days earlier, where I was giving a talk as part of the session on cancer stem cells. I was attempting to look glamorous (you never know when those TV producers may be scouting for the female Brian Cox!) and wore one of my favourite dresses – a highly flattering below-the-knee rose print number* along with some green suede boots with purple killer heels.

The session went really well: I got a smattering of laughs for my nerdy jokes and we got some great questions. Afterwards I was taking off my headset mic (resisting the temptation to bust a few Madonna-style moves) when a woman beckoned me over to the edge of the raised stage.

“I really enjoyed your talk…” she said, “But your skirt’s too short to cross your legs like that on stage.”

*Sigh* It will be sad if people remember that session more for the fact that I inadevertently flashed my pants to the assembled crowd than for the content of my presentation.

*Pearl Lowe’s awesome rose print tea dress for Peacocks

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