FRESH from an unproductive shopping trip with my 15-year-old son, when I returned empty-handed after he phoned me repeatedly in the changing room, urging me to get a move on, I found myself rummaging through my wardrobe for something to wear at the weekend.

I needed a dress for our local village midsummer ball, and we were leaving in about half an hour.

This is not unusual. As the mother of five boys, I have become accustomed to doing everything at breakneck speed over the years.

On the odd occasions when my husband and I did get the chance to go out on our own, it would be such a mad rush to get the boys all sorted for bed before the babysitter arrived that I was usually left with about ten minutes, tops, to get myself ready.

Things have changed. Three of the boys have grown up and left home and I have much more time to spend on myself. But old habits die hard.

I’m so used to having a quick shower, throwing on the first thing that comes out of the wardrobe which fits and hastily applying lipstick and mascara before heading out that I struggle to know how to fill the extra time.

On this occasion, my 22-year-old son Patrick and his girlfriend Holly, who is about to graduate from university with a degree in fashion marketing and branding, were there.

Over the past 30 years, when getting ready to go out, I have had to rely on the views of my husband and sons. Funnily enough, everything I have ever put on in all that time has, apparently, looked ‘fine’.

Now, with a whole half hour to fill, I thought I’d ask Holly, who always looks immaculate and gorgeous, with perfectly applied make-up and carefully co-ordinated, bang on-trend outfits, for her expert opinion.

Holly is serious about fashion, because fashion is a serious business. Worth about £29bn to the UK economy, it’s twice the size of the car industry.

I was relieved she approved of my vintage-style H&M dress - black, but with a busy floral pattern, containing yellows, pinks, reds and blues - which I got for my sister’s birthday party last year.

But she wasn’t so sure about the gold shoes I bought on impulse after seeing them half price in a shop window last year.

“It depends on your bag,” she counselled. I suggested my old gold clutch bag, which also has a vintage feel.

But the shoes, Holly pointed out, were rose gold. The bag was a different shade. It didn’t work.

My navy, high-heeled sandals worked with the dress, but not the bag. I found a black clutch bag, which worked with the dress, but not the sandals, said Holly. This was getting complicated.

And the pressure was on. It was like being the subject of a TV makeover show, but without any resources or time. Poor Holly didn’t have much to work with.

Gok Wan, Trinny and Susannah would have been horrified at what we did next. We compromised and went for the gold bag with the navy sandals which didn’t match.

I showed Holly my new silver hoop earrings. After wearing studs for the past ten years, I thought they’d make a change.

Holly ignored the gold/silver clash. This was the least of my worries. “Hoops are really daytime wear, not suitable for the evening,” she advised. Who knew?

I could tell from the look on her face when I pulled out my dark purple velvet coat that it was wrong too.

Patrick walked past as I put it on: “It makes you look like a politician,” he commented, which wasn’t particularly helpful.

He may have been referring to Theresa May, Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson for all I knew, but I didn’t explore this further, because I was concentrating on what Holly was saying.

The advice was not to wear the coat on arrival, but to put it on if needed at the end: “By that stage, nobody will care,” she said.

I am not sure anybody would care at the beginning either. But I clearly do have a lot to learn.

Holly’s also promised to show me how to execute the perfect winged eyeliner, which won’t look as if a toddler has been let loose on my eyelids with a thick felt tip, when we have more time.

I am, as they say in the industry, a project.