Monday, October 15, 2007

A post-midlife clothing crisis

Oy vey, in the past couple of months so many things have gotten between the Clothesaholic and her addiction! Work, family crises, Top Chef . . . But thank Dior, Top Chef is over, and Project Runway Season 4 approaches, so I can stop thinking about duck confit and start concentrating on important things like fabric choices and cut again. (By the way, watching cooking shows, and the eating they inspire, can seriously interfere with one’s ability to wasp-waisted vintage fashions, even with corseting!).

While I was away from blogspot I had one of those landmark birthdays that bring on existential crises. I am now too old to be in any desirable demographic. Only the AARP wants me, my health insurance premium took an astonishing leap, and, much more important, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WEAR!!! I’m not yet ready to spend the rest of my life in elastic-waist polyester pants and oversized shirts from QVC.

If I can’t find shirtwaist dresses so I can play Donna Reed, maybe I’ll start playing the Megabucks slots regularly in the hope of winning enough money to dress exclusively in Chado Ralph Rucci, a maker of damn fine clothes appropriate for the woman of a certain age.

Actually, I hate the expression "age-appropriate". Clothing should be wearer-appropriate; after all, Renee Russo, age 53, can wear things that many many women a lot younger cannot. Yet there are things that, if worn by a, um, mature woman, simply look ridiculous.

Luckily, my clothing crisis is mostly academic. I work from my home so I can spend the day in disreputable jeans or even my jammies without offending anyone, assuming I don't answer the door when UPS calls. The cats seem happy to shed on anything. Those days when I’m forced to go out to play lawyer I have my collection of lady litigator suits. Every now and then, however, I’m invited to an event that’s doesn’t involve a judge and isn’t on Halloween, and I’ll need something else to wear.

For example, just last week I was invited to a wedding, which is about as good an excuse for this Clothesaholic to buy a new outfit as any. I'm excited because this promises to be an interesting gathering. The bride and her friends are all musicians, the groom is a Harley enthusiast. They met at a motorcycle rally. I’m sure that one or more of the guests will attend in his/her leathers and the dress code will be generally bohemian, in other words, it'll be a great opportunity for creative dressing. So I happily traveled to one of the local major department stores, where I’ve found things I like before, in high hopes of find the Dress That Will Change My Life, Fun Division, only to be disappointed immediately. The dresses were either very young – short, low-cut, short AND low-cut, baby-doll, mini-tent – or mother, nay, grandmother of the bride. I bought something anyway; a brightly-printed (purple! red! orange!) faux-Duro dress.

Due to my poor photography, and my size 2 dress form, these photos don't really begin to show the horror that is this dress. It has fluttery 3-quarter sleeves, a surplice bodice and an Empire waist shaped by a long silky sash that ties in the back in a bow. A child-like floppy kind of bow. When I tried the dress on in the store I thought it looked okay from the front and that I’d deal with the bow by keeping my back to the wall.

What the hell was I thinking?

The moment I paid for the dress that damn bow began to haunt me. I thought about it all the way home. I thought about if for the remainder of the afternoon. I hung the bright dress in my closet and noticed that it glowed like radioactive waste among my gray-pinstripe suits and LBDs. I tried the dress on the next morning, looked in the mirror, and saw a retired nursemaid dressed up like Heidi on acid. This garment might very well be The Dress That Will Change My Life, but not in any way I’d want. The dress is so being returned.

On a happier note, my existential crisis does not prevent me from admiring cute dress in the abstract. I saw some of these dresses by Nine West in real life, and dang, they’re cute. So, if you're a bright young thing, or Renee Russo, go check them out.


Anonymous said...

Age-appropriate is a stupid term you can bet was dreamt up by the powers that be in fashion marketing to keep the "old" ladies in one demographic and the youngsters in another so they can more easily sell them clothes. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. You can look totally inappropriate wearing age-appropriate clothes. I'll give you an example: Diane Keaton. She looks like a kookie freak in the costumy outfits she steps out in. Gag me with a spoon. I NEVER think about age appropriate this or that when I shop. If I like it and it works with my body type and lifestyle it goes in my closet. Case closed. By the time you're 30 you should know what cuts of clothes look best and you should have the good sense to cover those parts of your body that are iffy. Not to say you have to be perfect, but if it calls attention to itself it is best to cover it. Once you have an idea of what cuts work with your particular body type knowing what to wear becomes easy. There are no existential crises. Clothing has no age tags, only price tags. Is it appropriate to you? Is the only question that needs answering.

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