Monday, October 20, 2014

Old Lady Runway Rant

If I hear Heidi Freaking Klum or Nina Freaking Garcia say one more time, "That looks old lady" when they mean dowdy, old fashioned, unfashionable, outmoded, out-of-date, passé, unstylish, or frumpy, I will be forced to reconsider my weekly indulgence in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: watching Project Runway. (I participate in lots of other light-minded pleasures and activities. I just don't feel guilty when I indulge in them.)

I'll miss you, Tim Gunn. But I have to say, Tim, you should be all over this one and on my side.

It is just plain ageist, incorrect and mean-spirited to employ two words that describe an at least passably well-behaved and civilized woman who has attained a considerable number of years past her youth when Ms Klum attempts to describe an especially unhip outfit made by one of the anxious competitors. The fact of a woman's age doesn't and never should automatically define her stylishness or un. When Klum says this, she implies that we old women look dowdy in whatever we're wearing simply because we are not young, no matter how great our clothing might be without us in them. Oldness makes everything about us uncool.

She uses this phrase fairly frequently, and I cringe for her when she does it. I try to remember that as a non-native speaker she does worlds better in English than I do in her native German, and I can understand her searching for a word while on camera. But it isn't live-broadcast, so somebody needs to look at editing out this gaffe the next time it occurs. Really, it's important to at least be clear and respectful when she's paid as much as she is to opine about something as subjective as the hipness of clothing design.

Garcia often climbs on the band-wagon with Klum, but sometimes has the grace to use other, only slightly less offensive terms such as madame, or mother-of-the-bride in the same insensitive way. As the 49-year-old mother of young sons, it is likely that she will one day wear her carefully chosen and couture outfits at the nuptials of her grown boys, and she won't be a spring chicken by that time, either. I guarantee that she won't like to hear her ensemble unkindly described as "soooo mother-of-the-groom." I'd offer her the excuse that she may well not have been a childhood speaker of idiomatic English as she was born in Columbia, but I won't because she holds a bachelor's degree from Boston University as well as a second one from FIT.

Yooo-hooo, Ms. Klum and Ms. Garcia. Hellooooo. We're sitting right here in front of the TV. We're old but we can still hear you.

I know. It's American Reality TV. Therefore, I should not be surprised. I also know this isn't so-much-of-a-much all in itself, and the next, most obvious step should be to let it go now that I've vented. But it's been a week where I've been noticing more disdain exhibited towards older women than usual in our language and popular culture and media, and it's been frustrating. I beg that my darling vintage-enthusiast friends will cut me a bit of slack and not pummel me for equating only current, knife-edge newness with great style. I do not mean that at all. It's the equation of advanced age and non-style that I object to. I've been chastised black and blue because I neglected to clarify my smarty-pants glibness. Completely black and blue, I tell you.

In fact, since I'm bound to offend someone, I'll apologize ahead of time and show my contrition by wearing my black and blue shame right out in the open; in a very soft and comforting blue Max Studio extra-fine merino wool sweater over my Old Navy black and blue hounds-tooth Pixie Pants. And my navy, cobalt and black suede d'Orsay ankle-strap pumps ... more black and blue, from me to you.
Oh, yeah. And my sleek and snazzy Old Lady bag, too. 
Snap to you, Heidi.

Taking this silliness to the Lovely Lacy Patti at her Visible Monday link-up.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's Official ...

I knew it would happen one day, and that day is here.

I'm little.
I'm an old lady.
And I'm wearing Keds Champions.

I am now a Little Old Lady In Tennis Shoes.

Note that the first three letters are LOL. You may begin. Go for it. Knock yourself out.

So, that's it.
Don't get used to me in flats, much less athletic shoes.
Just seemed like the thing to do on a lazy Sunday in the Big City.

I'm off to try to catch up with all of you. Have a great one, you young whippersnappers.

Late breaking ....
I'm popping over to Patti's Visible Monday  ... come see what we're all up to!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Women In Clothes

Women in Clothes
Blue Rider Press / Penguin Group (USA)
Published September 4, 2014

Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton

These three women, youngish at 37, 46 and 41 respectively, all established writers beyond the fashion industry, all with their own serious professional chops, got together and devised over 100 questions, organized them into a questionnaire, and compiled the responses of 639 of the women who answered them. Then they made a huge book of it all, plus additional conversations, photography and illustrations.

Beyond those specifics, it's not an easy book to describe. A few famous names that I recognized offered their opinions, and quite a number of highly accomplished women that I'd never heard of but probably should have recognized. But for the most part, the women who responded were from almost everywhere, from very rich to the very poor. A few very young girls spoke, a few very old women, but mostly from twenty, thirty and forty-somethings. What they all had in common was that they all had worn clothing for their whole lives and were happy to talk about the impact all these clothes had on those lives. " Women in Clothes" makes a wonderfully rich compendium of little story-snippets, each reflecting the sometimes life-altering impact what we choose to put on our backs can have.

In her review that appeared in the September 25th edition of The New Yorker, Judith Therman described the book as "a communal dressing room in book form." That was a pretty apt and concise description. (In fact, I recommend her review as a very good read all in itself... you can find it HERE .) Expanding on her analogy, I'd ask you imagine the biggest football stadium you can think of, and imagine the field packed with hundreds of dressing room cubicles; nice ones, crummy ones, all sizes. Then imagine them all crowded with hundreds of women; all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, all ages and all trying on clothes. Talking about clothes, looking at clothes, critiquing the garments of their own and others. Imagine you can hear snippets of conversation, but never the whole of one, then imagine someone organized it all for you and made it readable. That's what the book was like for me.

Below are just a few of the questions that grabbed me. Since I am a chronic button-hole gazer, you can see why these subjects were right up my alley. You can see the whole list at the book website HERE , and answer them all for yourself. It seems that the editors are posting these responses as sort of a DIY online addenda to the book. I was completely charmed with this idea that allows the reader to join in after the fact.

What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

Please describe your body.

Please describe your mind.

Please describe your emotions.

With whom do you talk about clothes?

How do institutions affect the way you dress?

Did anyone every say anything to you hat made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

Weighing in at 518 pages, this is a fabulous book to download onto your tablet. It's ideal for toting around this way, and the editors have broken it down into bite sized segments that make it easy to enjoy in spare moments or when you can settle in for a deep read. Between these segments, the editors have interspersed photographic "Collections" of items belonging to their respondents. Many of them are what one would expect; one woman's collection of cashmere sweaters, another's fedoras, or another's collection of vintage three-inch heels. It was less clear to me the value of presenting collections of one woman's earplugs, a collection of identical dental-floss sticks, a collection of a week's worth of one woman's cigarette butts, and another of someone's collection of individual bobby-pins. Quirky. Certainly they added an element of artsy-fartsy charm, but I can get behind even that when judiciously presented.

Another section belonged to photographic "Projects". One of the most memorable was "Poses from Fashion Media" featuring actress Zosia Mamet clad in a plain black leotard against a white background, aping the essential silliness of each famous magazine pose. You'll instantly remember looking at heavily editorial fashion pages and ads, wondering what the magazine pros were thinking by using such improbable and unlikely arrangements of a woman's body to show how clothes could look. Cute commentary, but since there were 50 of them, and I'd gotten the point very quickly ... certainly by about the third one, and was ready to move on after the 15th one ... I felt more editing might have yielded a less-is-more effect. Overall, though, the sometimes silly but more often poignant visuals in the book jived beautifully with the very basic and very personal conversation about how we feel about what we wear and carry and conceal. One certainly gets the impression that nothing important was edited out and lost for lack of space.

When time permits, and I'll make time soon, I'm going back to the site the editors have provided and join the other women who have submitted their survey responses. I'd like to hear from any of you that decide to do likewise ... let me know and I'll be delighted to read what you have to say. In fact, a visit to the site and a look at the questions will tell you whether or not you'll enjoy the book itself. If you're reading this, and you bother to blog yourself, I'll bet you will.


WIW in to the Big City on the hot, humid Sunday afternoon.  My attempt to suggest fall-ishness with with oxblood and get one more wearing out of my favorite summery crop top.  

Got a lovely compliment from a 20 something, hipsterish guy out with his girlfriend.  "Love your outfit," he said with a charming smile for us as we entered the restaurant.  Nice.  Very nice.

Checking in late but repentant at the always forgiving Patti at her Visible Monday link-up.  Come see what everyone is wearing!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not a Lust List and Some Bugs

I've been threatening to publish my Fall 2014 Lust List, and I will, but I'm changing the name. I'm just not feeling a lot of sartorial lust this fall. It isn't a lack of beautiful pieces out there. And there are interesting new (or new-to-me) ideas to play with and interpret. But I also want to get better at doing what I began last year.

I'm just not done with last fall. Like a lot of you, I'm drawn deeper back into the wilds of my existing fall wardrobe this year. This time, it's about fine tuning how I wear the pieces I have. This is a pretty cool, low stress place to be, and I'm happy to have a good base to start out my season. Since I cut my hair early this spring, everything I have looks different to me, and I want to work with that, too.

I do, however, have a list of items to acquire and put to work with last year's pieces. (Did you ever doubt it? Of course not.) And here it is.  We'll just call it this:

Fall-Winter 2014 Fine Tuning List

Replacement items
(because stuff wears out ...)

Spanx Power Panties, "new and improved" version
You can stop snickering now. These sleek, cuddly, light-weight little miracles are my winter panties and they make me very happy.
And if you think you are too cool for Spanx, I envy your perfect figure (some of you really have one, or a very nearly perfect one because of youth, steely exercise and dietary discipline, good genes, or that pact you signed with the devil. Honey, have you seen our firstborn around lately?) And I send you my admiration if you practice a saintly acceptance of your aging, natural shape between waist and knee (really?) But for those of you with truly elderly contours like mine who have never tried Spanx and are only concerned about an imagined lack of comfort ... I weep for you.
More stock in-store for me.

Black "leather" pencil skirt replacement. ( Check! Done! )
My favorite and elderly Loft ponte knit and faux leather skirt began to "slough" it's leather-ish fabric finish in alarming ways. It developed big spots that looked like a peeling sunburn. (I know. Ewww.) Beyond hope, help, repair. I found a good replacement at Penny's.

Classic black pumps. A much needed replacement for my best old ones that have died, a leftover item from last year. I have my eye on a pair of shapely Bandolinos.

New, primarily black Breton striped T-shirt. 
( Replacement as mine are trashed, and I've wanted to wear one a couple of times already this fall.)

Classic LBD or deep-dark color equivalent ... updated. ( My old favorite is getting shiny and shoddy.)

( There are always a couple of items that I never find but are on my list every year anyway.)

Finally... crisp white shirt that fits shoulder and bust with curved shirt tail that can be altered.
This is another item on my list from years past. Never found one, but miracles do happen.

Good, light weight, white T-Shirt with long sleeves for tom-boy looks with jeans... not too tight, not too sloppy.
An item related to the crisp white shirt that is equally difficult to find, and so remains on my list.

Yearning to Try Items
(These ideas have been around for a while, but I'm suddenly interested in trying them.This sometime happens when they appear here after being available elsewhere for a couple of seasons. Or they're classic items that I'd like to try in new-to-me ways.)

Zipper or asymmetrical pencil skirt
I like how these look, but am in relaxed mode, waiting for the right one to turn up. It could supply a little badassery for existing pieces.

Plaid shirts or other button-down shirts that can peek out under cropped sweaters. Low bulk, please.
The LIOLI rule (Love It Or Leave It) applies here, especially. I'm set for few solid ones, but no plaid. Some floral print shirts can be too matronly on me, so use discernment.
Additional note to self ... don't be so quick to put away sleeveless summer tops with collars, 'cause these can work really well this way!

Cropped sweaters with straight or hi-low hems to wear over button-down shirts.
LIOLI again. And part of this is to figure out how to shorten knit sweaters and alter some ones I have but wish were much shorter!

Bright but tertiary-colored, very structured and lady-like bag ...wait for True Love. To be worn with solid darks.

Scarf, gloves to go with pretty pink coat (squeeee!)
Does not mean pink overload, necessarily. But it could.

Long gloves? (Take gray ones with broken zip to the cobbler ...)
TJ Maxx always has great quality leather gloves for almost nothing later in the season. Guilt free treat that is right up my alley.

"Just Looking, Thank You" Items

(The following are items that I'm just remaining open to. Just considering. Leaving to fate to throw in my path, and may or may not be purchases. I never thought I'd love skinny jeans so much, though ... they used to be in this section 
of a past list.)

Little flat-but-luxe or athletic kicks or menswear style oxfords of some kind. Looks fun, but don't fall for the really clunky, broguey, wingtippy ones. LIOLI.
Keds over Vans preferred.

Consider a pair of dark, dressy athletically inspired pants, low bulk that can be altered for length. Definitely LIOLI. This is a recent idea that I didn't like when they were just glorified baggy gray sweats or track pants paired with a sparkly top and stilettos, but I'm seeing a more refined version out there that I like. Don't hold your breath waiting to see me in these for OOTD, though ...

Shoes and Boots
I've been on the case for a couple of months now because my size goes fast, and I'm happy to report that I'm in pretty good shape right now with knee-high boots from past years that I still adore, last year's booties and both new and old wintry heels.
I only lack trying on a pair of strappy mid-calf booties, but haven't seen any yet that tempt. They may be problematic for my short legs, but nothing this year says badass like these booties. They remind me vaguely of Victorian high-button boots but with a mega-dose of attitude.

Will she or won't she?
Stay tuned to find out ...

                  WIW for a little shopping on Sunday.

A closeup of my amazing bug necklace!  All kinds of bugs in silvertone and bronze with a few sparkles.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Casual Essay on the Manifestation of Badassery in A Very Mature Woman

From the Urban Dictionary and the entry for badassery : "Engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck."

From the on-line Oxford Dictionaries: "Behavior, characteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive: few of us can attain her level of badassery "


Badassery. Isn't that a great word? It just rolls off the tongue and flips up a slide show on that big screen in your imagination, doesn't it? I've been playing with that word and all that it can mean for some weeks now, ever since I watched for the umpteenth time how Helen Mirren got her womanly badassery on with such elegant professionalism in the film Red 2. It wasn't the guns, truly. It was the clothes and the serious, serious attitude about the work at hand.

I am easily influenced.

We can all conjure instant images of popular culture badassery. With the young men, it's easy to come up with a quick short list of anti-heroes and super tough guys. Interesting how we've allowed a lot of these guys to continue their badass careers into late middle age and beyond; Bruce Willis in almost every film he's ever made, Samuel L Jackson in absolutely every film he's ever made, ditto for a more cerebral Morgan Freeman ... the list goes on. 

There are probably fewer on the women's list, but I'll bet if you are reading this post, you are already pulling up your own. From film and fiction I think of the characters Scout Finch, Ripley, Lara Croft, Hermoine Granger, Lisbeth Salander, both Carries (Stephen King's and Homeland's) and lots more, but all of them had that kind of toughness of mind, body and/or spirit that is most often exhibited by the young and fit.

Happily, because we are all living longer and more productively, we are allowing a few of our cinematic heroines to rock on into seniordom. My friends across the Big Pond really have a handle on how to do this with style; Dame Helen Mirren, of course, and Dame Judy Dench. Was anyone more badass as M to Daniel Craig's James Bond? And there never was a more terrifying Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

But my all time favorite Lady Badass is Dame Maggie Smith. Whether she was wielding her lethally badass wand as Professor McGonagall at the Battle of Hogwarts or upstaging the entire cast of Downton Abbey as the adorably cynical Dowager Countess of Grantham, Dame Maggie is indisputably badass in dove gray lace. When we add all of Shakespeare's women to the mix, the tradition is set for us. All three of these women have portrayed the extremely badass Elizabeth I, and one of them Elizabeth II (who has had her own moments of real-life badassery.)

It's easier to reference pop culture badassery icons than it is real world women. There are plenty, but it is the nature of the real badass woman that she'll offend someone because that's sometimes what she does. Often she manifests her badassery by telling her understanding of Truth to power, and since there has never been a greater divide in opinion regarding the great Truths, at least in this country, I'll leave it to you, Dear Reader, to choose your favorites. Love them or hate them, we have powerful women on both sides of the political aisle. In only nominally more neutral territory, our three Women Supremes among the old boys on the Big Court, Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, clearly exhibit judicial badassery in their professional doings. The three branches of our government are chockablock with women who put out a singularly powerful kind of badassery. And not just in this country, as we see. There are women leaders worldwide, badassing all over the planet these days.

So many ... nay, most ... of them are mature, or very mature, and some are perfectly mature. I'm just very mature at 64, so I still have some badassery to aspire to, or at least appreciate and try to emulate, even if it only works a little. And that brings me to why I'm contemplating this notion at all.

As you read this, fall will have just become official, and that time of year brings out the deeper, darker, richer colors, more substantial fabrics, and leathers and furs, faux and real. We are heading toward the dark of the year, and as Ned Stark noted, "Winter is coming." I take my fall wardrobe fantasies very seriously. I've been looking back at my blog photos from the last year or so, thinking about what works and what doesn't. I tend to be an aspirational dresser. I take on new and old ideas, shapes and silhouettes that I especially like and try (successfully and NOT) to make them work for me.

The pieces that work I love and go back to, again and again ... the pieces that make me feel the best when I walk out of the house ... the pieces that feel the most authentically my own, and pieces that might well belong to some other woman I like better than myself ... all of them have at least a touch of the badass.

And I've learned that there is no particular genre of dress that lends badassery. It's not only found in biker chic, or punk, or grundge, or boho, ladylike, vintage, retro, minimalist, menswear or architectural. But it can be found in all of them. (I don't think you can find it in Normcore. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.)

Badassry is found and on display when what you are wearing makes you feel badass. Simple. Who knew it is all about confidence and serendipity? Some days it all works; hair, clothes, makeup, accessories, and you walk out the door with the complete confidence that you can demolish whatever dragon is on your day-planner, slated for slaying. And that you'll smell really good while doing it.

The items that make me feel particularly badass are often the most obvious; leather anything, including boots and booties, moto jackets and dressy leather pumps with a satisfyingly high stiletto heel, Also a perfectly fitting pencil skirt, an ear cuff, a minimalist silhouette. But I guarantee that I will feel completely badass when I wear my pink wool coat for the first time this winter.

My most often used pieces that lend a classic badass finishing touch to my outfit are my Ray-Bans. Dan and I spend considerable time in the car, driving sunward coming and going, as it always seems. I've saved up for my little collection of Wayfarers (black and tortoise-shell, larger frame) and classic Aviators (an all black pair and a pair of gold frame ones that are from Dan) and Dan's properly sized black Wayfarers for his huge head. We get in the car, fasten our seat belts and put on the sunglasses. He looks at me, I look at him. We grin. Yup, we're cool. This is our badass.

Go forth. Find and embrace your badassery.
I just know you have it in you, and its manifestation is already in your possession.

Just a little badassery from the leather-ish top. A favorite work outfit for this still-warm time of year.


This post is dedicated to the Wonderful and Ruffly Patti, who hosts Visible Monday for us all.  Thank you, Patti.  Are you sure you aren't just a little Badass?