Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Senior in the Juniors Department ... Gasp!

A stock piece of advice that we've all heard from style gurus is that old ladies should stay far away from the Juniors department. They're afraid that we'll buy and wear something tasteless and embarrassing. And, to be completely fair, we've all seen that older woman in too short a skirt or tattered, tiny cutoffs, and bare midriffed in the top half of a skimpy graphic tee. Nor is she spied in some private venue. She's at the grocery store or strolling the mall with her grand kids. Dressed like them. Ew.

It's easy to pose for the "don't" camera in response to the social pressure we all feel about hanging on to our youth. Sometimes it's a matter of personal taste, and that's hard to change. Or, it could just be that is how one dresses in one's social sphere. Ahem. But, sometimes it's about having limited choices about where it is possible to shop, due to location or income. And that leads to one of the most seductive reasons that pulls some of us into Junior or youth-driven departments or stores. Price.

This market is almost always priced lower than those focused on more grown up fashion. Either that, or what is offered at an attractive price to us old ladies is so dowdy and awful that we turn naturally to that shiny object that is the Junior department. In this economy, and for that long-term down-turn that many of us will experience in retirement, price is important. Certainly the quality is not high in all of these lines and you do get what you pay for.

And that might be just what you need.

I'm not advising that you run amok in the nearest "tween" store, but you can find both basic and trendy items that can work. Please, just let discernment be your guide.

Body Central (Central Mall)
The name is off-putting for me, and the shop is unabashedly Junior sized and focused on those young ones who dress for clubbing even if they are too young to get in. (Do we have clubs here?) But they do have a huge selection of inexpensive and trendy accessories to try, and I found some very pretty and fashion forward blouses that matched my definition of tasteful.

Buckle (Central Mall)
There really is a lot here, especially tops and scarves.

(These were all lace tees.  How great over a cami and under a blazer?) 

Maurices (Central Mall)
Unlike some of the Junior stores, this one also has some trendy items in plus sizes ... some of the jeans looked pretty sleek. Shoes here are limited in choice, but have a more multi-age appeal without sacrificing forward style.

Charlotte Russe (Central Mall)
If there is a trend that you can't find anywhere else, look here. Their blouses and shirts are always worth looking at here, and they use Small, Medium and Large sizing. The shoes and boots are on the far reaches of fashion forward, but look anyway. You may find just the right boot for the few months of a season that we can actually wear them, or bright colored pump to go with a specific outfit that's been perplexing you. And I am collecting inexpensive camisoles to layer with loose-knit sweaters and georgette shirts this winter. They have lots, and in many colors. The price is right.

Old Navy ( Fort Smith Pavilion)
Bless their hearts. Even though they market heavily to the young, they've always been handy for the denim and tee staples. They've FINALLY brought out colored denim in a MID-rise! The only problem is that while there are still stacks of the very low- rise colored skinnies left, they're pitifully low on their Sweetheart style mid-rise in colors. They've just been cleaned out, so help me pester them to restock. You can find longer rises in higher end stores but they cost a lot more than Old Navy's substantial product.

Remember, it took a couple of years for colored and patterned jeans to filter down to the stores in Middle America, and odds are that in no more than a season or two they'll be as outre as scrunchies and leg warmers. Save on all these trendies in Juniors, use them sparingly like salt and pepper for your wardrobe, and have more to spend on the classics that you'll wear longer. An affordable guilty pleasure.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Fashion Dreaming in the Hinterlands (Part Two ...)

Speaking of Red ...
The photo of the burgundy colored bag (at the end of my last post) represents only the tip of the iceberg that is my lust for Oxblood. No, not the blood of oxen, but the warmer-than-wine red that we have not seen around much in the last few years. I've missed it a lot, and trend watchers claim that it's all over the place for Fall 2012. Particularly in leather. This incredibly beautiful boot by Stuart Weitzman are way beyond my budget, but they're the inspiration for what I'm seeking. (And because I'm not seeing much in this color yet, I'm thinking of dyeing a pair of tan boots the precise color that I want ... more on that later.)

This deep, blood red is not the only version I've seen and re-fallen for. Cooler wine colors, garnet and ruby tones are beautiful as well. Way back in a sweater drawer, I've found a couple of classic, deep-red sweaters and tees that I had forgotten I owned. Check and double-check. If I hadn't been taking stock, I might have missed them.

I will never own this cape by Jason Wu, but I can dream.  I can also remember it when its much less pricey relative appears.  And isn't this a tasteful way for grown women to wear leather or coated jeans?

Duffey's Shoe Repair
And apropos of the delicious fall task of shopping your closet, don't forget to pull out last winter's boots and shoes to see what you need. For me, part of that task was noting the sad shape of some of my boot heels. And that means a trip to the cobbler or boot maker or shoe repair. Did you know we have a good one in Fort Smith? Duffey's Shoe Repair at 2311 Rogers Avenue (479-782-6274) is quick, friendly, knowledgeable and they do a very good job for a very reasonable price. If there ever was a year to spruce up last year's more costly items, this is the year.

I'm personally happy to report that my black, brown and tan boots from recent years will work just fine, and it will be nice to take my old boots out for a walk again!

Fall is a time to renew old friendships with those classics from last year, and all this stock-taking will help you bring home new (or new-to-you) pieces that will play well with those tried-and-true buddies.
Now that the closet is roomy, you know what you have to start with and where you want to add, let the shopping begin!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall Fashion Dreaming in the Hinterlands (Part One...)

It's still hitting 85 degrees and the humidity is especially high right now, but most of the stores and shops here are displaying "transitional" wear ... the early fall offerings that most of us here will be able to use all the way through the worst of winter. If you are, like me, just flipping through the current fashion mags, they'll make you yearn for some new looks for fall. And any new stuff you buy must make you look taller, thinner, prettier, sexier, smarter and completely modern . Right?

However, when you are 45 miles from anything, you need to plan trips to larger metropolitan areas. At least I do. And since finances are always an issue, as well as closet space, I've developed a Fall Agenda to keep this fall fun.

First: Say Goodby to Summer

This is a step that I sometimes neglect, but this year I am determined to optimize my fall style options by cleaning out my side of the closet. That means the beginning of a process that takes a few weeks to complete and it goes faster or slower depending on the weather changes. I'll be pulling most of my brightest summer tops and sandals first and finding a place to store them. Even though it is still warm, it feels enough like fall to quit wearing the floatiest and lightest of hot weather choices. I'll be keeping pieces I can layer, and darker colored sheers and silkies that will work with heavier fall fabrics and layers. The idea is to put away summer and pull out the fall things so you can see what you'll need this year. This is also make room for those new (yeaaaay !) items.

Second: Shop Your Closet

The next step is to take stock. By the time I've finished going through the first crop of fall magazines, I've got my Lust List in my head and on paper. Lots of what I wore last winter will work again this year, and I'll be looking for specific pieces that will bring my wardrobe up-to-date.

For example .... last winter, I gave in and up about my resistance to slimmer cut jeans and trousers. Mostly in black and dark denim blue. I've found that skinnies ( judiciously used !!!) even work for me to balance out the fuller cut, georgette tops I loved last winter. They're especially good with long tunics and sweaters.  I'll keep the slimmer cuts, and add colors and very subtle prints. I couldn't find them locally last year, now they're everywhere.
Another keeper is a black tuxedo-lapel blazer. I love it so much that I'm looking for one in navy blue. The example below is from the Kirna Zabete line for Target, and sadly not available locally. (See last post's rant. Argh....)

All this applies to accessories as well, of course. I'm putting many of my summeriest shoes away, and pulling out my more wintery pumps and certainly my boots. I'm taking a batch of my favorites to be re-heeled before I really need them. But I'm adding navy blue pumps because I think they'll look modern with reds, burgundies, and browns that I would have worn with black. Also, the navy and black is it's own contemporary combination that I'm loving.
Finally, the centerpiece of my Lust List is a bag like this one ... it's been a long time since I've seen this rich burgundy color, and I'm looking for boots as well.

(Next time, more colors, more accessories and how to find them.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kirna Zabete at Target Shops (or The Small Store Blues ...)

The Kirna Zabete collection is ... where?

I'm so sorry I bothered to get up at an unholy hour Sunday morning and drive the 45 minutes to the Fort Smith Target store to beat the crowds for the 8 a.m. debut of Kirna Zabete collaboration for their "Shops" program. I was 10 minutes late, but the only person there. And, out of forty-seven clothing items available on-line, there were only about twelve items on three racks, featuring exactly one each of available sizes. One extra-small, one small, one medium, one large, one extra large. One. The items themselves were an odd mixture of the lower price items, and none of the most interesting, fashion-forward items featured in the collection. Exactly none of the items I wanted were there.

Only the first three racks that you see above are for the Zabete collection.  The rest is the usual Target stock.

As sad as that was, the lack of selection of the accessory line was even worse. The photograph below says it all.

(Update ... by Wednesday afternoon, Target had added a few scarves from the line and put out more items that they already had displayed.  I saw no additional clothing. The display still looks sparse, and is a stingy representation of collection items, but it is good to see that our local Target is making an effort. )
The point of the "Shops" concept was to keep stock available for the advertised period. Not only was there very little of anything to buy, I am told by our local store customer service not to count on any replenishment once these items are gone. As of Monday morning, most of the items had been identified as "discontinued."  I'm told by the Target dress department staff that we don't get much stock because we are only a small store. 

I am a Target fan. A devoted fan, and no one was as happy as I when Target FINALLY moved into our area a couple of years ago. Prior to this, I have driven ninety miles to snag a black trench coat from their collaboration collection by Isaac Mizrahi (which has garnered me compliments from complete strangers.) And I was hopeful that their "Shops for Target" program would cure the huge problems that marked their Missoni collection. In case you missed the kerfuffle caused by the Missoni event, most customers who took the trouble to shop the opening went home empty handed because of insufficient stock.
Here in Fort Smith, the Missoni event was well attended, with customers clearing out the best items within an hour after opening.  I've attended the early opening of some of these local "Shops" events and the excitement about them has dwindled to zero.

You can shop online, of course, but you may not want to if you prefer to try on, judge the color and quality of construction or feel the fabric. They seem to still have plenty of stock at the website, as of this writing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Renewal, and the September Issues


Every year, about August 15th, I start fretting that the massive September issue of Vogue is not going to arrive. Did somebody steal it out of my mailbox? Who could resist it? Some postal worker, somewhere along the route between New York and me, is probably flipping through the pages during her (or his!) break, getting egg-salad crusted thumb marks on my copy. When it finally arrives around August 20th, I rejoice. At last! Then I feel immediately guilty at suspecting mail theft, especially by our hard working postal employees. I hereby apologize profusely for such unjustified mistrust, and feel really bad about the whole thing.

This year, as the 120th Anniversary issue it was truly humongous . And glorious as usual. Every fall, I anticipate the first sit-down with it. I pour coffee (or wine, if for some reason, I am forced to wait until evening) turn off the news and switch to Baroque music or a little discrete jazz, and delve into this astonishing compendium of the most important and beautiful clothing, shoes and jewels that I will never own. And I don't just rendezvous with Vogue. There are at least a half-dozen more magazines that I'll pore through. This isn't about ownership or shopping. It almost isn't about the clothes.

For me, it's about the potential for renewal, even in the Fall of the year.

You'd think that this is a concept that is reserved only for the Spring collections and fashion issues. But no. As long as I can remember, September marks the beginning of the delicious time of year when I can get serious about the things I love best. I'll forever associate it with going back to school and all the attendant luxuries; new books, new classes, new ideas, old and new friends and new clothes. My grandmother was a professional tailor and seamstress, and I always got a seriously well made and custom-fitted dress or two, and at least one new pair of shoes. And we all know that new shoes can be personally, academically and romantically transformative. This is a fact.

As a curvy, hourglass type (my euphemisms and I'm sticking to them!) Summer has never been my optimally flattering season as far as clothing goes. Too many flaws to hide. Fall and Winter are my best times, and every Fall is a chance to finally get it right.

I've always been on a clenched budget, but that doesn't stop me from planning how to approach this best season with a little more grace, a little more taste and modernity than I managed last year. And because I am an old woman now and have many more Autumns behind me than ahead of me, there's no time like the present to dress up with whatever panache I can manage. And as I get older, each Fall looks like a chance to be better.

Renewal doesn't mean a whole new wardrobe. It means new ways to put old items and ideas together. It also means finding new items that expand the meaning of what you loved last year. That's the kind of renewal and that I find in my September issues of the fashion magazines. What do you find?