What Baby Boomer girl doesn’t remember the excitement during the fifties and sixties, when the new Fall/Winter or Spring/Summer Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues arrived? Growing up in a small town where we were lucky to make it to Peterborough a couple of times a year, those thick, delicious catalogues offered glimpses of clothes, shoes, jewelry and toys most of couldn’t afford but dreamed of possessing. We would endlessly pore over the pages of the latest fashions, planning wardrobes we would never own, but it was fun to fantasize. My girlfriends and I would even play “Order Office” in our basement. Our small town didn’t warrant an actual Eaton’s or Simpson’s store but we did have catalogue order offices where people would go to place an order from the catalogue or pick up merchandise. We loved to pretend we were grown up and working there, filling out all the official forms and handing over the goodies when they arrived.
Ambitious little girls grow up and get real jobs, yet their fantasies live on. That catalogue shopping fantasy still plays out each year with the September issue of Vogue magazine. Packing an impressive eight hundred-plus pages, the September issue is today’s fancy grownup version of Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues and mine arrived this week. The commercial significance of this annual fashion touchstone is such that it even inspired a documentary a few years ago about all the work, creativity and personalities involved in producing it.
Sadly, I have neither the body nor the budget for the majority of the merchandise shown in the September issue—or any issue for that matter. Instead of uplifting and inspiring me, it depresses me. Valentino, Armani or Chanel are simply not designed for commoners like me. Who wouldn’t love to see themselves running through a pristine forest in that gorgeous Fendi coat wearing those yummy Prada loafers. I only wish my lifestyle and body were conducive to wearing that incredible pink and blue plaid wool tweed Carolina Herrara coat and skirt set. Talk about visions of sugar plums. But, alas, I’m just a normal person with an average body and a practical budget.
I realize the purpose of fashion magazines is not to duplicate the clothing and accessories displayed on their glossy pages, but to inspire us to modify and adapt a look, or perhaps visit the store or website of one of the advertisers. It’s frustrating that my tastes and preferences no longer count. After all, as a Baby Boomer, I represent a huge demographic with sizeable spending power. But it’s very hard for us to find inspiration in stick-thin teenaged models who have been Photoshopped to be even thinner and taller with more perfect skin and hair than God herself ever envisioned. It was reassuring to see ads in the September issue with affordable items from our own Hudson’s Bay (featuring their Lord & Taylor line), Land’s End, and J. Crew. I particularly commend Target for their imaginative fashion pages printed on quality paper featuring reinterpretations of vintage Vogue spreads. That was avante-garde, creative and relatable. Full marks to whoever pulled that concept together.
Jeanne Bekker recently wrote about Marla Ginsburg who created her own line of affordable and comfortable clothing for Baby Boomer women because she couldn’t find anything on the market that addressed her changing body and style issues. Her website is marlawynne.com. Chico’s is the mature lady’s answer to Le Chateau but I still prefer the exquisite fit of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. I recently bought a pair of pants by Lisette of Montreal that were lovely.
Zoomer magazine has acknowledged the lack of attention paid to our demographic by the fashion industry. Perhaps Moses Znaimer could get in touch with Joe Mimran or his missus, Kimberley Newport-Mimran who own the Joe Fresh and Pink Tartan lines (I doubt they’d take my calls), to see if they could come up with something for us. His connections are far better than mine.
Nearly sixty years have passed since I first started my love affair with the beautiful fashions displayed in the Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues. Back then, I would envision myself in their beautiful clothes; not so with Vogue or most other fashion magazines. Where is Iris Apfel when we need her? There’s plenty of eye candy but a dearth of inspiration for Boomers like me who are regarded as old, fat and irrelevant. The fashion industry continues to ignore us. It’s like loving someone who doesn’t love you back. And there’s no reward in that.