The reason? Blazers are back in fashion and I love blazers. I gave all my office clothes to charity when I retired but kept a couple of items that I was particularly fond of. One was a beautifully constructed double-breasted gray pinstripe wool blazer with matching vest that was part of a suit (due to waistline issues, the pants retired too). It was made by Mondi, a German brand that no longer exists but I paid a ridiculous amount of money for it thirty years ago and I just can’t bring myself to part with it.
It’s fun to reflect on the spectrum of fashions boomer gals have worn to work over the years. In the sixties we were just starting out and riding high on Twiggy and our newfound fashion and lifestyle freedom. We had a collection of mini dresses and skirts that make me cringe now when I think of bending over filing cabinets, riding up escalators or climbing steps in the subway. But that was when we still had firm thighs and no cellulite so we bounced around without a thought about modesty. The seventies ushered in maxi length skirts in Laura Ashley prints with go-go boots and form-fitting finely knitted turtlenecks. Those skirts often had matching cowl scarves and we felt oh-so elegant. Our sky-high hair was permed within an inch of its life and sprayed until it wouldn’t move in hurricane.
By the eighties we were maturing into our ‘careers’ and dressing for success with neat little suits and soft bow ties. Power dressing was the big news in fashion and that’s when I bought that Mondi suit. One year I received a particularly generous bonus at work which I immediately blew on a burgundy-coloured ‘Ultra-suede’ skirt suit that cost me a fortune. I wore it for only one season. The memory of that folly is still a major ouch. Ports was a big brand name back then. We loaded up on their corduroy suits, dresses and silk blouses with dry cleaning bills that nearly bankrupted me. That was before I realized that despite the warning label, silk can be hand washed.
Our fashion tastes in the nineties were restrained by the nearly decade-long recession. Most of us were lucky to even keep our jobs and I was on the receiving end of downsizing that was characteristic of that terrible decade. Discretionary spending on our wardrobe was severely curtailed. By the time we bounced back, Jones of New York was the safest and most affordable fashion brand for working women. Once more we suited up for power but at a better price point and using a little more common sense. By the time I retired in 2005, casual Friday had grown to nearly every day of the week. Pantyhose became a thing of the past, bare feet appeared in open-toed shoes. The old career-advancing adage “dress for the job you aspire to” soon became irrelevant as everyone turned up at work in whatever struck their fancy.
I never felt more powerful, however, than when I was turned out in a smart, tailored blazer with a classy silk blouse. There was something about the structure, the shoulders, the architecture of a blazer that gave me a feeling of supreme confidence when I walked into a meeting. I never had that same sense of empowerment when dress codes relaxed and I wasn’t wearing the blazer and serious wardrobe. Now they’re back and I’m loving the wonderful Glen plaids, houndstooth and windowpane checks. I’ve always loved the look of a well-cut blazer and today we can wear them casually with skinny denim jeans and good shoes or boots. Proper blazers cover errant bums and disguise long-gone waistlines. It makes me want to go out and load up on wonderful blazers again but I’d be all dressed up with no place to go.
I still have an off-white cotton twill Michael Kors blazer trimmed in black grosgrain and leather that I bought nearly twenty years ago. Maybe it’s time to haul that and myÂ Mondi pinstripe out of the back of the closet, brush them off and feel the power once againâ€”even if it’s just to go the grocery store or the mall. It would save me having to get a job to show off my power blazers. Or, better still, I could meet my boomer gal pals for lunch. The best part? After lunch, we don’t have to rush and head back to the office any more. We’re retired, just like those lovely old blazers, but there’s still lots of life left in us yet.
Youâ€™re beautiful mes trÃ¨s chÃ¨res.
Great walk down fashion’s memory lane. Oh how I remember sewing my first crimpolene pant suit…. the newest polyester fabric which required no ironing. And don’t forget hot pants that were worn under our very short skirts in the marching fabric. Next thing we know, shoulder pads will be back. We’ve done it all.
Gail from Oakville
We were so creative with those Butterick patterns making all kinds of A-line dresses and pants in crimpolene. Unfortunately, it was like wearing a plastic sweatsuit. The fabric didn’t breathe. Thank goodness we weren’t menopausal at that time or we’d have combusted.