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‘Tis the season for the fashion fascists

It’s spring once more in the world of fashion. That means it’s the silly season—time for all the fashion magazines to roll out their latest advice for the great unwashed, the poor, vulnerable idiots like me who consult their hallowed pages for inspiration. Remember last year when they all suggested we should be wearing saucy little rompers or Daisy Duke short shorts?

Ninety-four-year-old Iris Apfel demonstrates it's possible to be fashionable at any age by projecting your own style.
Ninety-four-year-old Iris Apfel demonstrates it is possible to be fashionable at any age, by projecting your own personal style.

Like millions of other women, I love poring over the glossy pages of Vogue, Elle and similar magazines. The colourful eye candy tantalizes and tempts but rarely convinces. At 568 pages, the March issue of Vogue was almost as hefty as their iconic September issue. The fact that Adele was featured on the cover gave me hope that those of us without stick-thin bodies might find something relatable within its covers. The fact that it was only a head shot of Adele with some gratuitous cleavage should have tipped me off that I was mistaken.

Here’s what the fashionistas are offering up this season:

  1. Off-the-shoulder ethnic blouses are being featured everywhere. Back in the fifties, we called them Mexican blouses. Imagine yourself in a bare-shouldered blouse with a flounce around the bust in cotton eyelet or a snappy print. If I tried that look, I’d resemble a fat, lumpy sack of flour.
  2. Baby doll skirts have not gone away. Nor have dresses with short flared skirts. I used to have nice legs, back when I still had a waist-line but those days have been replaced by saggy knees and lumpy inner thighs. Not conducive to short skirts. Forget that look.
  3. They're joking . . . right?
    They’re joking . . . right?

    On the subject of pants . . . remember gauchos a.k.a. culottes? Yep! The mags are once again trying to convince us they’re flattering. Maybe on Isaask Dinesen or Tarzan’s Jane, but not on anyone I know, young or old. Your choices are dumpy, dumpier or dumpiest. If you insist on buying culottes, pick a fabric that can be recycled into sturdy cleaning rags.

Pant lengths and widths are all over the place. That’s a good thing. Shoes are always fabulous and even though many aren’t meant for walking, size really doesn’t matter. Scarves, necklaces, earrings and other accessories can turn a plain basic outfit into something utterly fabulous without spending a fortune, and one size fits all. Combine these with cobalt blue eye shadow, pink hair extensions, black nail polish and dozens of new and improved skin care products guaranteed to make me look twenty years younger and twenty pounds thinner . . . how can I resist? It sounds too good to be true, and you know what they say about that.

Not gonna happen - ever!
Not gonna happen – ever!

But it’s still fun. Even though I can’t relate to ninety-nine percent of what is shown in fashion magazines, I still subscribe and read them cover to cover. It’s called eye candy for a reason. Certain publications like ELLE Canada and the June 2016 issue of LOULOU are to be commended for giving print space to women with normal bodies. For that reason I often prefer fashion spreads showing the clothing items laid out flat on the page in a “cut-out” style rather than on a totally unrelatable anorexic teen. Just sayin’.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty!
I feel pretty, oh so pretty!

I may no longer be a candidate for belly-baring crop tops, saucy short shorts or figure-hugging short spandex dresses, but this old boomer still loves fashion. If someone would just design fun, interesting fashion that cleverly disguises long-gone waistlines, upper arm jiggles and pug-faced knees, they’d make a fortune. Boomer Broads have the interest and the bucks. All we need is a supplier. Hello? Are you listening Michael Kors, Kimberly Mimran, Joe Fresh? Anyone?

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Calling all purse and accessory lovers

It appeared like a mirage—clear but unexpected—a standing sign at the entrance to the Hudson’s Bay store in Sherway Gardens Mall in Toronto, announcing the arrival of a new boutique carrying vintage designer purses and accessories. There was some disconnect in my brain as I knew Hudson’s Bay didn’t ordinarily carry Louis Vuitton, Gucci and other high-end designer brands so I was curious to investigate. Like a bee to honey, I followed my nose to the purse section and sure enough, there they were, tables of lovely handbags and accessories on display—Hermès, Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Prada.

designer2When I instinctively started caressing the inventory (a favourite past-time of mine), I was approached by a lovely sales associate called Shannon who explained the concept.  The  LXR&CO banner has opened several permanent boutiques in select Hudson’s Bay stores offering vintage designer handbags, jewelry, scarves and other accessories. The merchandise has been authenticated, edited and purchased from private sellers to be resold at these special retail locations, with information on their website for sellers on how to do this.

The inventory is not consignment issue and the price tags are often half or even less than half the original manufacturers’ suggested retail price. That’s every purse aficionado’s wet dream. Needless to say, a quick reconnaissance by this Boomer came up with several goodies I would love to own. LXR&CO also has an incredibly easy-to-navigate and comprehensive website (click here for lxrco.com). Originating in Montreal, the company has permanent and pop-up locations across Canada and in the United States.

Be still, my beating heart.
Be still, my beating heart.

While previously owned designer handbags have always been readily available on the internet, being able to see, touch and handle authenticated merchandise in a reputable retail location makes the investment in luxury items more reliable and enjoyable. The selection was absolutely yummy. Check out their great website (lxrco.com) for locations near you. No one but you has to know how much you paid and girlfriend, that’s a really good thing when you’re getting the real thing.

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Mirror mirror on the wall. . .

Love means just doing what your wife wants without all the drama.
Love means just doing what your wife wants without all the drama.

The purchase started out as a cost-saving measure. Our bathroom is not particularly well-lit and when I gently suggested to my honey that we install a series of modern puck lights in the ceiling to even out shadows and provide better overall lighting for makeup application (a time-consuming and onerous task at my age), his response was predictably male. He immediately detailed the tiresome list of potential problems that could arise. We’d have to completely tear up the ceiling and lord knows what horrors that would uncover. We’d have to hire an electrician and everybody knows how horrendously expensive they are, not to mention the actual cost of the light fixtures, switch and wiring. Let’s not even get into the mess it’ll create. And maybe we’ll even need a permit and have to include the work on our deed of property. You get the picture. Within thirty seconds of opening the discussion, I knew that new puck lights were not in my future.

Holy crap! What have I done?
Holy crap! What have I done?

So, at less cost and theoretically involving an easier installation process, I landed on the idea of buying one of those wall-mounted illuminated makeup mirrors that flips from regular to magnified. Emboldened by my obvious brilliance, I perused the selection on Amazon.ca and selected a little beauty by Danielle that would make my dreams come true. It flipped to ten-times magnification, had a circular light around the mirror and came with a price tag that was manageable. Problem solved.

Then, as inevitably happens with our home handymen, mine installed the new mirror so high I had to stand on my tiptoes and tilt the mirror down to even see myself. A certain amount of domestic discord followed, resulting in three open drilled holes in the wood that are still awaiting woodfiller. When the time is conducive and the mood safe, I may suggest the holes be repaired—or more likely, I’ll just attend to it myself.

mirror4Sadly, my new mirror came with an entirely new set of problems which became immediately apparent. Have you ever seen those photos of the moon showing its pocked surface with massive craters, debris fields and surface scars? Or perhaps a pot-holed, rutted dirt road somewhere in the countryside? Then, you’ll understand what my face looked like when I first glanced at it in my new ten-times magnification illuminated makeup mirror. The 10X magnification also meant that I had to be within two or three inches of the mirror and squint to see anything, and what I did see was not pretty. I could only scrutinize sections of my face at a time, not the entire picture at a glance. It’s perfect for weeding out those stray chin whiskers but useless for assessing overall makeup application at a glance. I have to scroll around and check out my reflection pixel by pixel.

mirror6I should have never ordered that damn mirror but my money’s already been spent, the packaging trashed and my self-image brutally assaulted. Those little blonde chin hairs have become towering birch trees on a forest floor of dry, cracked leaves. If you see me on the street, on my way to trauma counseling, and my eyebrows are lopsided and drawn half-way up my forehead or my blusher looks like a slash of blood, it’s not my fault. Ladies, unless you’re into S&M or other destructive past-times, never, ever buy a suicide-inducing 10X magnification mirror. Mirror mirror on the wall. Who’s the stupidest, vainest, ugliest Boomer of all? You’re lookin’ at ‘er.

 

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The September issue has arrived

The Eaton's catalogues were our small-town answer to the high fashion world of Vogue. The Christmas issue was particularly delectable.
The Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues were a small-town Boomer girl’s first peek into the world of fashion. The Christmas issue was always particularly delectable.

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.

If only. Costing the equivalent of a small car, I can only dream of sugar plums like this Carolina Herrara number.
Costing the equivalent of a new bathroom, I can only dream of sugar plums like this Carolina Herrara number. On me it would probably look like a bathrobe.

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.

Is it just me or is the cover of Vogue's September issue totally uninspiring?
Is it just me or is the cover of Vogue’s September issue totally uninspiring?

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.

 

 

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The fashion fascists are laughing at us

Isn't she lovely! Can't wait to get me some of these.
Isn’t she lovely! Can’t wait to get me some of these.

Whoever those fashion fascists are who tell us each season what is hot and what’s not, I’m on to their cruel joke. You know what I’m talking about. This season they told us rompers were all the rage and showed us endless pictures of anorexic teenage girls wearing them in all the fashion mags. I nearly coughed up my Geritol when I saw that one. Can you imagine an average woman with an average body strutting around in rompers? Not to mention having to get completely undressed to go to the loo, while the whole thing lies in a pool of yuck at your feet. I’ve been noticing signs recently of the latest bit of absurdity they’re going to try coaxing us into wearing. I’m talking about loose-crotch jeans, the kind that make you look like you’re carrying a load, with lots of room for a package if we had a package. At least they’d be comfortable when I go to the movies and need to make room for downing a bucket of popcorn and a gallon of Diet Coke.

Can't wait to get me some baggy crotch jeans. If Halle Berry wears them, they must be great.
If Halle Berry wears them, they must be great. No?

These absurd fashion dictates are surely the result of too much inhaled hair spray and other questionable substances. The scary part of this hoax is, however, that I inevitably get sucked in. A few years ago, when I’d accumulated a few nice pairs of boot-cut jeans, they hit us with skinny legged ones. Never, I told myself. By the next season, I was happily lined up with everyone else at the checkout with an armful of new skinnies—in blue denim, white, black, grey and red. The same routine played out for platform soles, jeggings and even further back, stirrups. It’s only because of my age and physique that I was forced to forgo crop tops and short shorts. If I’d ever succumbed to the boyfriend jean, I would have been mistaken for a dumpy dumpster diver.

The irony of this ridiculous situation is that ninety-nine percent of us do not possess the physique to pull off these bizarre fashion follies. Retailers would move so much more product if the manufacturers designed for people like you and me—Boomers who finally have a few bucks to spend on what we’ve learned looks flattering on our well-traveled bodies. Give me comfort. Give me a bit of flash and fun. But give me something that will make me look mahvelous. And if you ever spot me in a lineup with a pair of baggy-crotch jeans, you’re welcome to slap me upside the head—preferably before I’ve paid for them. The current fashion scene is a riot of “don’ts”. I only hope I don’t succumb. And I mean it. Did I hear a snicker behind me?

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My shame and sorrow have an upside

Bless the organizations that put our mistakes to good use.
Recycled clothing benefits a wide variety of recipients around the world.

I was shamefully reminded again this week of my wanton ways. It’s that time of year when many Boomers are cleaning out our closets and trooping off to Goodwill or the consignment store with green garbage bags full of our mistakes. We try to justify our shopping follies with excuses like “as soon as I lose ten pounds it’ll look great” or “but I paid so much I hate to just get rid of it”? Some of the things have never even been worn. Perhaps they were on sale and we couldn’t resist or those shoes just reached out and made us buy them. Every time I’m tempted to drop my credit card on the counter for another white blouse or black jacket, I force myself to walk away, go home and reconsider the purchase. Usually, common sense wins out and I forgo the purchase. But not always.

Bless the good people at Goodwill for turning my mistakes into something good.
Bless the good people at Goodwill for turning my mistakes into something positive.

After slugging that giant green garbage out of the back of my car at Goodwill the other day and dropping off an armload of clothes at the consignment store, I came home and found even more things for “recycling”. So, if you see pictures on television of a woman in some third world country wearing that pink animal print sweater with sequins around the neck that once hung in my closet, I will feel vindicated. Our sins aren’t without an upside. Someone’s benefiting from my mistakes.

Growing up in a home built in the 1880’s with no closets whatsoever, my entire wardrobe as a teenager hung on three hooks on the back of my bedroom door. Is it because we managed with so little back then that we’re so voracious for fashion acquisition now? shopper4After all, nothing makes an old woman feel better than a new pair of biker boots. In fact, our entire economy would collapse and malls wouldn’t exist if we weren’t so profligate with our fashion dollars. And recycling of clothing has created an entire industry that benefits others. So, the logical conclusion is we have to keep shopping so we can support the economy, clothe women in the third world, supply an entire industry of charity shops with our donations and provide others with cost-effective, barely-worn fashion and accessories. How can that be anything but a good thing?

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