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Did you ever get rid of something and later regret it?

This fabulous Pat McDonagh coat would be just as stylish today as it was when I bought it forty years ago. Mine was a different, better colour of tweed.

Back in the 1970s when I was finally making decent money, living the life of a modern career gal who had to put her best fashion foot forward, I invested in a winter coat at the Your Choice store in Scarborough Town Centre, that cost an embarrassing amount of money. It was by Canadian designer Pat McDonagh. Made of black and grey wool tweed shot through with cobalt blue, it came almost to my ankles, had giant banded sleeves and shoulder pads, and a large, soft, open pleat down the flared back. I. Absolutely. Loved. That. Coat. I wore it with a cobalt blue scarf, tall boots and felt like a million dollars whenever I put it on. Why oh why did I ever get rid of it? Did I consign it or just stuff it into the bag for Goodwill? I was so casual about its disposal I can’t even remember where it went. I regret it soooo much and wish I still had that coat.

My friend Perry had the rare privilege of living in swinging London in the sixties. Boomers will remember London was the epicenter of the fashion universe and one of the hippest stores at that time was Biba. Vogue’s Anna Wintour actually worked in the fitting rooms at Biba back then. According to Perry, “Biba was near where I used to live in London and was a mecca for all the dollybirds. I bought one of her Victorian-style lamps in velvet with a long fringe around the edge in a colour called Oxblood. It was my proudest possession. I sold it recently in a garage sale for $10.00.” Original Biba items now command hefty prices on eBay and perhaps if Perry had been a bit more discriminating about how she sold it, she could have supplemented her old age wine budget significantly.

The other night I was watching a television rerun of Carnal Knowledge from 1971 starring Jack Nicholson. There’s a quick scene toward the end of the movie where he’s flipping through a slide show of his previous lovers for his old college friend played by Art Garfunkle. In a quick couple of seconds, he skips over a black and white shot of a lean, dark-haired girl lounging in a Bentwood rocker. That shot instantly transported me back forty-eight years to when I first started to work for EllisDon. I was sharing an apartment with my friend Joan from my 1965-67 Willard Hall days. We lived downtown on Alexander Street behind Maple Leaf Gardens. We were both broke, in transition, and the decor in our apartment reflected our pecuniary status. We had a rollaway cot in the living room that served as a couch. Beside it was a side table we’d fashioned from two stacks of old copies of the Yellow Pages. The nicest piece of furniture we had was a “chrome suite”, an arborite kitchen table with four avocado green vinyl chairs.

The Bentwood rocker I purchased in 1971 was my idea of the ultimate in decorating chic.

In celebration of my new high-paying job ($115.00 per week; it was 1971), I went to Cargo Canada (an earlier incarnation of Pier I Imports) on Yorkville Avenue, before it became gentrified. There, I purchased a Bentwood rocker that elevated our decor to stratospheric levels. I had to splurge on a cab to get it home and buy a Philips screwdriver to put it together. I loved and was so proud of that chair—even though it had the peculiar habit of traveling across the floor whenever I rocked in it. A couple of years ago, after kicking around in my basement for too many years, I reluctantly sold it at a yard sale. As soon as I saw that chair on Carnal Knowledge I missed it and desperately wanted it back. Sigh!

And, what about all the lovely gold jewelry we’ve sold over the years for next to nothing? The retailer would weigh it, give us a pittance for its karat value and if there happened to be any precious stones like diamonds in the pieces . . . well . . . we’d get nothing extra for them. No wonder retailers love buying our old jewelry. Our taste in jewelry changes and often we inherit pieces that aren’t to our taste so we’re happy to unload it for whatever we can get. What can you do?

It’s not just big-ticket items we regret disposing of. In the 1980s I had a CoverGirl eye shadow in a colour called “Brick” that I tossed and I’ve never been able to find one I liked as much. Or that Elizabeth Arden lipstick from the seventies in the most perfect shade ever invented called Pink Coral. It’s funny how we remember such incidentals. We’ve all mourned lipsticks that the cosmetics companies quit producing and spend hours scouring the internet for end-of-line deals on discontinued cosmetics.

My friend Terry has kept something I hope she never gets rid of. Every so often she brings out a tiny, lime-green leather mini-skirt that she used to wear in the sixties. It’s probably a foot wide and a foot long and originally had a matching jacket. “My father was always horrified when I walked out the door in that outfit, with long brown leather boots” she said. That always brings on howls of laughter when we see it and we start comparing stories of some of the outfits we wore back when. I think she should mount it in a shadow box and display it on the wall. It’s a priceless example of when boomer fashion and boomers were actually cool.

Vintage cars are guaranteed to evoke fond memories.

If we asked the men in our lives what item they wish they still owned it would likely be an old car. Maybe that’s why boomers love going to vintage car shows. We look at those shiny old Mustangs, Chevys and Ford Fairlaines that evoke memories of all the fun we had steaming up the windows in them with Phil Spector’s wall-to-wall sound blasting on the car radio. I’ve kept my black and white Beatles bubble gum cards from 1963 and still have a few of my well-used old 45s and LPs, but have nothing to play them on. Can’t bring myself to part with them though. My husband still has the marked decks of playing cards he used to cheat with when he attended Ryerson in the early sixties. He loves to bring them out and baffle the grandkids with their secret powers.

I’ve kept both of my wedding dresses. I sewed the first one myself and can’t believe that I was once that skinny. It still has a little swipe of makeup on the neckline from having difficulty changing out of it when the zipper stuck. I had to get into my ‘going-away outfit’ (remember them?) after the reception that day in 1974. Wedding dresses back then were much more modest than they are today. We would have never considered displaying cleavage or bare shoulders in a wedding dress. Times were different. I also still have the wedding album from my first wedding in 1974 even though I never look at it and rarely keep photos of anything today. In fact, I don’t even take many photos these days because I can’t be bothered keeping track of them, and I’m horribly selfie-averse.

There are probably other things I wish I’d kept but the larger problem has now become keeping too much. We don’t miss those big old stereos, the huge televisions we spent way too much money on when big screens first hit the market, our wardrobes of sweat-inducing crimpolene or that orange shag rug that had to be raked after it was vacuumed. We all have garages, basements, closets and even storage units full of crap we know we should get rid of. But, it’s hard to part with the story of our lives as represented by various possessions. Thanks to our hoarding habits, decluttering has now become a highly profitable multi-million dollar industry. There are quite a few old boyfriends I’m thankful I kicked to the curb and too many fashion mistakes I happily kissed goodbye.  If I could have one thing back, though, I think it would be that Pat McDonagh winter coat. It would still work and I still miss it. What about you? What have you given away that you still wish you had?

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Can baby boomers literally outgrow jeans?

One size does not fit all, so, why isn’t there a size that does fit me?

As if I weren’t feeling insecure enough already after a recent closet purge to get rid of things that didn’t “fit and flatter”, I foolishly went shopping for new jeans this week. The jeans and general closet purge preceded my recent big bra purge (by that I mean quantity not bra size, obviously). Embarrassed and frustrated with a closet full of jeans that no longer fit, tops that made me look pregnant and sweaters that only flattered my lumps and bumps, I trucked bags of cast-offs to charity bins and the consignment shop. That left me with only two pairs of jeans that were marginally comfortable and not too embarrassing to wear out in public. A trip to the mall was needed to remedy the situation. (Doesn’t that solve pretty much any existential crisis?)

Buying new jeans can be every bit as painful as trying on bathing suits, which I gave up on a long time ago. The process can involve visiting different stores and, lo, even different malls in different area codes in search of the perfect fit for the less-than-perfect body. I’ve always had the best luck with NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) as I’m only 5’3″ and their petite and ankle-length sizes usually fit me perfectly. Not this time. I was looking for a mid-blue colour (not too pale and not too dark as the only two remaining pair I have are light blue and dark wash), no holes in the knees or thighs (boomers understand why), a nice ankle-grazing length for summer and also with summer in mind, softly distressed and not too heavy. I also prefer the high waisted style that does a better job of corraling muffin-top than those ridiculous designs with a 5-inch rise. NYDJ didn’t have just what I was looking for so I had to cast further afield which is a terrifying prospect. Who else makes jeans for boomers who aren’t 6 ft. tall and weigh 94 lbs? Was I asking for the impossible?

I started in Hudson’s Bay Company at Sherway Gardens in Toronto. I didn’t want to invest in expensive designer jeans because I was casually considering a frayed hem which will probably be out of style next season or more likely, within the next ten minutes. The Bay has a wide range of brands and sizes, many of which are conveniently on sale at this time of year to clear out current inventory in preparation for next week’s fickle trend. No luck. I’m always on the cusp of being current, but not quite there. I also learned that Top Shop is unaware that there’s a large portion of the population that is not size 00. No one I know has a 25″ waist and 32″ inseam and I know a lot of people.

Help! What do full-bodied real women do?

So I went to my favourite store, Nordstrom which tends to carry more high-end merchandise. Jeans shopping calls for desperate measures. The only ones that came close were Frame but at more than $300.00 the fit was only so-so. If they don’t feel marvelous when I try them on, they’re doomed to languish in my closet unworn. If I’ve learned nothing else about clothes’ shopping over the last sixty years, it’s that if I don’t absolutely love an item immediately, don’t buy it. I have a mantra I repeat when I’m in the fitting room: “If in doubt—DON’T!”. That’s saved my bacon many times, preventing me from committing serious fashion “don’ts”. Meanwhile, I’m trying not to recall those cute little 27-inch-waist jeans with the snappy red zippers at the ankles, that I once purchased for my once lean young body at Bayview Village—many years ago.

Leaving Nordstrom, I hit every store in Sherway Gardens that carries jeans. That included The Gap, the Levi’s store, ZARA, Mendocino, Andrews, Dynamite, Eileen Fisher, Eagle Outfitters . . . and on and on and on. My feet felt like clubs and my self-esteem was totally crushed. Most of the children working in those stores had no understanding or sympathy for my plight—like it’s my fault I’m old, fat and frumpy. Their day will come. Just wait ’til menopause hits them and I hope they remember how cavalier they once were about me being unable to zip up their stupid, skinny jeans. I ventured into stores I didn’t even know existed until I went hunting for a new pair of inexpensive, fashionable jeans. I’m now very familiar with the millennial world of disposable clothing. Not that their clothing lines were able to offer anything remotely appropriate.

Even the Levi’s store which has wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with jeans of every style, colour, cut and uncut, still couldn’t find a pair that fit my boomer body. What they did have, however, was a seamstress sitting at the centre of the store in front of a very scary looking commercial sewing machine that could embellish my jeans or jean jacket with any type of logo, sparkle, fringe or embroidery I could dream of. The girl operating the machine wore black lipstick with a lip ring piercing her lower lip, purple, pink and black spiked hair and a tight tee shirt that made it easy to calculate her bra size if she had been wearing one. Her false eyelashes were thick and heavy enough to scrape the mud off your golf shoes. And, the store’s piped-in music was selected specifically to scare off weird interlopers like me, which it was successful in doing.

My excursions to find the perfect replacement jeans also made me an expert on retail dressing rooms. They are all consistently poorly-lit, and frequently lacking in hooks for my purse and the clothes I’m wearing. Rails are great for what I bring into the change room already on hangers, but unless there are hooks, I’m forced to drop my clothes on the floor. And, the floor of every dressing room is crawling with dust bunnies and questionable fungi, particularly close to the baseboards, which are, well, close because most dressing rooms are . . . close. And, not many change rooms have a chair or stool to perch on when we’re trying to put our shoes back on—which would be a much-appreciated amenity for boomer bottoms. And if you’re shy about all that cellulite and overflow being visible to passers-by when you’re stripped down to your frillies, then take the jeans home to try them on because those ring-topped curtains never quite completely close to give you privacy during your darkest hours.

After three separate excursions to the mall and trawling dozens of stores, I finally circled back to Hudson’s Bay because that’s where my car was parked. I made a last-minute detour into the lingerie department in a vain search once again for suitable nightgowns. No luck there either, although I purchased another sports bra, the only kind that seems to offer any degree of comfort. As I was approaching the elevator, I thought I’d pick up that white linen Ralph Lauren blouse I saw on sale earlier in the day (as if I need another white blouse!!). To get to the change room, I had to pass through the BCBG Maxazaria section that was all but abandoned (they’ve closed a lot of their stand-alone retail locations). Everything except the striped blazer I liked was on sale, including their jeans. I’d never considered that brand as a suitable candidate for this body as most of their fashions are for wisp-thin gals with a social life far beyond my level of experience.

The nice lady with the Polish accent who was working the change room check-in desk complimented me on my choice. Lifting up her blouse to show me how well BCBG’s jeans fit her trim, young body, I should have felt reassured but of course, felt even fatter. She ushered me into an adequately-sized change room with a hanging rail, stool, and hooks (!!!), where I tried on a pair of soft jeans in what is usually my size. Too big! Thank you vanity sizing.

High waist fit helps with muffin top.

By then, nice Polish lady had disappeared (as we all know, Hudson’s Bay Company only employs one sales person per store in the suburbs) so I had to grab my purse and waddle back out into the store in my ill-fitting jeans to find another size. After two more tries and managing to lock myself out of my own change room, I finally found a pair that were soft, sufficiently contained all my floppy bits without pinching and actually were almost perfect. All I have to do is cut six inches off the hem.

Even though they were on sale, they still cost more than I would have liked to pay, but it seems body dysmorphics like me have to settle for and be happy with whatever is close. I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy jeans with pregnancy panels. I’m not that big, yet! What on earth do truly full-bodied women do?

So, just when I was beginning to despair of ever finding a simple pair of everyday jeans that fit me, in my native province, Lynda now has a new pair of jeans. After I chop half a foot off the bottoms, I’m going to try a do-it-yourself version of a frayed hem. I never like the way altered hems on jeans look (regardless of what the alterationist says is a fool-proof European stitch-job). I’ve marked the line; I’m going to stay-stitch the new line on my 52-year-old cast iron Singer sewing machine, just the way the real raw-hem jeans are done, chop off the excess fabric, carefully hand pick and fray away the bottom hem to create that perfect look so that I can wear them proudly before they go out of fashion on Tuesday.

Remember the olden days when shopping used to be fun?

When you see me struttin’ out in my new jeans, be sure to compliment me. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from the experience and could use some reassurance that my efforts weren’t in vain. All those young millennials cruising the streets and malls in their perfectly fitted, just-so-perfectly distressed jeans on their perfectly firm little bottoms have my future to look forward to. Rest up all you young Ava’s, Sophia’s, Harper’s or whatever trendy new name you have these days. Someday, you too will lose your waistline, be unable to walk in stilettos and suffer hot flashes for twenty years longer than you expected. I should probably feel ashamed about taking pleasure in the sadistic knowledge that they too will someday mourn the loss of what they so take for granted today.

There was a time when I also thought I’d be able to wear mini-skirts and high platform heels until death do us part, but alas, time catches up with us all. Maybe this is nature’s way of telling me I should no longer be wearing jeans. Naw! Boomers practically invented jeans and made them part of everyday fashion lexicon for eternity. I refuse to be beaten by a generation of consumers who is completely unaware that we boomers are the generation to thank for their wardrobe staple. We’ve grown from being offered only one choice of stiff, dark blue denim Levi’s in the sixties that we had to wear sitting in the bathtub full of hot water and salt to start to break them in and bend to our individual body shapes, to zillions of different styles, washes, manufacturers and colours, none of which fit us or are appropriate.  We must rise up and demand our due, preferably with a high rise. I love jeans. I deserve to wear jeans. I will not be wedged out by built-in obsolescence and a nuclear wedgie. Welcome to the Age of Nefarious mes chères.

Nope!
Nada!
Never!
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Do you “get” fashion magazines like Vogue or InStyle?

Exactly who are they serving? I have no idea.

I’ve added a new section to Boomerbroadcast called My Favourite Things to the menus at the top of the page. One of the subsections is Fashion Favourites which I intend to expand as I discover fashion items friendly to boomers. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’ve also included Links I Like for blogs and Facebook sites for baby boomer women’s fashion advice I enjoy following. There’s such a dearth of inspiration out there for baby boomer women in the world of fashion, that we have to share whatever we find. The magazine industry has forsaken us. It’s not as if I look to Vogue for the latest in how to camouflage boomer waistlines (or lack thereof) or the best high fashion shoes with industrial strength arch supports, but I do look to magazines for basic inspiration and find them sorely lacking.

I clearly remember my very first magazine subscription. It was Chatelaine, the ubiquitous Canadian magazine for the so-called modern woman. The wonderful feminist and women’s advocate Doris Anderson was the editor. The year was 1968 and I was living in my very first apartment by myself, on Vaughan Road in Toronto after spending the previous three years living with a series of agreeable and not-so-agreeable roommates. I was so proud of that place because it was all mine. It was a bachelor apartment in a prewar three-storey walk-up with no elevator, no communal laundry room and no counter in the tiny kitchen. It did have two old white enamel sinks on the kitchen wall and a genuine old clawfoot bathtub (no shower, naturally) in the tiny bathroom. It also had an unlimited supply of mice which I gave up trapping after I’d disposed of nineteen of the cute little creatures. Subscribing to a ladies magazine was an affirmation that I was an independent grownup, a career gal who could be trusted to be at the address I gave them and pay the annual subscription fee.

Over the years, my love of magazines developed into a bit of a problem. I became a magazine junkie. At its peak, not that long ago, I subscribed to eighteen magazines a month. I’d be truly annoyed if a day went by and there wasn’t a new magazine in my mailbox. I loved magazines—their editorial content, their glossy pictures, the quality of the paper, the fold-over perfume samples, even the advertisements. I couldn’t wait to make a pot of tea, sit down with my marker pen whenever a new one arrived and go through it slowly, page by page. It was even my dream to be a magazine editor in my next life.

Things have changed. Just like my favourite women’s shows on Sirius XM radio, the good ones started disappearing. MORE magazine, one of my favourites was cancelled about three years ago. Easy Living from the UK was cancelled but I managed to replace it with RED, which is similar and I get it online cheaper and faster than waiting for it to arrive at Chapters/Indigo. Then, some of the decorating magazines that I got from the U.S. like Veranda and House Beautiful just became too weird or too arty so I let them go. But, out of patriotic loyalty, I kept up my subscriptions to Canadian decorating mags like Canadian House and Home and Style at Home. But their too-frequent features on mid-century modern and reviving 70’s avocado green and macramé are starting to concern me.

My love affair with fashion magazines however is in serious jeopardy. I much prefer ELLE Canada over the American edition but their targeting of the 18-35 demographic continues to annoy and frustrate me. LouLou is gone. Maclean’s has cut back from once a week to once a month and after more than fifty years of subscribing to Canada’s stalwart Chatelaine I’m actually considering not renewing my subscription. They’ve cut back to bi-monthly and it’s a pretty lean publication geared more to young mothers who probably don’t have the time or inclination to even read Chatelaine. What’s a boomer gal to do?

In what universe is there even one thing in these images that we can relate to or draw inspiration from?

Vogue is the source of most of my delicious criticism, however. I love to poke fun at Vogue and I’ve concluded that the only reason I still subscribe is because Vogue has become my most prized source of derision. And, the September issue alone costs as much on the newsstand as my entire year’s subscription. What would I have to bitch about if I didn’t get my monthly Vogue? Its level of irrelevancy is astounding. Where fashion magazines should be inspirational and somewhat aspirational, Vogue is an exercise in complete idiocy. I still like the folded perfume samples but only the old classic French scents. As an old classic myself, most of the new fragrances all have a common chemical kind of smell that makes it impossible to distinguish one from another. Maybe my nose has lost its sensitivity but I don’t think I’m that old.

How do the fashion mags retain their credibility and more importantly their readers with the ridiculous nonsense they put out each month? It’s no surprise magazine publishing is in peril. Boomer gals love fashion—after all, we’re the ones who launched mini skirts, platform shoes and pant suits in the workplace in the sixties. But once we pass the age of 35 we’re suddenly invisible. I still have to wonder how the under-35 demographic can relate to $5,000.00 handbags and scraps of rags photographed on anorexic teenage models leaping over garbage cans. I also subscribe to InStyle but I find their emphasis on skinny, young celebrities in evening gowns off-putting. Hard to relate. Rod Stewart sang our tune perfectly so long ago when his Dad said, “We looked ridiculous”. That’s what most fashion mags are offering up today.

Back in the sixties and seventies when we were all whipping up our little A-line dresses and flared pants on our handy-dandy Singer sewing machines, we considered Vogue patterns the epitome of style and taste. Butterick, Simplicity and McCalls patterns were good for everyday fashions but for a special event a Vogue pattern tipped the balance for chic. We got our fashion inspiration from Vogue magazine and our lifestyle guidance from Cosmo’s Helen Gurley Brown. Easy peasy.

In the sixties, those of us with sewing machines could replicate Vogue high fashion on our own.

Where does a boomer gal go for fashion inspiration today? We used to rely on quality magazines like Vogue to provide us with reliable fashion direction. Most of my own fashion inspiration these days comes from like-minded bloggers and observing street fashion when I’m out and about. I frequently approach women on the street or in the food court and ask where they got a particular item they’re wearing, or who cut their hair. Fashion magazines offer nothing relevant to baby boomer women. We’re forced to find our own inspiration outside the publishing industry. I’ll never understand why the Anna Wintours and Grace Coddingtons of the fashion world are so revered. Perhaps there was a time when their declarations held water but exactly who are they serving today? Certainly not real women. Definitely not me and my boomer gal pals. I’m tempted to dust off my old Singer and see if I can’t create something on my own that is wearable, flattering and inspired.

There are a few retailers now who are addressing our demographic. Chico’s recently came to Canada but I’m still waiting for others who are sensitive to our taste in fashion. Chico’s has an affiliate lingerie business SOMA that has wonderful, appropriate lounge wear, lingerie and bathing suits for women our age, but so far they’re only in the U.S. J. Jill is another one which hasn’t arrived here yet but has great fashions at affordable prices. They both have wonderful on-line stores but the cost of importing and shipping combined with dollar exchange is often prohibitive. I’ve also had great luck buying Eileen Fisher pieces on sale at various on-line sites but it requires patience and an American delivery address. I’ve scored some EF pieces at up to 70% off which puts her fashion items more within reach of our budgets.

Since fashion mags don’t address what we’re looking for in fashion (and we do have money to spend), I’m sharing some sites that I’ve found to be targeted to our specific tastes, requirements and lifestyle. Check out Links I Like at the top of the page and under My Favourite Things, open the Fashion Favourites section for some brands I like. I’ll keep adding to these menu items as I discover new sources. If you have any suggestions to share, I’d love to hear them. You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Do you “get” fashion magazines like Vogue or InStyle?
Exactly who are they serving? I have no idea.

When fashion’s in, I’m out. When I’m in, fashion’s out

Loving fashion isn’t limited to those born within the last 20 years.

You would think by now I’d have a pretty good handle on what works best for me, fashion-wise. For the most part I do, at least with the basics. My tastes lean more toward classic with splashes out in accessories—hence the big red glasses, and blue ones, and pink ones, and tortoise shell ones with yellow arms. I’m generally not a slavish follower of trends, usually dragging my comfortable-height heels until I’m absolutely sure the trend is going to become a classic. I thought that was the case with skinny jeans. Now they’re being usurped by flares (again!), boot-cut and even culottes (give me strength!). I realize it’s all part of forcing us to keep spending our hard-earned money through planned obsolescence but I always seem to be on the wrong end of the fashion cycle.

I never did give up on high-waisted jeans (thank you Not Your Daughters Jeans) because boomer muffin top was never compatible with those ridiculous 7-inch rises that excluded most of the female population. Most boomer gals still have decent legs which we’re able to showcase in well-fitted jeans with high waists and loose tops worn over. Great boots or booties amp up the look even more so we can actually achieve ‘sexy’. But when they start moving the hemlines up to mid-calf—well, that’s just going to make those of under 6 ft. tall (which is 99 percent of the population) look just plain dumpy.

A couple of seasons ago, jeans with frayed hems started making the scene. As usual, my cynical reaction was, “What a cheap, unimaginative trick by designers to get us to buy new jeans. I’ll take a pass”. I liked the pictures of bloggers I follow wearing the new look, but figured I’d ride it out. I’m smart like that. Now that the style is on its way out, I’m frantically sussing out frayed hem jeans at a price point I can justify. That means no Eileen Fisher or Rag & Bone.

At least my muffin top would be covered.

It would be quite simple for me to simply cut the hem off an old pair of NYD Jeans and fray the bottom, zip up a line of stay-stitching on my old Singer and call it a day—an investment of an hour of my time and zero money. But somehow, spending hours monitoring on-line sales and comparing prices, styles and spandex content makes it seem so much more satisfying. You know what I mean!

So, when you see everyone on the street except me sporting wide-leg culotte jeans this season, stand by. Next year, I’ll be packing up those home-made frayed-leg jeans for something even more ridiculous and expensive in search of fashion nirvana. I took the same approach toward boot-cut jeans, painter pants, acid-wash jeans and even skinny jeans when they first arrived on the scene.

I’m always just a little bit out of fashion with visions of myself achieving total coolness lurking in my imagination, but forever just slightly out of reach. At this point in life I guess I’ll never get over that feeling of a dog chasing a car—even if I caught it I wouldn’t know what to do. This boomer body just doesn’t lend itself to trends. So I’ll always be on the tail-end of fashion trying to be cooler than I really am. I may never be in sync with the fashion cycle, but it’s still fun chasing cars.

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To remain fashionable, I might have to get a job . . . again

Blazers are making an encore performance.

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.

In the eighties the rules were clear and we abided by them.

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.

Take your time, dear. We don’t have to go back to the office anymore.

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 my Mondi pinstripe out of the back of the closet, brush them off and feel the power once again—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.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Brushing away wrinkles and imperfections doesn’t fool anyone

Kudos to American pharmacy chain CVS who recently announced they will stop using digitally altered images in promoting their beauty products. Helena Foulkes, President of CVS (it’s no coincidence the initiative is launched by a woman) credits this decision as a response to “the bigger conversation women are having over their own level of empowerment”. Foulkes rightly objects to being complicit in sending women a false message of perfection by digitally altering photographic images. The practice has the effect of diminishing women’s level of self-esteem and generating feelings of inadequacy.

Boomers are still beautiful without all the digital altering of pictures.

We all know that advertising images are carefully and extensively altered to correct imperfections and it is depressing to compare our own faces to those used in beauty ads. We also understand the motives and intent. It’s about chasing dreams. Dreams sell product. Showing wrinkles does not sell so-called miracle cures. One way advertisers have of overcoming the restrictions on ‘Photoshopping’ is by using ever younger models to promote their products. But we’re not fooled. In fact, we’re angered and offended that manufacturers and advertisers actually think we believe we’ll achieve the skin of a 20-year-old if we use their products. Truth in advertising rarely exists and probably never will.

That being said, I commend the CVS decision. We’re not stupid and women do want to feel better about ourselves not worse. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I really wouldn’t object to looking as good as Diane Keaton or Helen Mirren look in real life, without digital enhancements but whether others feel the same remains to be seen. We all want to look our best and most of us have finally figured out how to do just that with a little help from our cosmetics friends. We’re not going to be snapping selfies when we first wake up. By the time we’ve slapped on some blusher, mascara and a bit of lipstick or gloss we’re ready to face the day and our public. Good lighting helps too.

Youth and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

Boomer gals may no longer have the long, slender necks, poreless complexions, perfect bone structure and soft, full lips artfully concocted in the ads, but each of us knows we possess an individual kind of beauty. Some of us may no longer have a waistline but are blessed with beautiful skin. Others have fascinating eyes that come alive with a bit of mascara and liner. I know many boomers whose smiles alone can light up a room. We love fashion. We love looking our best and feeling good about ourselves. Digitally altered promotional photos only make us feel worse as we sigh and flip to the next page of a magazine. The movement toward respecting women of all ages is gaining momentum as evidenced by mature models on magazine covers and fashion features about gray hair. Give us credit for the beauty we each possess and let’s hope more companies have the courage to follow the lead of CVS.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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