BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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Avoid these 6 fashion mistakes

Who am I to be offering fashion advice! Boomer gals have always been told “If you wore it once before, you can’t wear it again”. That’s the beauty of listening to us—we’ve been there at least once, made our share of mistakes and are happy to dispense fashion advice to anyone who will listen. So, if you’re willing to listen, I’m going to share six fashion mistakes I’ve made over the years and strongly suggest you not repeat them.

  1. Don’t buy into everything the fashion mags promote. They get it wrong more often than not.

    Jumpsuits or rompers: Several decades ago, an old boyfriend gave me a bubble-gum pink crimpolene (the fabric alone should give you an idea of how long ago it was) one-piece jumpsuit for Christmas. I felt like a circus clown minus the fright wig (that came later) in the outfit and had to completely undress every time I went to the bathroom. The nightmare still lingers. Spare yourself this disaster. No one looks good in a jumpsuit, I don’t care what the fashionistas say.

  2. Shoes that almost fit: Who hasn’t gone into Town Shoes or Nine West when they’re having their seasonal clear out sale and picked up some great buys, only to wear them once. Shoes never stretch and they never get comfortable if they’re not absolutely perfect in the store. Buy shoes late in the day when your feet are swollen and tender to ensure a good fit. Opt for quality and comfort over price. If you didn’t love them at full price, they’re no better at fifty percent off and half a size too small.
  3. Coulottes and jumpsuits never were and never will be flattering on anyone – ever!

    Beware of trends:  Ladies of a certain age (Boomers) have to be discriminating about what fashion trends we buy into and not get sucked in to what they’re plugging in magazines or on television. Our knees have gone south and are no longer what they used to be so that rules out mini skirts and short dresses. (Remember: we did that half a century ago.) Coulottes were never attractive. If you’re going to buy a “cold shoulder” top or wild print, don’t pay a lot because you’ll soon tire of it and next year it won’t work. By the way, Jackie Kennedy never wore prints. Worth noting.

  4. Quantity over quality: When you’re young it’s tempting to go for lots of cheap items of “disposable” clothing. Variety rules and “more” outranks “better”. Unfortunately, the total expenditure often equals that of a few better-made, quality pieces that fit better, are more versatile and get more mileage. We quickly get bored with that over-the-top print or fed up with the drape of a cheaply made dress. There’s merit in calculating the “cost per wearing” factor over the lifespan of the item.
  5. Colours matter: When I wear anything orange I look jaundiced. Same goes for red hair, which I tried once for forty-eight hours. Be conscious of your most flattering colour palette. I’ve also noticed that as we age, colour is our friend; beige is for cadavers. Much as I love grays with silver jewelry, I have to add a citrus green or pink scarf to make it pop. And I don’t think there’s a woman alive who doesn’t look smashing in red, including redheads.
  6. Oh dear! We’ve all been there, or tried to.

    Tattoos: Be very very careful before you ink. Over time tats fade and blur and nothing is more unappealing than old wrinkled skin sporting an indistinguishable wrinkled old tattoo. The same applies for “permanent makeup”. A friend once had her over-plucked eyebrows tattooed in. They looked lovely—at first, then they faded and turned mauve. And, have you ever seen a woman with permanent tattooed dark lip liner when her lipstick wears off? Beyond not pretty! (And this from someone who is contemplating trying the new “microblading” technique to fill in my own over-plucked brows. Do as I say, not as I do.)

Boomer gals have racked up more than our share of fashion “don’ts” over the years. In the seventies, I once sported khaki green hair when I accidentally bleached my hair (the “hair lightening” label on the box was misleading) and tried to fix it by applying a medium ash blonde permanent colour. I won’t even begin describing the perm disasters and styling mistakes I’ve lived through. Am I the only idiot who tried one of those perms that looked like a bushy Julius Caesar laurel wreath around your head with flat hair on top? At least the rage for wearing white nurses’ pantyhose in the seventies wasn’t permanent and quickly passed.

We whipped up dozens of these little beauties in the sixties and seventies.

The upside of these fashion disasters is that it gives us plenty to laugh about when we look at old photos and reminisce over multiple glasses of icey Pinot Grigio. One of my friends still has the lime green leather mini skirt she wore in the sixties, with a matching jacket and expensive long brown boots (both long gone). The saved mini skirt is about a foot long and not much wider, worthy we think of being displayed in a shadow box and hung on the wall. Some things just deserve museum status.

Remember the quaint little printed empire-waisted “village” dresses we wore in the mid-sixties? At $14.98 they were a little out of my price-range. Back then, when most of us were broke and still able to sew, we whipped up dozens of little A-line mini dresses trimmed in braid or rick-rack. Fancying myself a bit avant-garde, I liked to buy floral drapery fabric purchased at Toronto’s posh Eaton’s College Street store to make mine and . . . well I’ll leave it to your imagination. Once, I even made a matching purse out of an empty kleenex box (the cardboard was a lot stronger in those days) covered with the same fabric as my dress. And now I have the nerve to offer fashion advice?

A wee bit older and a bit wiser.

While Boomers are not willing to make these mistakes again, perhaps there is some merit in the younger generation baring their midriff and sporting blue hair while tottering around on five-inch platforms. It’ll give them something to laugh about with their friends in the year 2050, remembering when they too once had bodies they thought would last forever. And that’s worth more than the price of a good bottle of Pinot . . . if you feel comfortable taking fashion advice from someone who once proudly sported a purse made from a Kleenex box.

Share your own fashion oopsies with our readers in the “Comments” section.

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It’s March Madness time again

For the benefit of new readers I’m reposting my annual March Madness message.

march-madnessPlease tell me I’m not the only person in the world who thought March Madness was about special annual retail sales—like Black Friday. For weeks leading up to the big event and for the duration, I’ve been waiting for the flyers from my favourite retailers to arrive in my mailbox. With visions of bargain-priced sugar plums dancing in my head I couldn’t wait to hit the mall to stock up on half-price bras and underwear and my favourite jeans. Surely all the big cosmetics companies would be having extra-special promotions with yummy new shades of lipstick in their give-aways.

Excitement turned to disappointment when my husband gently explained that the “real meaning” of March Madness was about sports— the narrowing down of basketball teams competing for ranking in their respective cups—as in athletic. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus, but not in March.

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Do you suffer from opioid constipation?

constipationApparently it’s no joke.  In this latest twist in the commercialization of drug use, I actually saw an advertisement on TV that recommended a prescription solution to an apparent prescription problem. “If you suffer from constipation as a result of opioid use, talk to your doctor about . . . xyz.” I first learned of this problem when I read Papa John, an autobiography by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas many years ago (which is an interesting read, by the way). He educated me to the fact heavy drug users suffer from severe constipation and intestinal gas. Lovely.

I know there are opioid users who are not drug abusers and are in fact genuine pain sufferers who need prescription painkillers. Obviously, many drugs are good and life-saving but that’s not what I’m talking about here. How would we ever survive without the drug industry to monitor our ailments and develop a pill to eliminate them. American television advertising is sustained and supported by Big Pharma. I’ve actually counted up to fifteen commercials during a break in television programming with thirteen of them about drugs, either over-the-counter or prescription.

Whatever your problem, Big Pharma has a solution, or is it just another problem?

Whatever your problem, Big Pharma has a solution, or is it just another problem?

There are pills to put us to sleep, pills to counteract the sleeping pills and wake us up, pills to loosen our bowels, pills to tighten our bowels, pills to dry our allergic eyes and pills to relieve dry eyes. We have pills to improve our eyesight, our hearing and even our brains. Along with commercials about four-hour erections, anal leakage and troublesome psoriasis, it’s obvious the entire population over the age of fifty, including all baby boomers, is plagued with a shocking number of ailments that require immediate and ongoing pharmaceutical intervention. And if we’re not popping enough prescription and over-the-counter meds, the “wellness” industry is relentlessly promoting our dependency on vitamin supplements, protein shakes and nefarious diet regimes that could actually endanger our health. Those futuristic space-age predictions we all watched on our snowy black and white televisions in the fifties and sixties have come to pass. Our meals are now a handful of pills.

Despite the billions of dollars spent each year on developing, marketing and purchasing pills and potions from Big Pharma we still don’t have a cure for the common cold, for diabetes or more tragically, cancer. That’s because there’s no profit in eliminating these diseases. With all those billions being spent by consumers to support the treatment of symptoms, there’s no incentive to treat the cause. So if you’re suffering from constipation caused by opioid use or conversely if you’re a victim of anal leakage, stay tuned. There’ll be a commercial for pharmaceutical help regardless of your real or imagined ailment within the next few minutes on a television or digital feed near you. And that’s no joke.

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What on earth was The Hudson’s Bay Company thinking?

A Canadian icon?

A Canadian icon?

All I want for Christmas is not Mariah Carey. The marketing people at The Hudson’s Bay Company should have their Canadian citizenship revoked. My sense of national pride has been replaced by outrage over their recent selection of American “superstar” Mariah Carey to unveil the new Christmas (yes, I said Christmas, not holiday) windows in their downtown stores at Queen and Yonge Streets in Toronto. Founded more than three hundred years ago as a fur trading institution, The Hudson’s Bay Company (the Canadian equivalent of Macy’s) is one Canada’s oldest national icons, ranking right up there with much younger Tim Horton’s.

Mariah f#$%#ng Carey? What’s wrong with hiring a genuine Canadian such as our own beloved Jann Arden, Drake or even Justin Bieber? And on the subject of cost, apparently they gave Carey one million dollars to lip-sync (that’s the rumour) two songs. Even Céline Dion might agree to lip-sync a couple of tunes for a million dollars. This marketing faux pas only exacerbates my ongoing beef with Hudson’s Bay Company about their serious and persistent lack of sales staff to help customers and the invisibility of checkout counters in their mall stores. Trying to find a sales associate or a checkout counter at a Hudson’s Bay store in any suburban mall is like searching for a healthy food choice at Timmie’s.

Where's the sales staff?

Could someone please help me? Where’s the sales staff?

Just imagine how many Canadians could have been employed to assist customers in their stores for one million dollars, not to mention the increase in sales resulting from said assistance. Hell, I would have put on a Canada Goose parka or striped Hudson’s Bay point blanket wool coat (depending on the weather) and my trusty Sorel’s (click here for great Canadian boot companies) and turned up to sing at the event for nothing. I guarantee that would have driven customers into the store faster than any blast from Mariah Carey.

Do I sound a little angry? Apoplectic is a more appropriate word. I’ve written numerous letters and emails to various Hudson’s Bay managers over the years encouraging them improve their approach to customer service but this one really takes the cake. I just wish they would consult me first on major marketing issues. You’ll get more than your fill of Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” in every retailer’s P.A. systems before December 24th, to the point you’ll want to throttle her. Am I right or am I wrong in being angry?

Click below for links to previous related Boomerbroadcast posts about retail service:

Love their merchandise and provenance. Hate the way they treat customers.

Love their provenance and love their merchandise (as evidenced by my recently purchased Hudson’s Bay Barbie doll). Just hate the way they treat customers.

How to improve sales at The Hudson’s Bay Company

The solution for Canadian retailers is as easy as 1, 2, 3

Retail rant hits home

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The devil made me do it . . . and I’m not sorry

Ain't she sweet. . . just a struttin' down the street.

Ain’t she sweet. . . just a struttin’ down the street.

I just bought my first-ever Barbie doll. She’s not for a grandchild, a niece or anyone else—she’s all mine and her name is Hudson’s Bay Barbie. For my non-Canadian readers, The Hudson’s Bay Company is Canada’s oldest department store, founded in 1670 as a trading post. The iconic striped blankets were like cash registers—with the black lines used for measuring the piled height of animal pelts (sorry fellow animal lovers) for trading merchandise by early trappers and settlers. Today, we’re more sophisticated; we just pile cash and credit cards on a scratched arborite countertop while waiting for a non-existent sales associate to materialize.

Barbie dolls debuted in 1959, a bit too late for me as an early Boomer to play with but we did have paper dolls or “cutouts” as we called them. Countless hours were spent carefully cutting out the paper evening gowns, mink coats, day dresses and sporting outfits from books for likenesses of June Allison and Jane Powell, bending the fragile paper tabs over their tiny cardboard shoulders and strutting them around. My personal favourites were my Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor paper dolls who offered unlimited juicy scenarios for role-playing as they fought over Eddie Fisher, made up, went to movie premieres and generally lived a life that was rich in my imagination. I was too old to play with dolls when Barbie came to market but I remember my namesake cousin Barbie playing with hers, cutting up old fabric scraps and whipping up crude little dresses on Aunt Betty’s treadle sewing machine.

My Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds paper dolls provided hours of fun fighting over Eddie Fisher.

My Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds paper dolls provided hours of fun fighting over Eddie Fisher.

A few years ago Holt Renfrew offered a limited edition Barbie by Kate Spade that I absolutely adored. She was wearing a rich emerald green wool coat and her little white Maltese dog (just like my little Gracie) stood sweetly by her side on a dainty leash. At more than three hundred dollars, however, that Barbie remained a distant dream. Then, like the Sirens’ call, Barbie beckoned me again when I spotted a more affordable version and one that also captured my heart. Hudson’s Bay Barbie is only $59.99 and call me a sucker but I had to have her. Perhaps I’m going a bit balmy but I liken it to old retired guys finally buying the Corvette they’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford when they were young. I couldn’t resist the call.

I have a love/hate relationship with The Hudson’s Bay Company. On one hand, I love their stores and merchandise but I hate their customer service. It drives me crazy that I can never find a sales associate to help me and the check-out registers are as hard to find as wine at an AA meeting. They could take lessons from Nordstrom who provide plenty of staff for assistance and their sales associates always take the time to walk around the counter to hand me my lovely silver shopping bag and thank me for shopping there. They make me feel valued and special.

I hope this isn't the start of something bigger.

I hope this isn’t the start of something bigger.

So, I’m somewhat conflicted about endorsing Hudson’s Bay by purchasing their Barbie but . . . I love her with her tiny traditional point-striped blanket coat, her little leather tote bag with the newspaper and insulated cup peeking out, her ubiquitous Canadian wool toque, statement glasses and her little dog with its matching striped sweater. You’re welcome to come over for a tea party and play with my new Barbie; just don’t expect me to start whipping up tiny glittery evening gowns on my old Singer. Like me, she’s a classic and will remain so. The big question now is, because she’s a limited edition, should I crack open the packaging and prop her up on her little stand where all my friends can admire her and touch her little outfit or just leave her sealed up and strictly for show?

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The bad guys are everywhere. Be very, very careful.

fraud1It’s not enough that we’re constantly plagued by duct cleaning telemarketers, phone scams and fraud artists presenting themselves as agents of Canada Revenue Agency or our bank, we also have to endure the endless number of criminals trying to steal our on-line personal information. It’s a virtual shark tank.

In the past week alone I’ve received two potential threats to my on-line personal security (not including the theft of my wallet). The first email was someone claiming to be from Apple wanting to verify that I’d ordered from iTunes and asking for further information by clicking on their linked website. Upon checking independently with Apple it was confirmed that the email was fraudulent and I forwarded the offending information on to their phishing people. Today I received another one. This time from Amazon with whom I do a fair bit of business. I’d recently updated my information with the real Amazon and somehow the bad guys detected that and asked me to again provide them with my credit card information. I became suspicious and contacted Amazon who confirmed it was fraudulent and I forwarded them the site information.

It' not only innocent old ladies who are victimized by fraud. Be very, very careful.

It’s not only vulnerable old ladies who are victimized by fraud. Be very, very careful.

We all know people who’ve been tricked, including many of our friends who are experienced in the business world. There are so many people out there who lack the knowledge to recognize these scams and it’s scary to think of the level of success these people are achieving. Every piece of communication we receive must now be carefully scrutinized and it’s worth taking the time to contact the institutions you do business with whenever you are contacted. It’s hard to keep up but always be suspicious and vigilant.

P.S. No sooner had I finished writing this when I read an essay in this morning’s Globe & Mail about a woman who succumbed to ordering a scam face cream on-line (click here to read it) after her partner of twenty-three years dumped her. She’ll likely be billed ’til the end of time. The injustices never end.

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I never thought it could happen to me . . . but it did . . . and it could be you.

Never ever leave your purse unattended.

Never leave your purse unattended.

Just the other day I listened sympathetically to the story of how my ninety-one-year-old aunt had her purse stolen as she was loading her groceries into the back of her car last week at the supermarket (hopefully I have those genes that will allow me to still shop on my own and drive at ninety-one). It’s a horrible experience for anyone much less someone in their nineties. Sympathetic as I was, I also felt a bit smug because I’m overly cautious about my own purse in public. I use a metal purse hook that hangs on the side of a table which is handy in food courts and restaurants so my purse is always practically sitting in my lap and safe. (Yes, honey, unlike men who own only one wallet, women need more than one purse.) When we travel, I wear a money pouch under my clothes and carry a small change purse with a few foreign currency bills zipped in an inside pocket of a multi-compartment cross-body bag, which I always wear across my stomach. Thieves would need a couple of hours to mine through all the zipped compartments to find my meagre stash. I also leave all my credit cards at home except one.

Food courts and restaurants are ripe targets for purse thieves.

Food courts and restaurants are ripe targets for purse thieves.

Unfortunately, I let my guard down last week. Just before leaving to meet a girlfriend for lunch at Panera Bread across from Sherway Gardens Mall in Toronto, I switched purses, from a compact efficient one, to a large sack-like bag that turns digging for my wallet into a spelunking adventure. (If you’ve seen the Subway commercials where the girl disappears head-first into her bag, you’ll know what I mean.) After placing my order, I paid the cashier with cash from my wallet, took the little electronic thingie the waiter uses to find me with my food and walked to a table. I put the electronic device down on the table to stake my territory, picked up the paper cup and my purse and headed for the drink dispenser. When I came back, instead of securing my purse safely on its hook in front of me, I casually dropped it on the floor beside my feet.

Toward the end of the lunch, a young couple arrived at the table next to ours. She was wearing a very bad wig, large black sunglasses and a very short black dress. When she sat down, she specifically moved her chair until its back was practically touching the table between me and my friend. At the time, I shrugged and thought nothing more of it. Until I arrived at my next stop, the grocery store, and tried to find my wallet in my purse. Gone. Disappeared. Nowhere to be seen, no matter how much I ripped through the contents of my purse.

thief5The reality of what had happened hit me when I got home and dumped my bag to confirm I’d been robbed. Anyone who has experienced a wallet being stolen knows how devastating and terrifying it can be, not to mention inconvenient. Losing cash is painful but minor compared to losing the security of credit cards, identification, drivers’ license, OHIP card and other valuable items. Fortunately, about a year ago, I removed all the important cards and ID from my wallet and put them in one of those ubiquitous, accordion-fold metal containers designed to thwart electronic data skimmers. That saved my fat old fanny, somewhat. Apart from some cash, my wallet only contained my Scene movie card, some seniors’ tickets for Toronto Transit, my blogging and home business cards, and two or three blank cheques for emergencies. That meant going to the bank to cancel all my chequing accounts, flagging them for fraud and being reissued new accounts. I’m still waiting for all the fallout from preauthorized payments for utilities and other expenses when they start bouncing.

I called Panera Bread twice afterward to see if anyone had turned in a wallet, to no avail. I also went back and asked the manager if they had a security camera that could throw some light on what happened. She was sympathetic but said they can only access security videos under orders from the police department.  Hard lesson learned.

Here’s what you can do to help prevent theft:

It only takes a second.

It only takes a second.

I never thought this would happen to me but it did because I let my guard down just once. Please take this as a lesson and protect yourself. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. If you don’t already have purse hooks (see below for how to purchase), get several and put one in each purse. Be sure to use them whenever you’re in public. Yorkdale Shopping Centre in north Toronto has ingenious little double hooks on the underside of the tables in their new upper level food court especially for hanging purses and bags. USE THEM. I have no doubt a woman instituted that little design accoutrement. I wish all restaurants and food courts had them.
  2. Never put your purse on the floor where it can be surreptitiously accessed or taken altogether. We all know someone who has had this happen.
  3. There is no such thing as being too careful.

    There is no such thing as being too careful.

    Separate your cash from credit cards and I.D. Keep cash in a wallet or change purse and secure your cards and valuables in a separate secure metal holder. This is moot if your entire purse is stolen, but it partially saved my bacon this time.

  4. Make it hard for thieves to find your wallet(s) by zipping them into inner pockets of your purse or handbag.
  5. Backpacks are easy targets for thieves.
  6. Never let your purse off your shoulder or arm when shopping. Ensure it’s buckled, locked, zipped, clasped or whatever keeps it securely closed at all times.

These suggestions might help you avoid what I experienced and I’m sure there are more ideas for staying safe and secure. I’d welcome your feedback in the Comment section of this posting so I can share your advice with my readers. Be careful and be safe fellow Boomers.

 

 

There are many places to get purse hooks. I ordered a whole box of them a few years ago from a company called Chatt.com but here’s a link to one from Amazon: Click here or here for another one. At less than $4.00 each, they’re a good investment. I keep one in every purse I own.

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