BOOMERBROADcast

The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and more . . .


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What is disposable fashion?

They’d sooner burn it than have it fall into the hands of commoners like us.

Are you sitting down? Burberry recently incinerated $37 million worth of their luxury brand merchandise that didn’t sell. Rather than dilute the cachet of their brand by offering it at discounted prices to the great unwashed masses (like us), they torched it. It must be lovely to have a business with such generous markups and profit margins that you can afford to just set fire to $37 million. That act of destruction reminded me of how casually we treat our possessions regardless of the cost. Not only are fashions from Zara, The Gap and other mass retailers treated as disposable fashion, so are premium brands. Our “affluenza” and consumerism has reached ridiculous proportions.

Natalie Atkinson’s recent piece in The Globe and Mail about extending the life of your personal possessions was a reminder that we need to be more thoughtful about what we buy and conscientious about managing our belongings. It came on the heels of a sobering documentary Clothing Waste – Fashion’s Dirty Secret which aired recently on CBC’s Marketplace. Both pieces highlighted the negative effects of disposable clothing on the environment and the facts presented left me feeling ashamed and totally committed to changing my wanton ways. I used to feel vindicated when I dropped off old clothing at a charity bin until I saw on Marketplace what happens to my donations. Giant bales of excess used clothing sit in warehouses until they’re shipped to places like Africa or India. They’re then sold in street markets as used clothing—which seems all fine and dandy—until we’re shown the piles of clothing being burned behind the stalls—clothing that doesn’t sell. Brand names like Tommy Hilfinger, H&M, Old Navy and others, all go up in smoke. Even third world countries don’t want or don’t know what to do with our cast-offs.

From here . . .

We didn’t start off this way

When boomers were growing up we didn’t have the vast, disposable wardrobes we see today. In addition to a few everyday school clothes, we had a good Sunday outfit which did double duty for going to birthday parties or Christmas concerts. One winter coat, one pair of boots, one pair of everyday school shoes and one pair of good shoes was the norm and they lasted until we outgrew them. Our parents’ wardrobes were equally modest. Some of us perhaps remember our fathers having shoes resoled to extend their life. I grew up in house built in the 1880s with no closets. My spartan wardrobe was either folded in a couple of dresser drawers or hung on hooks on the back of my bedroom door and I did just fine with fewer items.

To here . . .

How far we’ve fallen. How many boomer gals have commandeered the entire master bedroom closet for racks of clothes (many of which we don’t wear or they don’t fit) and relegated our partners’ clothes to the spare bedroom closet? It’s an insidious process, a slippery slope and regular culling unfortunately invites more buying.

When I first started working in 1965, I was thrilled to finally have my own money to spend on mini dresses, shoes and even fabric to sew my own version of Twiggy-inspired fashion. How could we not fall in love with what fashion was offering in the sixties? It was a total transformation from boring and practical to colourful and fun. Over the years, boomer gals have spent small fortunes on dressing for success, weekend wear and special event dresses. To this day I’m still filled with self-lothing when I think that I spent the equivalent of nearly a week’s wages on that burgundy ultra-suede suit that I wore for one season in the seventies. Then, there are all the matching shoes, purses, coats, jackets, accessories—well, you get the picture. Who among us wouldn’t love to have some of that wasted money now earning interest in our RRSP.

And, finally, here.

What to do, starting with myself:

I know my triggers. From now on I’m going to be more discriminating about what I purchase and avoid the following potential hazards:

  1. Trips to the mall just acquaint me with more things I do not need so I’ll minimize the number of times I visit the mall. Ditto for internet shopping.
  2. Fashion magazines are bait for suckers like me. Seeing something I like starts me longing for it. See Item 1 above.
  3. When I see things on women’s television shows that include fashion and home decorating segments I’m motivated to shop. I’d be further ahead reading my books or going for a walk instead of watching those programs.
  4. Comparing myself with the beautiful people is counter productive. How often do we think if we just had that blouse, that bracelet, that designer handbag or pair of sunglasses, our lives would be complete.
  5. Advertising for the latest skincare or makeup product guaranteed to solve all our problems is so tempting and generally a complete waste of money. I have to work on tuning out the marketing ‘noise’ and stick with whatever basics work for me.
  6. The wellness industry including thousands of websites such as GOOP are constantly setting us up to think we need improving with supplements, diets, cleanses and other new age gimmicks. Tune out.

This is not a definitive list but it’s a good start. These steps are actionable immediately and would make a difference not only in my self-esteem and the environment but more importantly, my bank account. We can still feel great about ourselves without being sucked into the vortex of disposable fashion, useless health and beauty products and general consumerism. Regular culling of our closets serves to remind us that we already have too much and we should be much more discriminating about what we buy. I’ll definitely buy into that. Starting now. What about you?

http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/episodes/2015-2016/clothing-waste-fashions-dirty-secret

http://fortune.com/2018/07/19/burberry-burns-millions/


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Is the fashion media still relevant?

As someone who is not rich, not thin and not young, I am not exactly in the cross hairs of the editors at current popular fashion magazines. Nevertheless, I love fashion and I love to critique Vogue’s annual  ‘September issue‘. Once a year I put on my probably-not-stylish bitch hat and go to work. The September issue is always a biggie—almost 800 pages—and requires an extra effort on the part of my mail carrier to get it my door. To his credit he also delivered my Restoration Hardware catalogues the same week so I’ll owe him a compensatory tip at Christmas. So many times I’ve been tempted to cancel my subscription to Vogue but it’s fashion eye candy and who doesn’t love candy.

So, Boomerbroadcast readers, here is what I see as relevant and irrelevant in the September 2017 issue of Vogue:

  • Overall, I’d rate it higher than last year’s edition, which came as a complete surprise to me (click here to read my review of the September 2016 issue). I was all set to be majorly disappointed but there were a few nice surprises along with the usual clunkers.
  • It was their 125th anniversary edition. The cover fold-out included reprints of vintage covers including a July 1967 one of Twiggy with flower power painted eyes which I particularly liked.
  • Absolutely every brand in existence bought ad space congratulating Vogue on their special anniversary. Just in case we forget their names.
  • Dior’s all-navy spread a few pages in had definite merit and was appealing. And I’ve never seen a Dior bag I didn’t love.
  • Ralph Lauren showed a Glen plaid suit for women with a nifty watch chain draped from a belt with silver padlock that is totally do-able. I could repurpose a silver chain and charm I already have without having to buy the pricey real thing.
  • Gucci’s metallic makeup and glitter overload were just too over-the-top to find anything I could relate to. Boomers and anyone over thirty simply do not do iridescent or shiny. For perfect pubescent skin only. #gucciandbeyond
  • Tiffany rarely disappoints. Their new line of horse-bit styled chain jewelry is to die for. Sigh . . . as if I could ever afford it.

    What’s not to love about this? Sigh!

  • Neiman Marcus advertised a fun Calvin Klein (205W39NYC) full-length coat that looked like a quilted Mennonite bedspread with Glen plaid arms that I actually liked. Cool!
  • Canada’s own Holt Renfrew sprang for a two-page spread of retro painted-lady dresses. Wear once. Bored. Toss. Disposable clothing with a big price tag.
  • Stella McCartney’s people were truly innovative with their two-page spread showing a prone young woman in a green turtleneck dress lying on top of a pile of recyclable garbage, alongside a couple of Stella’s leather-free purses. Says it all. Simply. Green. Absolutely loved everything about the concept.
  • Anne Klein’s black and white ads were rather introspective with memes like “My worth is not defined by other people’s perception of me”. Honourable intentions but I’m not sure it’ll induce me to look for Anne Klein in stores.
  • Page 382 was all about yummy belts. Ouch! If only I still had a waistline I could resurrect that drawer full of gorgeous belts I already own.
  • Buried in the barely there pseudo editorial content was a half page blurb on the latest face-brightening non-thermal laser technique called PICO (page 462) which promises to banish rosacea and broken capillaries. If there were an effective treatment for rosacea I’d be first in line to try it as I’ve had no luck with anything so far. False hope?
  • Eternally tasteful St. John showed a gorgeous soft pink (looked like cashmere) open coat with matching turtleneck and grey pants that I would love to buy when I win the lottery.

    Yummy coat by St. John, but at $2K Canadian it won’t be keeping this boomer warm any time soon.

  • The GAP’s double-page spread of denim jeans and white tee shirts is perhaps indicative why their business is slipping. Nothing new. Nothing original.
  • The book page (616) usually grabs my attention but the selection of books, all focused on young characters should come as no surprise from an editorial staff of young people who have no awareness of generations beyond twenty-somethings. No range.
  • Hallejuliah for the “Good Jeans” (play on words) section featuring ‘older’ super models like Amber Valetta, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista—some photographed (by Annie Leibovitz) with their daughters. The dark lighting smoothed out imperfections but we know we’ll never age as well as they have. The inclusion of Kendall Jenner totally pissed me off though as I’m so sick of the Kardashian klan. Sick, sick, sick of them.
  • I did notice that most of the models in this issue wore minimal makeup which was interesting.
  • Oprah’s Bliss provides an update on her current state of mind which is a slice of welcome editorial content.
  • For tennis fans who care, there’s a piece about Serena Williams photographed in all her pregnant glory. I’m not interested in tennis, Serena or motherhood so I skipped that one. Purely a subjective choice on my part that not everyone would agree with.
  • Other interesting women were featured. Nicole Kidman turns fifty; Megyn Kelly turns to NBC, Chelsea Manning turns over a new leaf, and Calvin Klein (obviously not a woman) turns heads.

    Really?

  • Every issue of Vogue includes a fashion spread toward the end that I never ‘get’. That’s where the creative people get über creative and go crazy with arty concepts that I think are supposed to win awards or something. This issue’s theme is post-war boom years in suburbia with retro-fifties fashions photographed in caricatured suburban settings like back-yard barbecues with swing sets and white picket fences, the Sunday roast, console televisions as the focal point in living rooms and models channeling June Cleaver. Cute. Sounds so much like it’s finally something that should appeal to boomers. Perhaps I missed the point but there was not a single inspirational visual takeaway for this old boomer. Nice idea but where’s the beef?
  • Lena’s Dunham writes about becoming a redhead. Good writing. Universal theme. Read it yourself (page 728) to see how it turns out. You’ll like it.

Where do you get your fashion inspiration? When I canvassed my own circle of friends, it seems we prefer to scope out what we see other women wearing in the malls, on the streets, at the grocery store (well, maybe a bad example). Observing street style from a sidewalk café is great fun. I’ve often approached someone in a store and asked them where they got a particular item they’re wearing that I love, or asked who cut their hair. Some people refer to Instagram or they collect pictures on Pinterest. Another source of my own fashion inspiration has increasingly come from on-line blogs such as:

There are some excellent fashion blogs such as Lyn Slater’s Accidental Icon targeted at boomers that are infinitely more relevant than mags.

Some of these sites are far better than others and I have my favourites but fashion is subjective and you can pick for yourself which ones you would like to follow.

The reason we’re turning away from the fashion magazines is because they’ve become irrevelant to so many people. Who among us can relate to pouty, stick-thin genetic mutant teenagers wearing faux fur vests with combat boots, ripped leggings and carrying five thousand dollar handbags? The same logic applies to the media’s myopic worship of celebrities. We don’t expect to see an entire issue of Vogue devoted to lumpy baby boomers (or do we?) but a few more Helen Mirrens, Diane Keatons or Isabella Rossellinis would be a welcome addition. Long live Iris Apfel. We do have an interest in fashion and a few bucks to spend.

It annoys the hell out of me that we continue to be so invisible to the fashion industry. Do they ever ask their readers what they like? Really? We want fashion media to succeed but when are they going to produce material that actually inspires its readers to go and buy what they’re selling? The September 2017 issue was better than I expected it to be but imagine what they could do if they acknowledged a broader market. Just imagine . . .

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Who doesn’t enjoy playing house?

Gender roles were more clearly defined growing up in the fifties – or were they really? (L to R) My brother Ron (the victim of a bossy older sister), me and my friend Brenda, dressed for afternoon tea.

When boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, gender roles were more clearly defined than they are today. Little girls played with dolls; little boys played Davey Crockett. Little girls were Barbara Ann Scott; little boys were Maurice Richard. Sometimes we strayed into crossover territory though. I clearly remember cherishing my white straw cowboy hat with the chin cord and jeans with the Hopalong Cassidy patch on the pocket. And my girlfriends and I took great pride in being able to out shoot (toy guns were still politically acceptable then), out run and outsmart any of the boys in our neighbourhood.

One of the most common activities we engaged in as little girls was playing ‘house’. We’d play with our dolls in tents set up with clothespins and blankets, play in a corner of the room or the front porch creating little scenarios that for us represented domestic life as we knew it. Fortunately, most of us enjoyed reasonably stable home lives and for those who didn’t, playing make-believe was an escape. We’d push our doll carriages up and down the street, copying our mothers going about their daily chores. We’d prepare fake meals and serve fake tea in little sets of painted tin dishes. Life was simple and uncomplicated. And most baby boomers lived in neighbourhoods teeming with other children our age so we were always busy and socially involved.

Have you ever considered that now that we’re retired we’ve come full circle? Now that I’m free from the working world and the struggles inherent in building our lives, we’re in a very peaceful place. I enjoy the simple pleasures of life—tea in the afternoon with a friend, walking the dog after dinner, even doing the ironing while I watch a good program on television. My everyday routines give me a sense of satisfaction and feelings of pleasure. I’m thankful to be alive, to be healthy and to have options about how I live my life.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen this morning it occurred to me that I’m now playing ‘house’ once again. My life is full of domestic activities, cruising the neighbourhood with friends, matching wits with the men in our lives and those close to us. I can devote an entire afternoon to sitting in the back yard engrossed in a good book if I want. Instead of pushing my doll stroller, I push a grocery cart on a Tuesday morning when it’s not busy or I walk my dog up the street. I serve tea in real china cups now and serve it with real cookies I’ve made. I discuss the various dramas of life with close friends over dinners of lovingly prepared real food instead of pretend. Every so often I dress up in my fancy clothes and go out on a date with my husband, my life’s answer to a Ken doll. It took a long time and no small amount of strife and stress to get to this place in time, but damn, I thoroughly enjoy playing ‘house’.

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What’s with the falsies?

Oh dear!

It’s been more than four decades since I wore false eyelashes so I totally understand their current appeal. I even remember the name of the drugstore brand I preferred back then—Eyelure, applied with Andrea glue. They were long, delicate and gorgeous. Sometimes the weight of the lashes even made my eyes feel sleepy. Back then, I didn’t wear glasses but if I had to put on sunglasses, the fake lashes annoyingly brushed against the lenses leaving little wispy streaks. I became expert at running a tiny ribbon of glue along the base, waving the eyelash strip in the air a couple of times for the glue to become slightly tacky, then deftly applying it, starting in the middle and using the end of my eye-liner brush to tap them into place. Presto. No mascara, no liner required and my eyes looked like a million bucks regardless of how little sleep I’d had.

In the sixties, we all wanted to look like Twiggy or Jean Shrimpton.

What differentiates original baby boomer faux eyelash wearers from how millenials wear them now is the degree of obvious faux. Back in the late sixties and early seventies, our preference was for a glorified natural look with a dash of Twiggy. Our falsies were obviously not natural but we trimmed and groomed them before we applied them so they would look dramatic but not ridiculous. We wanted to appear starry-eyed and bright. Today’s look tends towards goth and grotesque. It doesn’t seem have occurred to current faux lash wearers to use manicure scissors to trim the inner and outer corners and perhaps texturize the tips.

I love makeup, although now it’s more flattering for our generation to employ a minimalist, natural look. When I see young women with flawless skin, I’m envious for sure. After I lecture them on the evils of smoking and exposing their skin to sun (advice I’m sure they’re thrilled to hear from a past-her-prime old boomer broad), I compliment them and suggest they take care of their gift. But I find it hard to keep my mouth shut about the state of their false eyelashes. Are they meant to resemble an industrial strength car-wash brush?

Much better.

Am I so out-of-date that I don’t get the current craze for bear bristles? When I stand in front of the checkout clerk at the grocery store whose false eyelashes resemble a golf-shoe scraper, I can’t stop staring, wondering how on earth she could possibly think they look attractive for everyday wear. As I said, I’m a fan of faux lashes, but like any fashion accessory, it’s important to learn how to wear them properly and save the drag queen lashes for professional entertainers. In the sixties an advertising slogan asked “Does she or doesn’t she?” It was considered preferable to keep ’em guessing while looking great. Or, perhaps it’s just a matter of personal taste and I’m the weird one.

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