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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.

Who cares if it’s swimsuit season . . . again?

Seriously??

Many years ago I read about a magazine editor who quit her job at a high-profile international women’s magazine because she just couldn’t face overseeing another annual swimsuit edition. I know how she must have felt because I can’t face another swimsuit season either. All the current magazines are full of tips on how to match a bathing suit to our individual figure types, how to look our best and feel confident. Pages and pages in the fashion mags have been dedicated to the latest swimsuit styles. The tropical patterns and colours are yummy and some of those scraps of fabric cost hundreds of dollars. The Photoshopped models look gorgeous. The reality is grim.

I’ll admit some styles are infinitely more flattering than others, but let’s face it, we’re never ever going to resemble anything close to those pubescent nymphets modelling the various styles featured in the magazine spreads. In fact, most boomers are even reluctant to go out in public in shorts much less a bathing suit. Those with cottages or winter homes in Florida can’t avoid donning a swimsuit occasionally but they’re usually hidden under diaphanous lightweight cover ups when we’re not actually under water.

I’ll have what she’s wearing!

It is virtually impossible for swimsuit designs to overcome what makes so many boomer broads self-conscious about beach wear. No amount of underpinning, tummy panels, supportive straps or bum tuckers will compensate for what nature has bestowed upon us after many decades of living our lives. By the time we’ve tried on dozens of unflattering designs in cramped fitting rooms with unflattering fluorescent lighting, cried a river, paid our dues at Weight Watchers, spray tanned our cellulite and waxed our lady parts to an unsightly, red rash, we’re fed up with the entire exercise. Sure, they tell us to feel good about ourselves regardless of our body shape—easy to say when you’re in your twenties or thirties. I sympathize with that fed-up magazine editor. This summer you’ll find me sitting in the shade and privacy of my back-yard gazebo, wearing elastic-waist shorts and a tee shirt, reading the latest New York Times’ best seller on my iPad mini. The beach is no longer my thing and even if it were, give me a birkini any day.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Girls just gotta have shoes

The objects of my affection.

It was love at first sight. As soon as my eyes landed on that incredible pair of Jimmy Choo python pumps in the May issue of Vogue I found myself longing not only for the shoes but for my twenty-year-old feet to put in them. Even though it’s been years, or more like decades since I’ve been able to strut my stuff in killer heels, the old longing and feeling of empowerment bestowed on us by stilettos never leaves us. I could so easily picture my former self wearing those python beauties around the office in my power suit or slipping them on with skinny jeans (the jeans, not me) for a stylish stroll through the mall on a Saturday. Just looking at those babies made my heart beat faster; my imagination conjured up fantasies I haven’t had in years. There was a giant smile on my face just thinking about the possibilities those beauties could bestow on my life. Boomer women totally understand how Cinderella was completely transformed as soon as she put on those magic glass slippers. It’s no fairy tale.

If only we could buy new feet.

In the late sixties and early seventies I lived and worked in downtown Toronto. Too broke and too cheap to invest in subway tokens, I hoofed it everywhere—in heels, usually on the run. From Bloor Street to Front Street I made my way around the downtown core to and from work, to meet friends, to shop and out at night, always on foot. And those young, size seven feet were always shod in the latest fashion. I’ve twisted ankles falling off my platforms, caught spike heels in sidewalk grates and suffered burns and blisters on the balls of my feet from the heat of summer sidewalks burning through thin leather soles. Not once did I think my feet would outlive their best-before date.

Baby boomer women now have a different set of criteria when shopping for shoes. Toe cleavage and strappy high heels have given way to arch supports and low heels with rubber soles, and not the kind the Beatles sang about in 1965. Back in the day, our shoe purchases were treated like decadent works of art, affirmation of our sexiness and stylishness. I’d actually set newly purchased shoes on the diningroom table to admire them when I brought them home. Or I’d place them on my night table so they’d be the first things I’d see when I woke up in the morning. Talk about getting a high. Gorgeous shoes were like little magic carpets that carried us into a fantasy land where we were invincible. And, unlike dress or pant sizes, shoe size was immaterial. In fabulous shoes, our feet looked great no matter what size they were.

After clomping around in rubber sandals I recently squeezed my feet into a pair of stylish suede boots that don’t see much action these days. My back hurt from bending down to put the socks and then the boots on and my feet felt like they were going to explode by the time I got home from shopping. Mes pieds are just not used to such harsh discipline and they object strenuously to any form of confinement. I soooo miss the feet I had when I was twenty years old.

I wonder if those python Jimmy Choos come with industrial strength arch supports and cushy rubber soles? If I win the lottery, perhaps I’ll buy them and prop them up on my mantle, just to admire them like the works of art they are. I could reflect back on the days when I used to listen to the original Rubber Soul in my Mary Quant mini skirts and platforms—back when I could still wear fantasmic shoes. As the Everly Brothers sang so eloquently and in perfect harmony, “All I have to do is dream. Dream. dream, dream”, the siren song of Jimmy Choo and those fabulous shoes.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Is fashion advertising hitting the mark?

The anticipation of diving into my Sunday edition of The New York Times is what motivates me to get out of bed on Sunday mornings. It’s the size of a fire log and nearly as heavy, landing on my doorstep in the dark early hours wrapped in a thin plastic bag. I can’t wait to pour a big mug of hot tea, toast my only-on-the-weekends white artisan bread topped with home-made strawberry jam or unpasteurized honey and sit down at the kitchen table for my weekly love-in. Laying out the thick sections, I usually extract the Style section for a first perusal before moving on. There’s so much delicious reading in the Sunday Times I can usually make it last until Thursday at which time I pass it on to a neighbour.

In what universe is this ad supposed to make me want to invest in a designer purse?
In what universe is this ad supposed to make me want to invest in a designer purse?

It was a designer fashion ad on page three one Sunday that immediately and intensely offended me. My reaction was the culmination of seeing so many ads of a similar nature. As a baby boomer who has retired from the corporate world, I consider myself a fairly average consumer. The ad that triggered such a strong reaction featured pouty, anorexic teenage girls casually tossing off designer handbags worth thousands of dollars, dressed in barely-there whisps of clothing unwearable by ninety-nine percent of women. I’m not suggesting magazines should feature wall-to-wall hags and crones but a few more Ashley Graham types would help us feel we also stand a chance at looking beautiful.

Why do designers and product advertisers insist on always featuring skeletal, spoiled teenage girls in print ads? Are the handbags and jewelry not beautiful and exquisite enough to stand on their own merit or perhaps be modeled more appropriately by women such as Lauren Hutton or Carmen Dell’Orifice? Has the fashion industry ever actually polled their market recently to find out what we the consumers like to see in advertising? When I was a skinny twenty-something, I could relate to Twiggy in her mini dresses with her androgynous haircut. We were baby boomers and we represented the bulk of the buying public. But time marches on.

Who doesn't love Iris Apfel, shown here in a Kate Spade ad?
Who doesn’t love ninety-something Iris Apfel, shown here in a Kate Spade ad from last year.

Baby boomers are still where the money is but the fashion and advertising industry refuses to acknowledge this. They continue to cater to the 18-45 demographic as evidenced by their choice of models and I’m becoming increasingly more irritated and fed up with the assumption that this is what sells. I’d be much more inclined to buy a handbag, a piece of jewelry or article of clothing if it were modeled by a better version of me, not a waif-like, sulky teenager. I loved seeing Iris Apfel in the Kate Spade ads. Diane Keaton has a wonderful, quirky sense of style and when infrequent pictures of her turn up in magazines I often tear the pages out and keep them in my inspiration file.

Women who are able to spend big bucks on high-end fashion items have generally earned the right to do so. We’ve worked, many of us for decades, to accrue the fashion sense and budget to be discriminating about our purchases. I’m insulted and discouraged that the fashion industry chooses to ignore us. Our fashion tastes range from budget-conscious to designer and every price point in between. Before I die I hope that our demographic will once again be respectfully recognized for our potential buying power by seeing inspirational, age-appropriate models that reflect our tastes, our body types and our budgets in the media. Is that possible? Is the fashion industry really hitting the mark or am I missing it altogether?

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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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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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