Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Succumbs to Middle Age

Oh, well maybe it's not that bad. Because there is a little less of me these days, what with the weight loss and the gym and stuff, my wardrobe--if you can justify it by that name--needs a little help. So I went out to find clothes today. Note: I am fifty-one years old, and no longer interested in wearing clothes that bare my belly button (which has survived two children installed thereunder, and is arguably a little worse for wear) or show off my cleavage. There is a quaint expression from Georgette Heyer: "Mutton dressed for lamb." I have no ambition to be a 51-year-old dressing up as a 24-year-old. Since many stores are now showing clothes that do both, under the assumption that every woman in the U.S. under the age of ninety is a size 3 and without modesty issues, this is a challenge. And it's spring, which means they're showing all those flirty little skirts and pastels. I hate pastels, and I'm not big with the flirty skirt thing.

On the other hand, I don't want to look like a...I don't know. A middle-aged suburban lady, I suppose. There should be some happy middle ground between Old Navy and Saks Fifth Avenue, something a little funky, comfortable, and wearable by, say, me. And the sorts of shops--not chain stores but one-off shops--that sell the clothes I might like are way out of my price range.

This brought me, at last, to Talbots. This marks a sea-change of sorts: I think of Talbots as being a sort of suburban-middle-aged-lady kind of clothing shop. On the other hand, their clothes leave the belly covered and don't display too much chest, and that's a good thing. After trying on a bunch of clothes that looked reasonable in terms of fit but did make me look more Mrs. Cleaver than otherwise, I finally selected a pair of slacks and a sleeveless sweater, both of them fairly noncommittal in terms of suburban vs. funky, both of which fit. I will find some way to dress them up to look more like things I would wear. Meanwhile, if I wear them without dressing them up, the children will blink and be confounded by this woman who doesn't dress like their mother, and that's always fun.


Blogger C. F. Blog said...

Try Stein Mart, Casual Corner, and Cold Water Creek.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Hmm... I know from Casual Corner; will have to investigate the others.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Jonquil said...

I like Soft Surroundings. The packaging is twee but the clothes are great, at least if you like the rich-hippie look. Lands' End used to have some very nice professional-woman clothes; I can't wear their skirts because I have a rectangular figure, while they prefer the hips to be much larger than the waist. Chico's does "slinky knit" clothes that wear forever, travel brilliantly, and flatter.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Jonquil said...

Deva Lifewear does excellent pirate shirts.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I have an hourglass figure. Lest one think this is a good thing, lemme tell you: clothiers in this country may design for women with hips, but they do not design for women with breasts. So you have to choose between looking like you're wearing a tent and looking like you're selling something you probably are not. And I tend to be wary of things I cannot try on, because that often means multiple trips to the post office to mail back the stuff that doesn't work. Still, I have moments of intrepidity: when I worked at Tor we used to have mass-purchases from Chadwicks: a huge box would arrive, women would swoop in, get their purchases, decide what worked, sometimes swap things around, and ship everything that didn't work back to the company. Lately Chadwicks hasn't had much of anything I liked. I think part of the problem is that I don't much care for a lot of the fashion tropes these days (hey, I survived flared pants once, why should I have to do it again?).

Ah, well. There's a neat little store called Ambiance here, that I would love to prowl through, except they are so expensive, and so ill-organized that my head hurts when I walk in the door.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Jonquil said...

I feel that my generation suffered through ponchos and platform shoes precisely in order that future generations would be spared the madness.

Did they learn NOTHING from us?

9:16 PM  
Blogger C. F. Blog said...

I forgot one more. What about Ann Taylor? They might be on the pricey side but if you are only for that one nice outfit, they really have some nice stuff. And their stores are more organized. :)

7:24 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Ann Taylor and Talbots are all right, but even they show much the same stuff as I see elsewhere, just slightly better made. See, I'm impossible to please! What I want, I realized last night as I was going to bed, is a combination of tailoring and funk (the tailoring, so I look good, because anything loose and gypsyish makes me look 30 pounds heavier; the funk, because I'm not the tailored type, psychologically).

Did I mention the cognitive dissonance of standing in the Talbots dressing room trying on suburban middle aged lady clothes, with the Rolling Stones' "As Tears Go By" on the PA system? 60s rock is now the soothing music to shop by of the well-groomed tennis bracelet set? Wow.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...


Those who cannot remember the clothes of the past are doomed to repeat them. Ick.

8:51 AM  
Blogger C. F. Blog said...

I see- a tailored made funk style. I don’t know Madeleine; your search might take awhile…youth and unrealistic body shapes are predominant. I just met a (wealthy, but you would not know it) man who moved from LA to Newport Beach because he was tired of all the youth and fast life-style. I replied that, and every time you go to a restaurant the servers are constantly auditioning for you.

I am constantly in discussions with men I work with of our society’s narrow outlook of women’s outward appearance. Yes, we can be doctors and corporate builders but one area that is still not address is the fashion world. In our current era, fashion is dictated by men who are predominately attracted to the male form. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but when will the women stand up and say I’m sorry I would rather not wear the Alley McBeal’s lawyer skirts.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Jonquil said...

every time you go to a restaurant the servers are constantly auditioning for you.

The play "Eastern Standard" opens with the protagonist sitting alone at a café. He raises a hand and calls "Oh, actress..."

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Adrienne said...

J. Jill might work out as well.

10:35 AM  

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