Monday, October 23, 2006

Debra: Tis the Season

No, not the holidays.

It's that awful time of year when you realize you can no longer pretend it's warm enough to wear your summer clothes. You have to face your closet and decide what you're going to do about fall. And winter. And then spring.

Who made up the absolutely stupid rule about "updating your wardrobe" each season? It had to be those tricksy fashion designers trying to flog their merchandise. Don't they know that once we crest thirty, most of us are just happy if we fit into last year's clothes? (i.e. Fit- sized to your body without requiring you to hop a couple of times to get those jean legs all the way up, and without lying on the bed, sucking in and zipping for all you're worth.)

The days of quiet, personal fashion choices are gone. With WHAT NOT TO WEAR episodes airing every ten minutes, even the bagel guy knows when our wardrobe is out of step. Even worse...I now know. I swear I didn't want to learn how to dress my body type. Heck, I try not to think about my body type. But summer changes to crisp fall and I stare at my closet knowing that even if I can wear the clothes I still don't have a thing to wear.

Rule # 1
Shopping is not buying the first thing you see.
Just because you need a black pair of pants doesn't mean you can buy the first pair that sort of fit. Noooooo. You have to consider inseam and waist construction. The leg, the drape. Arrrgh!!! What used to be a quick sprint down to Macy's and a speed tour through Liz Claiborne is now a multi-store, multi-day extravaganza which might net me two articles of clothing.
Doesn't matter if you're a size 2 or a big girl. We all have to shop-til-we-drop rather than buy anything that doesn't fit and flatter. I didn't really think you could look like crap at a size 2, but after watching WHAT NOT TO WEAR for a bit, I've come to the conclusion that all of us can manage crap if we'd rather buy than shop. (Guilty as "charged.")
I really long for the old days when you just bought. Do you know how much time shopping takes when you have a life??

Rule # 2
Your alteration professional is your friend and loan officer.
There isn't a shirt, pant, skirt or dress that can't be made to fit better and cost more money when you involve alterations. I'm blessed with a height that is often a smidge too tall for petite and too short for average. Isn't that special?

Rule # 3
It's all in the details.
Fashionistas have taken all the fun out of snagging a $6 white, scooped neck knit shirt at Tar-jei. I'm not supposed to wear scoop necks. And I'm supposed to pass up the plain pieces. I'm supposed to look for subtle detailing. Cha-ching! Now, I don't know about you, but during the summer I go through a white shirt a week. I'm going to go broke if I keep buying the ones that have that special something. The only other option is to avoid food, liquids of any kind, and small children while wearing white.

Rule # 4
It's not your mama's blue jean.
Apparently the mid-rise rules. It makes our butt look smaller. ::blink blink:: Than what? It's still my butt. Cutting the visual line from top to bottom in half makes it look shorter, but not smaller. I don't understand it, but I'm willing to try. I am looking for the perfect jean. I'm like the Energizer Bunny of blue-jean hunters. I'm not quite there yet. Mostly because my stomach keeps having anxiety attacks about all that open range where good denim used to be.

The rules go on, but you get the drift.

I have to say that the new things I bought for summer, I bought while *shopping* and applying some simple rules. The first time I strutted one of the new outfits I had no less than five people go out of their way to comment on my new look--jeans that balanced the top half of my body and with a subtle detail of embroidery down the side of one leg, a white cami that showed some skin and a tailored over-shirt with distinctive yet subtle patterning in the fabric. And a fabulous pointy-toed boot to extend the line of my leg and add some height.

Damn. The rules work. And now it's fall and I have to do this all over again.

I tell myself that I don't have to replace everything. Just a few pieces. I don't have to be a slave to rules or fashion. I'm not throwing out my flannel pants.

How's your wardrobe treating you lately?


Helen Brenna said...

Feeling brave, aren't ya Deb? Talking about clothes on a Monday morning!

I have to admit that a couple months ago I was going through some old photos and it dawned on me that I was still wearing some stuff from ten, twelve year old pictues. I hate to shop, but that's ridiculous.

Since then, I've made an effort to update things little by little. It hasn't been easy. I figure I try on somewhere around 20 pair of jeans before finding 1 that fits. Thank heavens the new style of shirts these days is longer. There's no way I'll show even an inch of my whiter than white belly.

How does a middle-aged mom look contemporary without looking silly?

And, Deb, where did you get these tips about dressing for your body type? Sounds useful.

Betina Krahn said...

Deb , I'm so sorry to hear you've come down with the TLC Fashionista-itis. I watched for a while, but I managed to tune out before any of the lessons got under my skin. Fortunately my diet-- high in caffein, salt, and saturated fats-- has affected my eyesight so I'm immune to "middle-aged mirror trauma."

Everything I know about fashion I learned from my Mom, who never met a $2.95 garment she didn't like. One of her maxims was: if it fits, buy it in every color. May sound extravagant, but it works for me. I have five colors of the same shorts and at least seven colors of the same t-shirt from Liz Claibourne. Some may call it a lack of imagination, but I prefer to think I'm saving my imagination for better things. And when I go out somewhere, I depend on Mr. Rex to help me coordinate. He's ten times the fashionista I am.

Also-- I have a tip about the white shirts. I used to avoid them like the plague; I was the Queen of dribblers. But then I found those nifty spray bottles of Chlorox all-purpose cleaner. As long as it's cotton (or even mostly cotton!) a gentle spritz on the foody slop stain and a quick wash in cold water will take care of the evidence and viola. . . I no longer look like a dribbler and I get to wear the shirt again and again. True white t-shirts and cotton shells have become my new best friend!

What I have trouble with now are those annoying off-white things that I can't use the Chlorox on and won't respond to Spray'N'Wash. Grrrrr. I'm just not buying those anymore.

Don't thank me. Just doing my part to make the world a brighter, happier place!

Wear white (in small amounts) after Labor Day!

;) Betina

Michele said...

Ah, at least you can get yourself into a store, Deb! I have a great fear of Trying On Clothes In A Store, and would rather take it home, find it doesn't fit, and return it--twice over--before stripping down in a store.

That aside, I pine to be fashionable, but I've given up. Tar-jei is also my shopping mecca of choice. It I can find a twenty dollar shirt on the clearance rack for $3.99--even if it's the wrong color or striped or, heaven forbid, ruched--I'll make it work! Buy no thing unless it's been marked down! (Which doesn't bode well on my wardrobe).

Here in MN, and probably other cold states, we've got the spring/winter Rotate The Closet ritual. (Or is it just because my closet is no bigger than a coffin? Anyway, we've got this huge rubbermaid container that we drag out every October to pack away all the summer clothes and pull out the crunched, wrinkled winter clothes. Same thing happens in the spring.

I so need a walk-in closet.

Debra Dixon said...

I like the books by the English gals, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine. They actually show you their bodies and then you're amazed at what clothing can do! Easy to read and lots of pictures.

Hey, I've got to try that Clorox one. And I, too, am one of those that buys something in every color. I think it's brilliant. However, the snarky American WNTW folks are not so fond of that shopping solution. I do adore Liz Claiborne.

I was a big offender in the "take it home and try it on category." That's how I got into my habit of just accepting clothes if the fit, style or color was "close enough." I'm learning my lesson but I have hated all that trying-on in the stores. Hated it! However, I'm loving the clearance racks. Now that I'm supposed to shop, it's like I've given myself permission to really dig for a good buy! That I love.

Betina Krahn said...

I have to say, I know what the WNTW people mean about investment dressing and all that. And I sympathize, I really do.

It's like those items of clothing we find at a good price, bring home, then wear every time we get the chance. Something that not only feels great, but makes you look like a million bucks too. I've had a few things like that and have gone looking for something looks and/or fits just like it. The hunt usually takes up a boodle of time and I end up disappointed.

There has to be a balance of some kind for benefit vs time spent shopping. If I knew a certain brand would always give me the fit and durability and pricepoint I need, I'd never buy anything else. Unfortunately-- as I've lamented here before-- when I find something complementary and comfortable, the manufacturer changes its lines, cheaps out on the fabric, or makes major quality goofs that drive me nuts.

And I'm back on the street again. . . looking for another miracle.


Helen Brenna said...

You know what I want to know? How can people buy clothing on Ebay?

anne frasier said...

michele, were we separated at birth? i also hate to try on clothes and would rather drag them home and return them. and nothing makes me feel better than a bargain. and nothing makes me queasier than spending money on something really nice that i might never wear.

is queasier a word????

it is now!

anne frasier said...

oh, and ebay. my sister-in-law buys clothes from ebay all the time. jeans, mostly. i once bought a black velvet beret -- it smelled like cigarette smoke and the spray stuff used to cover up cigarette smoke. ick. i'm pretty much over ebay.

Candace said...

No, no, no!!! You ladies have it all wrong. The rules make shopping easier. Really. They do.

For instance, if you know straight-legged, flat-front pants in drapy fabrics look best on you, you can just pass by all the peg-legged, pleated front, tweedy pants without a thought. If you know shaped jackets (with peplums, even)are your friend and boxy-cut jackets make you look like a box, you know not to even take it off the rack, even if it is your favorite color. You don't have to waste tune trying on unsuitable stuff to see if it fits 'cause you know that even if it does, it will look hideous on you.

Knowing the rules saves me buckets of time when I'm shopping. And I do shop. I love to shop. As Carrie on Sex and the City said, "Shopping is my cardio."

Helen Brenna said...

Candace, you're my hero. I don't even know what peplums are!!

Susan Kay Law said...

Argh! Finding jeans is the bane of my existance. I have a lot of difference between my waist and my hips/thighs, and I can't find anything to fit them both. Even "curvy" cuts aren't curvy enough, and I have big gaps at the waist.

I just don't have the stamina to try on forty pairs or so.

Candace said...

Finally, we're talking about something I know something about! Clothes! ANd shopping!

Helen, peplums are founces at the waist of a blouse or jacket. They fit snugly at the waist and then flow/float out over the hips. Very good for curvy figures. or for creating curves were there are none.

Also, a hint about finding jeans that make butts look smaller. Look for big back pockets. Big back pockets make butts look smaller. Small back pockets made butts look bigger. I don't know why, but that's the way it is. Levi 501s have big back pockets. So do Jag jeans. And Seven jeans have great pockets--but they're out of my price range.

And, Suzie, buy your jeans (or any pants)to fit your hips and have a tailor take some darts in the waist. You'll be amazed at how fab you look.

Betina Krahn said...


You are my new shoping guru! Pockets-- the old perspective trick! Wow-- who'd have thought. And I guess I never thought about the rules making things easier. I may have to rethink this whole thing!