Fashionally Challenged

Louise Brooks

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Am I the only woman in the world who experiences difficulty finding clothing she likes?

Let me differentiate:  I’m talking about clothing I like, not necessarily what’s in “style” (whatever that means).

I’m the first to admit that I’m no slave to fashion.  I don’t rush out to purchase the latest “look” (particularly when I know with gut-deep certainty that I’ll appear totally ridiculous in it).  My expectations aren’t inordinately high.  I just want some clothes in a classic style that fit me in a flattering way.  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  So why is it so damned difficult to find?

I’ve never been a “dress up and go out” sort of girl.  Oh, there were times I wished I were, times I would have liked to get snazzied up and attend some function, but the truth is that there were (and remain to this day) very few fancy events on my horizon.  I can’t justify buying clothes I’ll never wear.  Truth is, I’m less inclined toward that sort of thing nowadays anyway.  I’d much prefer an evening of good food and friends. But, dammit, I’d still like to look nice.

I dread the notion of clothes shopping.  I don’t have the income to support the price tags in the trendy shops of Mystic or Stonington, and I downright despise the Mall.  Talk about depressing.  There’s no point in going store-to-store because they all carry the same (excuse me) crap.  If it isn’t poorly made (and much of it is), it’s in colors and patterns so ugly I wouldn’t dress a dead dog in them.  I’m too old for young fashions and too young for what’s deemed “age appropriate.”  (Don’t you freaking love that turn of phrase?  I may be old enough to be a grandmother, but I’m not ready to dress like my grandmother did.  Hell, my friend Lorraine is a great-grandmother and she still struts her stuff.)

My needs are simple:  a few decent pair of jeans and slacks; some nice sweaters that don’t make me look like a linebacker or a bag lady; tee shirts that don’t reach to my knees (I like a high-hip cut, thank you); a couple of nice dresses or skirts.  You wouldn’t believe how difficult they are to find.

For a long time, I resorted to thrift shops.  There are those who look down their noses at such places, but here’s the thing:  I’ve purchased nearly-new Levis for $5.99 as opposed to $50.  You do the math.  It’s not all worn out clothing, faded and spot-ridden.  We’re talking some nice things by some nice designers:  Columbia, Willie Smith, and others.  Unfortunately, it’s as much of a crap-shoot as the regular stores.  You never know what you’ll find.  Sometimes you hit the jackpot.  At other times, it’s a wasteland.  I had some luck at Eddie Bauer once upon a time, but not lately.

It doesn’t help that I’m disinclined to what are considered “feminine” colors.  I eschew pastels, can’t wear any shade of purple (alas; it makes me look like a lemon).  Yellow washes me out.  Some shades of pink look good, but I don’t like pink.  I’m drawn to darker colors — navy and teal blues, leaf and sage and pine greens, dark brown, a few particular shades of red.  Pick up any catalog (say LL Bean for example) and you’ll find a plethora of those colors…in the men’s clothing section.  Damned few in the women’s.

I’ve decided now that when I find a clothing item I like, I’m buying more than one.  If I only like one color it’s offered in, then I’ll have two of tthe same color.  So what?

Sometimes I imagine what it must have been like in the day when everything was tailor-made.  (Yes, I know a lot of clothing was homemade as well and some of it looked good and some looked like the flour sacks it was made of.)  In this fantasy, I have enough money to go into a well-known tailor’s to be measured and choose material.  Imagine having clothing made to fit your particular body shape rather than having to endure squeezing into something only a hipless four-year-old could wear, or resigning yourself to swimming in one of those erroneous “one size fits all” pillowcases.  It must have been wonderful.  As long as I’m living that fantasy, I may as well go all the way.  I want to look like Myrna Loy:

or Marilyn Monroe:

or Judi Dench:

or Jamie Lee Curtis:

or Cyd Charisse:

I mean, if I’m going to dream, may as well dream big.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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2 Responses to Fashionally Challenged

  1. MJ Allaire says:

    Your blogs always make me smile, and I can always “hear” you in them. And, for the record, I LOVE Jaime Lee Curtis – she’s beautiful!

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