2018-10-10 / Columns

Feeling outwitted when looking for a little fashion inspiration


I am staring at myself in a department store mirror and trying not to laugh. I am decked out in what the sales consultant has called a “must-have accessory.” In my ignorance, I would simply have called it a scarf.

This gauzy, flimsy object that looked absolutely wonderful draped around the neck of a mannequin, looks absolutely absurd on me. It loops and sags where it shouldn’t. It gaps where it should hug. And because I am small, it has given me the aura of a waif drowning in her mother’s dress-up clothes.

The sales consultant now eyes me warily. Clearly, I am not her ideal customer. I’m a very far cry from those perfectly coiffed, impeccably groomed specimens who always know how to tie THEIR scarves. They also know exactly how to mix and match their shades of taupes and browns without looking like they have a serious case of the flu. They can surely find the perfect pumps for their perfect three-piece ensembles. And they would never ever carry a pocketbook with a few suspicious pizza sauce stains.

In my—ahem—golden years, I admit it: I’m a fashion failure. I’m out of step, out of synch, and out of inspiration.

The New York Times fashion pages make me gasp in wonder because never ever could I pull off those jaw-dropping uneven hemlines, severely straight, unforgiving skirts or newly cinched waistlines.

Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve carried those magazine-ideal images in my head as I’ve combed the aisles of my favorite stores grabbing up the items that will assemble my ensemble.

But as much as I’d wanted to make a dazzling fashion statement with subtle layers, I ended up looking bulky, awkward and overstuffed…Turtlenecks truly make me look like a turtle. Jackets with shoulder pads transform me into a fullback on the losing team. And pants with flared legs suggest to the world that I forgot to shed my pajamas.

Fashion foils me. Outwits me. Reduces me to a quivering mass of jelly instead of a confident, coolly elegant woman of a certain age.

In my closet, tops somehow never coordinate with bottoms. Dresses that I was sure I could carry off hang limply from hangers, mute testimony to dressing room follies.

But the ultimate fashion humiliation came recently when I reached inside our mailbox and out tumbled the usual bills, business mail, unsolicited ads and promotions, and one gorgeous ivory envelope that weighed so much that its postage marched clear across the top.

And there, in perfect script, was an invitation to an Event worthy of that capital “E.” The charity ball/dinner-dance would be at the glittering hotel in the city, and it would, of course, be black tie.

Usually, my instinct is to toss these invitations and start on the bills. But this time, for reasons I’d be hard put to explain, I put it on top of the pile and showed it to my husband the minute he came home. “Let’s go,” I heard myself saying before I quite realized it.

Suddenly, I wanted to indulge that foolish fantasy of being young and dressed up at a time when we were definitely not the former, and not too conversant with the latter.

The very next day, I was out in the marketplace seeking the perfect dress for the Event.

I bypassed black—safe.

I even walked right by the beiges—also too safe—and the pastels, which seemed too bland.

I grabbed an armful of scarlets and midnight blues, and headed off to the dressing room caressing the delicious fabrics and trying to imagine them with sexy sandals and wonderful jewelry. No matter that I owned neither.

I left the fourth store realizing that fantasies about image are just that. I am decidedly not a prom queen. And my “signature look,” as those women’s magazines call it, is probably a well-cut pair of slacks and a sweater that doesn’t overwhelm my 5-ft., 2-in. frame.

So I rushed home from my formal foraging to console myself with some cake straight from the freezer, and a side dish of potato chips. Never mind the nutritional implications of that binge.

And just once more, I studied the elegant response card for the charity ball before I firmly deposited it into the wastebasket.

No, no ball this time around.

This Cinderella would stay home in her jeans and sneakers and perhaps clean out the kitchen junk drawer. The banquet of the evening might be a turkey meat loaf.

And somehow, the prospect didn’t seem half-bad. 


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