Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Farewell Boxy Shirts & Baggy Capri Pants

I love summertime. I love the ocean and everything associated with it--surf, salt air, sailing and lobster. I love the fact that there’s an abundance of limes and mint for Mojitos. So it’s always sad when the air turns cooler in September, heralding the end of another summer season. There are a couple of summer fashion items, however, I’m not sorry to bid adieu to. The first is my swimsuit (see previous posting). Another is the pairing of boxy-styled shirts and baggy Capri or cropped slacks.

I understand the urge to wear comfy, baggy clothing. It’s so frustrating to see one’s body lose its youthful shape or, worse, expand in 365 different directions. But covering up with as much fabric as possible isn’t the answer. Too much fabric just makes women look bigger than they really are. And the cropped pants make most legs look shorter, stumpier. To illustrate, I’ve drawn myself in a shapeless, Hawaiian-style shirt over baggy Capri pants. However, it’s a combo I would never, ever wear. And it makes me so sad to see so many other women wearing it.

Besides being engulfed in too much fabric, the oversized man-styled shirt and baggy Capri slacks is masculine looking. Looking feminine is, perhaps, the Number #1 way the after 50 woman can look her best. The perky, trim twenty-something can wear the boyfriend’s suit jacket—which, apparently, is a wardrobe ‘must-have.’ Maybe the tall, rail-thin 50+ woman can, too. (Think: rocker Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.) But the full-figured and pear-shaped older woman should think twice before dressing like her husband or other men. It’s just not flattering for two reasons. First, our figures are less shapely and more manly—breasts and belly have begun to blend, the belly protrudes, the waistline parallels the hipline. And second, if your face is like mind—with its sags, bags and jowls—it has lost some of its feminine definition and is more masculine looking than it was 20 years ago. We don’t need to compound the situation with a manly wardrobe. We need to balance the mounting man attributes by dressing in feminine clothing.

I’m not suggesting that all women should burn their Capri slacks. On the right after 50 body—the one that’s petite and/or blessed with slim legs—a slim-cut Capri slack combined with a fitted top can be very flattering. It even works with the pear-shaped or full-figured woman who has great legs. When a girlfriend of mine—who is full-figured with great legs—wears a fitted top over slim-cut Capri pants, she looks wonderful. I’ve included a drawing of her at a 4th of July barbecue. The key is limiting the amount of fabric involved.

At a restaurant over Labor Day, I saw a fifty-something woman dressed in a black V-neck top and white Capri pants (seeing drawing). She was petite and looked fantastic in her nice-fitting outfit.

So on this first day of autumn, I wish to bid adieu to all the boxy shirts and baggy Capri slacks in women’s wardrobes. It’s time for those items to go into storage. And with any luck, they’ll be too stained, faded, or thread worn to return for another season.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Un Femme Poire

What does the after 50 figure look like? Well, of course, it comes in all shapes and sizes and colors and textures. The majority of women I know fall into one of three basic shapes:

  • Full figure. These friends, work colleagues and acquaintances have been full figured all their adult lives. But in recent years, they have gotten a tad fuller, shall we say.

  • Pear shape. Although these women had the perfect (or near perfect) hourglass figures in their twenties and thirties, the sands of time, if you will, have settled around their waist, hips and thighs.

  • Rail thin. Statuesque or petite, these women will be thin till the day they die. (Don’t you hate it when they tell you how hard they work to keep the weight off? Complete fiction.)
Full disclosure: I am un femme poire—the female pear. I wasn’t always; it’s been a gradual and very sad transformation. Many years ago, while I was watching a football game with my dad, he asked me what my waist measured. At the time, I had an hourglass figure, more or less. When I told him my waist size, my dad pointed out that my waist was only two inches wider than defensive linebacker "Refrigerator" Perry’s neck. But that was a long, LONG time—and multiple pregnancies—ago. Today, I’m a perfect pear.

I’ve included a drawing of myself in a swimsuit at age 50+. It’s a bit of a fabrication for two reasons. First, due to ridiculously large thighs, I haven’t worn a bathing suit without shorts (cut-offs in my 20s, gym shorts after that) in 30 years. But I thought the swimsuit sans shorts would provide a better view of my pear shape. The other problem with the drawing is that it makes me look a lot cuter than I do in real life. It goes without saying that I’m not a trained illustrator. I made the face rectangular to illustrate my advancing jowls, but I couldn’t figure out how to show all my age spots and wrinkles without making the face look like an onion and pepperoni pizza. In the 80s, my eldest son used to watch a Saturday morning cartoon based on a blockbuster action movie. I remember watching it with him once and thinking that several of the movie stars looked much better as cartoon characters. Suffice it to say, I do, too.

You might think I’m only interested in fashions that flatter the pear shape. But it’s not true. I’m interested in all fashions for the after 50 body—regardless of the shape they flatter. And I'm determined to find them and share them in this blog.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Search and Blog Begin

Recently, I was standing at a crosswalk on 7th Avenue (yes—Fashion Avenue), waiting for the light to change. It was a typical summer day in New York City—hot, muggy, greasy, smelly—the sort of day you don’t want to be delayed (even for a 58-second traffic light) from your air-conditioned destination. While I waited, I looked for a distraction. I noticed a fifty-something woman waiting to cross the avenue from the opposite side. She was wearing a butter-colored knit dress with short sleeves and matching sandals. When the light finally turned and the woman passed me, I noticed how the dress moved with her body. The cut and length of the dress flattered her height and weight. She was no more than 5’5.’’ But the monotone fabric and the absence of interrupting elements—big flashy jewelry or a dark, thick belt—made her appear her full height, if not taller. She was not skin-‘n-bones; there were a few midlife bulges here and there. However, the body mass: fabric ratio seemed perfect for her. The dress clung to her torso without squeezing it and flowed below the hips without ballooning.

I was with a best friend at the time, spending the day in Manhattan (we’d been to the Chelsea Market, the new High Line and Pastis for lunch). "Did you see the woman in the butter-colored dress?" I asked as we walked east to catch a movie playing on Broadway. My friend had not. "She was our age and she looked great. Flattering fashions for us do exist. But what are they and where can we get them?" A moment later, overwhelmed with enthusiasm, I exuded, "Maybe I’ll start a blog, a notebook of flattering fashions for the after 50 woman."

"Fashion is personal," snapped my friend, clearly not feeling my enthusiasm.

Yes, yes, it’s personal. I wouldn’t dare tell someone what his/her style should be. The world would be much more interesting, more amusing if everyone had a style of his or her own. But finding a flattering style after 50 is a challenge. And so, my search and this blog begin.