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Monday, May 30, 2011

In Which Barneys Sends Me Into Shock . . .

On our last trip to New York City (we're going again this week - yay!) we did a stealth foray into Barneys to see how the Other One Percent lives. Wows. We're not little church mice but one could get to feeling that way in Barneys. The purses that surrounded us probably cost more than my four years of college. The one-liner we still quote around our house is "The Sweatshirt": we were stopped in our tracks by a perfectly nice, ordinary looking men's sweatshirt. For $1,195. OK, it was silk.

Similar, by Yves St. Laurent. Photo via Polyvore

I seek some balance in my wardrobe budget. You probably do too. I love to thrift for the thrill of it, and to keep the overall cost of my wardrobe reasonable. We thrifters all have our glory stories, (I'd love to hear yours) so here's two of mine: I once found a Chanel sweater for a quarter, and a black Versace suit with tags on for $100. End of brag   : >

My first-line items to acquire at thrifts are purses and totes, belts, jewelry, skirts and outerwear. Never: undies and workout clothes. Most knit tops/tees, unless still new, don't look too appealing to me at the thrift.

I also like to shop at "nice" retail stores, to touch and try on the new arrivals. I add a few new pieces every season, although I am a Team Bargain shopper and I wait for sales. I usually pick up some button-down shirts, fresh tees and a pair of shoes or boots. Sometimes a lust-worthy purse or a pair of jeans that promises to change my life.

It beckons me.

The end result, I hope, is a mix of frugality and "I deserve a some new things." Nowhere in that mix is there room for a Barneys sweatshirt. After all, we'll need a roof repair soon (Five Sweatshirts!)

Please let me know:  do you mix thrifting with retail? Do you have any great thrift brags to share? Have you ever had a Barneys sweatshirt-shocker??

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Is Not the Post I Had Prepared . . .

But this New York Times article from today's paper really grabbed me. It's about the effects of repeated "procedures" women have done to our faces in an attempt to look youthful. It's a good read, if you can make time.

One of the main points is that these interventions -- Botox, fillers and facelifts -- don't turn back the clock. No one really thinks we're so much younger than our chronological age. It's more an "identifier" of a certain kind of woman: one who has a bit of extra money, cares a lot about her appearance and wants very much to look a certain way. None of these things is bad, and none of them makes us young again. There is no young again, just whatever age we are now, the best we can be.

The author also bemoans the loss of expressiveness on the faces of Botoxed and facelifted women. I have to say this is something I notice only on TV and at the movies. None of my real-life friends has that look, and most of us are cruising steadily into midlife. So is this an upper class and celebrity phenomenon?

The article also made me feel sad and angry - about the pressures so many of us feel to achieve the impossible. About the value placed on a woman's appearance so much more than on a man's. At a pub last night the TV was tuned to CNN. Secretary of State Clinton was on the screen. I turned to my husband and said, "She's accomplished so much." A man next to me was saying at the same moment, "She looks worse all the time." Would he say that about a male Secretary of State?

Then again (I always argue with myself!) I color my hair, I've bleached my teeth, I use Retin-A on my skin, I get pedicures. What's the sliding scale between "healthy maintenance" and self-delusion? We all want to look good; that's one reason we read our fashion blogs and offer encouragement to each other. But are we OK with also "looking our age"?

Picture via orepibyory.blogspot.com

As always, I'd love to hear from you. Do you have strong or mild feelings about plastic surgery to turn back the clock?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Patti Won't Do (I'm No Oprah!)

All credit for today's post goes to the beautiful and witty Elissa of Dress With Courage. You have to read her post about the "Oprah List" and what is means to be a diva (also check out that awesome cat photo). Apparently, according to Kitty Kelly, Ms. Winfrey is a prima donna who refers to herself in the third person, e.g.: "Oprah does not do stairs". You can read the hilarious-if-spurious story at Elissa's site.

Elissa was inspired to announce the things that "Elissa doesn't do." She encouraged us to contribute our own diva lists. I wondered if I should ask my beloved husband what my diva behaviors are. I decided against it: he thinks putting on lipstick is borderline diva.

So here is my sincere "we don't play that" list. These are just my thangs. I have a lot of love for some people who do the following with regularity:

  1. Patti doesn't go camping. Except at the Holiday Inn.
  2. Patti doesn't wear short-shorts, stilettos or tube tops outside the house.
  3. Although a great sports fan, Patti doesn't play beach volleyball in any kind of swimsuit.
  4. Patti doesn't wear tee shirts with cartoon characters on them.
  5. Or faux-funny sayings, like "I'm with Stupid."
  6. Patti doesn't do country music concerts, state fairs or any (husband quote) "outdoor beer festivals".
  7. Patti doesn't do loud, bloody, car-chase movies, especially sequels.
  8. Patti doesn't eat meat (but does wear leather shoes . . . )

Hmmm, do I sound like a princess/city slicker/snob? I'm not! I'm from Nutley, New Jersey! But one of the thrills of being 50 is you know what you like and who you are, and you can pass on a lot of the rest  : >

Please go read Elissa's article, and let me know what your "don't's" are. Happy Wednesday.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

That Trendy Indulgent Item is . . .

You must have seen Tim Gunn's Ten Essential Items for every woman's wardrobe. I love Tim Gunn, he is my pretend best fashion friend and we go shopping together in my dreams. He is strict with me and gives me that raised eyebrow when I err. Then we have tea in nice china cups and gossip about fashion.

In future posts I'll discuss my thoughts on Tim's list and how it suits the modern work/casual woman. Today I've been ruminating on Tim's "bonus" piece: One Indulgent Trendy Item. I scratch my head. What would that be for me, a midlife, Not Dead Yet professional-yet-casual woman with a modest budget? I'm not terribly inclined to indulge myself, having grown up with Good Work Ethics and all. And trendy is not a word frequently used to describe my wardrobe.

But let's have some fun! I have some wonderful readers and commenters, whom I love to hear from. Let's take a vote on which Trendy Indulgent Item we'd add to our wardrobe if money were not an issue. I've kept all the items at around $200- $300, which is high-limits for me but doesn't get into J-Lo territory:

Colorful cowboy boots. Sal at Already Pretty owns these and I have been swooning over them. They look swoon-y with a dress or with jeans. Are they trendy? I think the design is classic and the color makes them of-the-moment.

Leather bomber jacket. This is another item I've longed for, but never took the plunge. I love the look with all kinds of outfits, especially with feminine dresses and blouses. Steph at The Dashing Eccentric really rocks this mixed-texture look. I am a tiny bit squeamish about all the leather, as I'm a vegetarian. I do own leather bags and shoes, so I am far from devout. I'm working it out.

Andrew Marc jacket via Zappos.com

Anthropologie skirt.  I always ogle these beautiful floral and abstract skirts. I even put them in my shopping cart, then talk myself out of them. I say, "Self, you could buy new sheets, pillows and new workout shoes for that money!" But observe the beauty:

A fabulous tote bag. Again, I look and love, but do not buy. I carry my work papers in a cute purple tote that suits me, and cost about $25 at Ross. But for the Indulgent Item, I wouldn't mind one of these dreamy totes and I would give it a workout, I promise.

L.A.M.B. Tote via Nordstroms

So help me out ladies, and share your picks for One Indulgent Trendy Item. Would it be similar to any of mine? What other goodies would you indulge in? Or are most of us too gosh-darn practical to splurge on ourselves? Have a wonderful day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lace - Old Lady or Always in Style?

I don't have any lace in my closet. Not a scrap. I didn't know that until I thought about writing this today. And I love the look of lace, simply love it. Kate Middleton's gown gave me shivers, as did her exquisite veil. Then there are these dreamy, feminine blouses to contemplate:


Left to Right: Net-A-Porter, Nordstroms, Macy's

 I am also deeply in love with this Ralph Lauren lace skirt. When it is on sale . . .

So why don't I own or wear any lace items right now? Maybe it's my memory of this horror from my youth:

Courtesy Chictopia

Kidding! Or maybe it's the fear of looking too Church Lady, too stuffy, too Miss Havisham:

I think the best way to introduce lace items to my wardrobe would be a clean-lined blouse like this one. It's not fussy or Old-Lady, and it's not Bridal. I do like ivory next to my face. To stay modern, I'd pair it with a slim skirt or . . . a pair of jeans? And keep the accessories clean: simple earrings or bracelet, watch, and ring.

Courtesy asianscent.com

I also have been ogling lace-covered skirts like this one from Talbots (yes, Talbots). Here I would want to pair it with a simple knit top, even an upscale tee, to avoid the Bridal or worse, Mother of the Bride look. Maybe a pair of sleek boots too.

Do you wear lace? How do you work it into your style and how do you accessorize? Or is it hopelessly inappropriate for the 40- and 50-something working woman? Please let me hear your thoughts, and have a lovely, lacy day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Styling a Sundress at 40-Plus

Today I'm inspired by fellow blogger Sheila at Ephemera who rocked a halter top dress with a sweater over it. Got me thinking about summer and sundresses, and the over-40 take on showing skin.

Sundresses are wonderful - perfect for about six months a year here in the South. Even in my Northern years, I loved a floral sundress in July, with sandals and an ill-gotten tan (no more of those!)  There are so many lovely dresses to choose from, at all price points. This season has introduced a lot of maxi's. Not for everyone, in fact not quite for me yet, but a pretty look and a nice alternative to jeans if you want to cover your legs.
maxi sundresses
Sometimes, as a woman of a certain age, I feel that I want a litle more coverage of my upper arms and decolletage than a sundress provides. (Other times, I don't care at all, and prance around town in a tank top with my head held high; I'm Not Dead Yet!) On those occasions that call for a tad more modesty, I generally reach for one of the following:
  • Like Sheila, I layer a knit top over the sundress, so it looks like a top-and-skirt. The top has to be a little roomy, or awkward lines can show through. Sheila did it perfectly.
  • I pop on a button-front cotton shirt and belt it. I have a couple of white cotton no-frills shirts that are perfect for this purpose. One is from Ralph Lauren and it's a true workhorse. Another is a Gap (similar). I prefer 100% cotton shirts for casual and the No-Iron shirts for work. I guess I don't want to look too crisp on my days off . . .?
  • I layer a fitted tee under the sundress. In this case, the tee has to be fairly snug so as not to interfere with the line of the dress. Being a neutrals gal, I go with a black or white Gap tee. I try to avoid the Missionary look by choosing a tee with a nice vee or scoop-neck.

This is the *general* idea of layering - but add about 8" to the skirt, and for me, subtract the socks  : >
Photo courtesy Fabsugar.co.uk

I am sure there are other ways to modest-ize a sundress: a cardi or shrug, even a linen blazer? I haven't tried these yet but the summer is young. I'd love to hear your views - do you feel comfortable in a sundress without cover? If not, how do you modify the look to make you happy?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beauty and Style: What's Gotten Better With Age?

I'm inspired today by a post I read on NaturallyCurly.com about the physical aspects of aging. The question was posed: What do we like better about our physical selves as we age? Well, several posters piped right up with: nothing! And there are days when I definitely echo that sentiment. Some mornings, my face looks a bit saggy, eyes crinkled, silver showing at the roots of my hair.

By aging, I'm not talking about that lovely transition from college girl to working woman/mother: those physical changes in our 20's and 30's give our face its form, smooth out our awkwardness and calm down our skin. Those are the decades when we learn how to apply makeup artfully, tame and twist our hair, and build a flattering wardrobe.

The beauty and style changes that emerge after age 40 have not been given as much positive press. Let's try to wring some out here! I'll start, and I will try to maintain my sense of humor:
  • My posture is definitely better as a result of yoga and stretching.
  • I can afford a pedicure and sometimes my toes look great.
  • My silver hairs have a lot of body, so my 'do looks more bountiful.
  • I know my best colors much better and am not too easily led astray.
  • I've developed a blissful relationship with my hair stylist, who understands curly hair!
  • I don't choose to, but I could wear a Chanel suit and not look silly.
  • My eyelashes are ridiculously long, thanks to generic Latisse.
  • I never stay out all night anymore, so very few dark under-eye circles.
  • Deep rose lipstick looks good on a mature face!

A smile and confidence are always in style.
Photo courtesy of BlitheandBlonde

Please let me know what you think: what's gotten better for you, style and beauty wise? Younger readers, what do you hope/expect to keep getting better?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Going the Extra Mile . . . Worth It!

Anybody fall prey to "good enough" dressing and then regret it? Example: For a casual lunch out with my husband in our small city, a pair of Bermuda shorts, a clean tee and sandals would be Good Enough. No complaints from the husband, no horrible fashion faux-pas.

But before I head out the door, I feel not-quite-right. I sense I am wasting an opportunity to look more like the confident woman I am. I change into a summery skirt, add a fitted white tee and higher wedge sandals. I repeat my fashion mantra: "Everything I wear makes me feel great". Why shouldn't it? Why should a piece of clothing drape itself around me if it's not beautiful anymore, or if it looks ordinary?

No judgments here: wear what pleases you, gives you comfort and suits your fancy at any given moment. For me it's becoming a matter of not "giving up and going along" with the good-enoughs. I'm not at a stage in my style evolution in which I want to add a lot of new ideas. I want to refine, tweak, cultivate. I want to elevate above Good Enough to Ahhhh, Just Right.

Good Enough:
Good Enough Set

I Feel Great:
Just as easy to wear but with 10% more style than my Bermudas

I'll never have this hair - that's OK - but I DID add a cool necklace like this

The books I mentioned in my previous post have helped me boost my style for daily wear. The TV show "What Not To Wear" has also helped. I can hear Stacy and Clinton in my head: "Style is not effortless!"

So many of my fabulous fellow bloggers have inspired me to upgrade my casual wear. Here are just a handful of the many posts that have helped snap me out of my ruts. Oh sisters, I know I am leaving out bajillions of great posts too!:

Wardrobe Oxygen, How Does One Get the Polished Look?
You Look Fab, Five Ways To Look Your Best 
You Look Fab, 10 Casual Outfit Formulas for Moms on the Go
What I Wore 2Day, Color Yourself Happy
Already Pretty, What Do You Want To Look Like?

I'd love to hear your feedback - if you're reading fashion blogs, you're interested in style, so you probably do Go The Extra Mile, right?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Likes and Dislikes: An Exercise For List Makers

I have read a lot of fashion/style books. I devote a whole shelf of our bookcase to them. I usually buy them used from Amazon.com, because I don't care if they're a little dated; I think that makes them more fun. As with most educational experiences, I glean a couple of memorable tidbits from each book. Nothing revolutionary, but pieces of a puzzle that have helped me define my style. I'll put a list of my favorite books at the end of this post.

Today I came across an old document in my computer files. I know I copied it from a fashion/style book, but I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember which one. I give credit right here to all the talented authors listed below! The exercise shown below is to free-associate words that represent what you like and dislike about fashion. Try to be general versus specific. That is, "I like clean lines" rather than "I like skinny jeans."

I must have thought it was fun, and apparently I came up with these two lists:

A potpourri of dislikes!

Visual clutter

Clean lines
Pop of color
Subtly feminine
Mix of masculine/feminine

I did this about two years ago and looking at the lists now, I wouldn't change much. I think it would be useful now to narrow down the lists -- if I could only dislike/like, let's say, three things, what would they be? For example I really, really dislike . . . stiff, staid and overdone clothing (on me). I really, truly like . . . clean lines and comfortable clothes with movement.

I'd love to hear from you, your dislikes and likes about style in general. And, do you have some favorite books to recommend?

Some of my favorite fashion books, in no particular order:

The Pocket Stylist by Kendall Farr
Simple Isn't Easy by Olivia Goldsmith and Amy Fine Collins
In The Dressing Room With Brenda by Brenda Kinsel
40 Over 40 by Brenda Kinsel
Closet Smarts by Emily Neill
Ten Steps to Fashion Freedom by Malcolm Levene and Kate Mayfield
What Not To Wear by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine
The Lucky Shopping Manual by Kim France and Andrea Linett

Loss, Goodbyes, Lessons

The husband of a friend died suddenly this week, at an age I (now) consider young. I didn't know John especially well; he was mostly "Laura's husband." But every time I saw him he was full of kindness and grace. He always seemed the definition of a gentleman. He beamed with pride whenever his wife, the more extroverted of the two, took the public stage. The kind of man that would never sit while a woman stood. His passing is certainly a crushing loss to his beautiful, spirited wife and his family, and to all who had the pleasure to truly know him.

This has nothing to do with fashion. In fact, it makes me cringe a bit at the title of my blog. But while I grieve with my friend, I renew my commitment to live while I'm alive! All of us: we're not promised a certain length of years. Whatever inspires us, let's do it. Spread some joy today, major in the majors, enjoy your sandwich, say I love you, and wear your favorite dress.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do We Like Jeans With a Flare/Flair?

I never want to sound like the stereotypical Old Lady when discussing fashion trends ("tsk tsk, I wore those when I was seventeen"). I try to keep my eyes and mind open for all the lovely new styles that pass by. I try to adapt them to my own lifestlye, body type and budget. I'm reckoning you do the same, and that's why you're here.

For example: all the variations and permutations of jeans. Jeans are in style for ever and always, right? We've been wearing them since we were tots, and intend to wear them into the Assisted Living Facility (where the Muzak will likely be The Stones and Led Zep). I've worn every style of jean since I was old enough to choose, including these:

and, sadly, these:

Now I am most comfortable in a pair of straight legs or a pair of boot cuts. I have medium and dark denims, no light wash or distressed. The waists are slightly low-cut, so as to be comfortable and, I hope, stylish. I feel great when I wear these, and look forward here in Florida to the slightly cool days when I can add my boots and a blazer. Those days are few, of course!

My current favorite brands are Gap, Nine West, and believe it or not, Target. I'm a bit of a cheapskate so I eschew the high-end brands. Nothing wrong with loving pricey jeans, if they make you happy or fit you just right. You will get your price-per-wear out of them.

So - this year flares are back and they are red-hot, the mags say. I will pass on them because they skew a bit too young for my look. I also have proportionately shorter legs and flares do them no favors. I do love looking at them and appreciate the style. And they remind me (sorry, here comes the Old Lady) of an exciting time in my youth, when the world was spinning like a top and everything was possible for us. Here are some current flared jeans I find attractive, though not necassarily for me to wear:
flare jeans
What are your jean-loves? Will you wear the flare? Do you go high-end or budget for your denim? Care to share any jean history?  : >