Showing signs of my age once again,
for your delight and amusement.
As I ponder how the world is changing, one of the things I notice most is how we dress, or rather, how rare it is to see anyone dressed UP.
I grew up in an era where we used the expressions Church Clothes and School Clothes and Play Clothes. There WAS a distinction and an unwritten handbook on what was socially acceptable fashion. The Who, the What, the Wear and the When.
Suits and ties for the guys.
Belted slacks and tucked in shirts.
Dresses and skirts.
Hose and Heels for the gals.
For Church. For eating out at a restaurant. For weddings and funerals and family portraits. For Christmas Cards, dances, reunions etc.
Business casual did not exist for me, early on.
In fact, my first year of college, women were required to wear a dress to the evening meal. Teachers were not allowed to wear pants in the classroom. Many women wore hats to just about any event, even though, as I look back, the hats were hideous.
Ironic. So ironic that at the time of my Freshman year in college, the late 60’s, the mini-skirt was a fad. Emphasis on the word MINI. Yet the rules required us to wear skirts to class, while sitting down in them, was something of a contortionistic battle.
Life changed over night. Everything seemed to change over night in the late 60’s. Sophomore year all bets were off. All dress codes rewritten. Bell bottoms and torn t-shirts in the conga line in the cafeteria at dinner hour. Pant suits in the classroom.
Hats OFF. Head scarves and bandanas ON and IN.
60’s. 70’s. 80’s. 90’s
Through fads and trends and style changes, underneath disgusting shoulder pads and leisure suits, some rules remained in place. People not only noticed, but commented mercilessly, both out loud and under their breath, if one appeared in public, UNDER dressed. Businesses filled hiring manuals with clothing restrictions.
I would like to be able to tell you when the Earth shifted, and new norms came into play, but it was not a sudden and remarkable shift. It simply happened. Oh sure, someone got to be the first wise guy to photograph Wal-Mart shoppers and ridicule reared its ugly head. However, these days, when I look around me, I wonder when Church Clothes, and School Clothes and Play Clothes merged into…
ANY CLOTHES GOES.
Notice lately how most Wedding Invitations now have a footnote reminding invited guests…
Cocktail or Evening Wear
I received one recently and waltzed into my closet to see what might do for such an occasion.
NOT MUCH. Oh, I had some really lovely and EXTREMELY dated and INCREDIBLY TOO SMALL and UNBELIEVABLY UNACCEPTABLY TOO SHORT FOR MY AGE dresses.
Which meant…a trip to the MALL.
To try on DRESSES.
Appropriate for a woman MY age.
I shun dressing rooms. You all know I tend to wear one or two or possibly three pairs of Reading Glasses to get a closer look at objects that are more than two inches away from my face.
NOT IN A DRESSING ROOM
No glasses allowed. Thank you very much.
I picked out over 20 dresses, and wriggled myself into each one, squinting at myself in the mirror, and resisting the urge to cry. I know I know I know it is against all fashion rules to wear hose at ANY age, but c’mon people, it’s tough to be that brave. However, floor length dresses for someone my age, make me look like Queen Elizabeth’s twin. All I need is a purse and shoes dyed to match.
Slightly under the knee. Just barely.
I am fed up. Ready to bolt and revolt, then offer myself one more option. The Department Upstairs that carries clothes for special occasions only.
Aggghh. Beads and bangles and lace and well, maybe that one might work. Head down and dismayed, I walk to the fitting room. As I raise my gaze, a young 20 Something dressed like an angel in an ivory delicacy, crosses my path, and I comment on how lovely she looks. I hear a snorting sound. It is her mother grinning from ear to ear…told you so… she says to her angelic daughter. She, the about to be married, I need a dress for the Rehearsal Dinner, daughter.
Mom and I share a look and she glances at the dress folded over my arm. Wedding? You too? I nod. Need help?, she inquires.
There isn’t enough help in the world to get me through this, I say.
But my dear friends, oh yes there is. Indeed, for the next hour and a half, friends, angel friends, have my back. One bride, three sisters, one Mom like me, and two saleswomen, launch into full assault. I try, I twirl, I zip and unzip, stand in front of the three way mirror and await the points from the judges. We are in this together. Wrong color, too long, too dowdy, on and on…until…
I walk out of the dressing room to…
I swear on my honor that this happened, and that I had tears in my eyes, as my new crew of fashionistas, gave me a 10!!
I can honestly tell you that I felt…Pretty
There were hugs all around with my new found friends, every age and size and shape, now bonded by Fitting Room Fatigue. I felt more than pretty. I felt blessed by the true kindness of strangers.
As I checked out, one of the saleswomen suggested I try a touch of self tanner, and perhaps a pair of black strappy heels.
Please remember that all good stories,
may have an alternate ending.
A story about goodness and mercy,
often ends as a cautionary tale.
I forgot to wash my hands and ended up with streaks of orange, between my fingers, like a webbed footed duck.
Oh and the strappy black shoes.
I grabbed a pair I had not worn for over a decade, and they literally disintegrated at the event, leaving a trail of rubber and leather all the way to the bathroom. I, luckily had a pair of flats in the car, and managed to hobble across the parking lot before too many noticed.
I wasn’t worried, as I was among friends. Older friends, not like my newly found friends in the fitting room. Older friends like me, who simply wanted to dance the night away, until our hips hurt. Some with their original hips and a few with Titanium replacements, holding one another in a conga line to Dancing Queen by Abba.
I am a lucky lucky woman.
Even without hose and heels.
If you did not believe the disintegrating shoe segment…
Believe in the Kindness Of Strangers…
And a Decent Pair Of Shoes!!!