Archive for the ‘Fashionista’ Category

Kelly Gray circa 1999

During random dissassociative moments I find myself googling for vintage St. John ads.  I do it in part  because pop culture has destroyed my mental image of the midlife female with “Cougar Town” and reality TV, and I may be trying to scrub Hollywood’s Disgraceful Older-Woman imagery out of my brain with more appealing images.  The old St. John ads were purposeful design parodies, and they were fabulous, and the sophisticated look was in vogue in the late 90’s when I got divorced and started buying my own clothes.

The other reason is, I just bought my first St. John dress:

Isn’t it ordinary looking?  It’s really not: The department just store picks the wrong models for their established designer lines. On a middle aged woman with some shape St. John knits are perfect:  Professional, forgiving, just right, worth the price, but only on clearance.    I was lucky enough to be in a store that had my size: One of their stylists picked it out for me and I fell in love with the quality and the fit.  There is a reason the St. John Tribe is so devoted:  It’s one of the few design houses that cater the midlife body. Customers scream bloody murder when new designers try to “update” the style or fit.

As a woman at midlife, I find that if I want notice, I must command it. Waiters can be slow to respond to my black Banana Republic pantsuits. But they “ma’am” my St. John.

My first St. John was a $1000+ splurge, but I’d just gone through a period of extreme wardrobe aggravation. My super-abundant closet space had been overstuffed with clothes I loved but couldn’t wear, not because I’d gotten “fat” but because my body had changed shape without my permission.  My ribcage expanded, which made button-up shirts out of the question. All of a sudden I had hips . . . which was good in a way, since I’d never really had them before, but DAMN, I couldn’t button my tailored pants anymore.

Much in the way one’s eyesight fails in one’s forties, there is nothing that can be done about middle aged spread except buy new clothes.  This is why women in their forties wear yoga pants all the time:  We don’t want to admit we’ve reached the elastic-waistband-pants stage of our older female relatives, who we swore we’d never look like.  Unfortunately Time doesn’t care what we think.

I finally boxed my old size (4) and put them in the attic for some future when I magically reverted to my old weight, as if that would ever happen. I decided to give them to my niece. A year later, I boxed my size 6 clothes, and will probably give them to my younger sister.  Today, some of my 8’s don’t even fit, unless they’re knits, which means my wardrobe is now 95% knits. I’ve come to terms with it, and found a way to make it all look professional.  The smartest tactic was to go high-end retail on important items, and fill in the rest with stealth.  I went crazy during Coldwater Creek’s going out of business sale, and returned to my old online standby, Boston Proper’s slowly-morphing travel collection. Some recent acquisitions:

One would think I’d find solace in my shoes, because at least feet don’t get fat, right?  WRONG.  Feet expand and contract when hormones go whackadoodle.  For a year or so my feet shrank a whole size.  Then they grew back.  Now even they are tight.  Consequently my closet is full of shoes I can’t wear on any given day so . . . My advice?  Unless they are adjustable, shoes are NOT an “investment.”  DO NOT DO THIS:

So am I finally reconciled with my new body and my new closet? More or less, since Spooky doesn’t give a flip either way.  I can get through a work week without headaches now, and my old clothes no longer taunt me from their hangers. Out of sight, out of mind!  The shoes though . . . both my feet and my pocketbook say “Ouch.”


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Claridge & King – Quality tailoring, some ironing required 

I recently added four Izod no-iron cufflink button down shirts to my wardrobe.  Either my chest has deflated to the point where it no longer gets in the way of menswear inspired women’s fashion, or Izod has just figured out that women have boobs.  Either way I am happy to have more choices, and so long as I don’t have a drycleaning bill or a pile of ironing I’m going to wear them to work.

How times have changed: I used to be a bit of a fashion icon at my office.  I had a lot more energy back then, and spent a lot of time and money at the tailor. One of my hires, when I was the company recruiter in the mid-2000’s, was a beneficiary of  my mid-life weight gain:  I gave her several Dior jackets I’d outgrown, plus a few pair of really nice high heeled shoes.  Through the years (she said) she watched how I dressed and marveled at how no matter what was going on in the fashion world I always “got it;” i.e., I made it work for the office.  She confided she’d been following my fashion lead all along.

I can totally see my boss in this outfit.  Me, not so much anymore. These days, I’m the one in the cubicle, dressed like a boy who’s still in prep school.

Today that woman is my supervisor.   During the past two years she has been promoted two levels above me. Fortunately my new boss didn’t pay attention to the way I dressed while I was struggling with my hormones, squirrelled away on detail to Contracts, trying my best to remain under the radar. Those days were about glorified pajamas, but even then I made them work, favoring black and brown knits in sillouhettes that whispered “elegant” instead of “t-shirt.”  I managed to get several complements, even though I indeed, was wearing some form of a knit t-shirt and elastic waistband pants every damn day.

Sorry, not good enough, lady, they still won’t take you seriously

Today I’m feeling SO much better.  However, now that I’m back at my new-old job in engineering, I realize I can’t go back to being a fashion plate.  To be fashionable in Engineering is to be marked as frivolous, because I work primarily with and for men in a relentlessly masculine field (defense) where khakis and blue oxford shirts are the standard.   Looking young and dressing fashionably in 2010 contributed to my losing a customer  – I’m convinced of this – because the program manager, a very male-identified woman wearing khakis and blue oxford, didn’t take me seriously.

Victor Victoria

Since that humilating week of self-reflection I’ve been wearing a lot of menswear inspired tailored pieces, dressing like a boy essentially.  That’s right: I’m cross-dressing these days, going to work drag, business-casual drag.  My closet has changed so much that I began to wonder if the fashion magazines were promoting the look.  Perhaps I was just picking up on a new trend without really knowing it?  NOPE: Menswear-inspired women’s wear is no more a trend today than it is any other year, lurking in the background, because no matter where fashion goes, most of us still need to get up in the morning and go to work.

I’m not surprised that one of the first things my new boss pronounced when she took command was that an internal dress code would now be enforced, in order to raise the department’s image in the eyes of our paying customers.  My team lead assured me that I was doing “fine” and did not need to change anything; rather, it was the men wearing t-shirts and the women in flip flops who needed the talking to. “Business casual” is a confusing relic from the 1980’s, but folks in Engineering can be slow to pick up social cues, and difficult to change once a habit becomes ingrained.

Forbes: What Not to Wear to Work

You may have noticed how the “rules” – general though they are – are different for men and women.  Women can wear just about anything to the office these days so long that it’s neat and covers body parts that need to be covered. Apparently a woman needs to be wearing flip flops before someone lectures her on how to look like a professional.

I thought about this for awhile:  Perhaps dress codes need to be as stringent for women as they are for men.  Perhaps letting women off the sartorial hook and giving them much more creative license, is actually a problem? If men are required to cover their knees and wear sleeves and collars, but women are not, what does that say, really?   Perhaps it says a combination of things:

Carissa Rose’s Zarinah Shirt, for the woman with boobs and $125 to spend on just one shirt

1. The variability of women’s bodies, and the capriciousness and high cost of women’s fashion makes it unfair to impose a male fashion standard on women.  Men have it easy in that Brooks Brothers is the business standard and there is not much variation to it. Men learn the Standard when they are boys, and the Standard varies only slightly over generations. Every town has a store within driving distance that sells mens’ suits in nearly every cut and size.  Men can go into any department store and find a traditional shirt that fits in a number of classic colors and patterns.  They can also pay someone to wash and iron it for about a dollar.

Women, on the other hand, do not have a Brooks Brothers tradition. Even if women can find affordable button down shirts (rare) they’re more expensive to dry clean than mens’ shirts. If we decide to save money and wash ours at home, we’re stuck ironing them. It’s also too much to ask women to wear pantyhose when even the irregulars cost $5 pair and often last for just one wearing. Also, men still get free tailoring in department stores, but women do not.

2. Laziness.  Also: Picking Our Battles.  If you’ve not noticed, the fashion world isn’t trying to help women get promoted.  Neither is anyone else, so it’s up to us to figure it out.  However, life is busy and time and money are in short supply, so we wear whatever we can afford when we can find it.  If it’s “fun” so much the better. Marketing wants us to “feel better about ourselves” through shopping, so now we have all this pseudo-feminist “feeling empowered” BS that we fall for again and again. We’re so busy trying to “feel empowered” that we never get promoted to a job that will afford us that Chanel suit or YSL smoking jacket that will zoom us to Badass credibility.

Management has a similar time and energy crunch: There are only so many battles Management has the energy to fight, and our bad fashion choices aren’t among them. Unfortunately, when we don’t live up to Management’s internal, often poorly understood and largely unspoken standards we just won’t get promoted. They won’t tell us why, mostly because they’re not very self-reflective. Really, they have no idea why you’re not executive washroom material; you just aren’t. Next problem please.

Unfortunately I’m of the suspicion that the more lax requirements for women reflect (perhaps) a reluctant attitude toward female promotability in the first place. Meaning, women as a class are not really taken seriously so who as long we’re not distracting the menfolk, who cares what we wear?  If this is a true motivation it’s unfortunate.

Personally, I don’t care if I get promoted before I retire.  That said, I realize the young women in the office look to SOME of us lady old-timers for cues. I’m at the age where I SHOULD be at the top of my game, and dressing the part.  I don’t look or dress like their grandmother (yet), and the day that I do is the day I become invisible. While I still look like a player my sartorial slacking only encourages them to slack, which only encourages people to discount them.  That’s a problem.  SO, I need to step up my game, for the sake of the young women around me and THEIR promotions.

HOW I’m supposed to do this, with my closet full of bright knits and open toed shoes I barely wore this summer, and a bunch of boring prep school staples, will be the subject of an upcoming post.  For now it’s easy:  I just pack them up because it’s September, when the weather is so cold I naturally begin wearing more conservative business attire. It’s Turtleneck Time!

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My summer neutrals. The winter shoes, sportswear, brightly colored sandals and flip flops are in another part of the room

Bloggers Barbara and Shannon Kelley state that they frequently muse about the conflict between fashion and feminism. On the one hand, we’re feminists; on the other hand we want to look good and enjoy the whims fashion. How to reconcile?

Let me answer that question first because it’s so easy: Feminism and fashion probably won’t ever be reconciled. Why?  Because once fashion is feminist it will no longer be “fashion.” Since this will not happen during our lifetimes have fun with it on your own time, but never at the expense of your career. That fabulous yellow croc belt you found at TJMaxx really could cost you that promotion. It’s not worth the risk.

Like it or not, we have no control over how other people perceive us.  In many cases the people perceiving us are in a position to determine what we’re economically entitled to. This influence can be direct and indirect.  Most of these people will pounce on any excuse to explain why women are entitled to less, so why make it easy for them?

Thanks, Louis . . . But not the kind of scary I was looking for.

Friviolity is the kiss of death for women in the business world, where the only appropriate fashion statement is BADASS.  By “badass” I mean that if you’re a  woman trying to make it in business, you actually want your colleagues and supervisory chain to be just a little bit little bit afraid of you. Not terrified, but uneasy, or slightly off-guard.

Unfortunately, most fashion negates our attempts to be taken seriously. “Fashion” is usually impractical, inappropriate and even slightly absurd, and by absurd  I actually mean “rodeo clown ridiculous.” Believe me: I just got my September issues of Elle Magazine and I know of what I speak.

This “feeling empowered” by “wearing what we want” and “expressing ourselves” is anti-feminist marketing BS. Feminism is not about “feeling empowered,” it’s about HAVING power. Most of us don’t have enough power to indulge in the whims of fashion at our jobs, so when we do indulge we sometimes make costly mistakes without even knowing it.

Yummy. I used to have a pair of raspberry pink stilettos. Unfortunately I almost never wore them, so I gave them away.

The New York Times story that recently caught the Kelley’s eyes was about the Ladies Who Startup.  Not the Ladies Who Lunch, but the tech mavens of Silicon Valley who are not only women in a male-dominated industry, but also embracing fashion:

“One interviewee was the 29-year-old founder of a travel start-up who, the reporter noted, was wearing a pair of hot pink Christian Louboutins. At which point I wondered: If you can actually afford to buy Louboutins, why wouldn’t you?”

On second thought . . .

To which I, the expert on all things shoe-addled-and-addicted, can easily answer:  Of course any artistically-leaning fashionista with a big new pile of money would buy them, almost on principle.  She might even wear them, once.  But once some no-talent fameball is photographed by the paparazzi wearing the same pair, she’d probably groan and seriously consider selling them on EBay. Perhaps after a few years of moving the shoebox around her closet she’d realize she should have spent that $800 on a nice piece of jewelry instead.

But for the most part the pinks would stay in their shoebox with nowhere to go, because hot pink stilettos are inappropriate for just about every occasion, unless one strips for a living, which IMHO probably not the best thing to do if one seeks feminist “empowerment.”

I love brightly colored shoes and even have a few pair: Red ones, rarely worn. Bright candy colored shoes are the sartorial equivalent of Go To Hell Pants  in that there is a time, and a place, and a certain way to wear them; i.e., when one is broadcasting to the world that one is SO! awesome and/or rich and/or beholden to NO ONE that one can get away with wearing just about anything. Go to Hell Pants say “I’m pretty close to wearing feety pajamas in public, but you’ll kiss my ass anyway because HAH.”  Consequently, if you’re wearing bright stilettos to work, you’d better be the one running the company.

Sometimes a woman can successfully wear bright candy colored stilettos when one works in fashion or show business, where dignity takes second place to the amount of attention one can garner by being outrageous or “fashion forward.” In any case the wearer probably doesn’t have a job that actually requires that one be taken seriously. Have you noticed how the serious players in the fashion world wear a lot of black turtlenecks, plain white shirts and dark colored shoes?

Tennis historian Bud Collins doesn’t have to answer to anybody

The bottom line is that most of us will never be untouchably wealthy or make a living off fashion. In fact one of the interviewed executives laid it out pretty neatly:

“Earlier in my career, if I had to choose between a skirt and being taken seriously, I would have chosen being taken seriously,” said Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, 42, a former (emphasais mine) Google executive who now runs a video shopping site called Joyus and said she never leaves the house without four-inch heels and at least one vintage item. “But now I’m at a point in my career in the valley where I’m judged by what I’ve done.”

Good for her!  In her mind she’s Made It and can be a Go-to-Hell Expressionista just like the men on the golf course wearing polyester pants with monkeys and balloons on them.  For the rest of us however . . . perhaps we should consider a pair of classic Manolo pumps?

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Nothing says “I don’t tan” better than wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants to the beach. One might as well look good!

I think I’ve got this.  I finally know how to get dressed to go places. My fashionista angst from last year has ended in triumph! Sort of.

Of course, it’s so much easier to dress for the shore in the summertime, because summer and the Jersey shore are made for each other.  Wintertime is much more difficult to shop for here, but I don’t have to worry about that for 4 more months, right?

There really is no “dressing up” down the shore, so fashionistas must settle for “dressing down” fashionably and well.  This is actually a very good thing!  It’s a way to communicate an attitude of being permanently on vacation, even when one still has to work for a living.

It’s too easy to get lazy about the local aesthetic, so Pinky Policy is NO cut off shorts, logo tees or cheap rubber flip flops, unless one is working in the yard. Also, preppy styles are for fashion backup only: For instance, polo shirts are only allowed on Casual Fridays at the office, when one is boating, or when one is too bewildered to take a chance on anything else, which I notice still happens with me a lot.

Of course like most, I don’t have much spending cash these days.  Bunny is taking most of mine: Private college tuition AND her city apartment rent, even when shared and even with her 50% scholarship, takes a big bite out of the wallet.  It leaves me with barely enough cash to keep me in beauty serums, vitamins and hormones, so any item of clothing I buy has to be cheap, cheap cheap. TJMax and clearance catalogues to the rescue!

First, the essentials. The  linen-pants-big-shirt ensemble will take one anywhere. So does the basic shift dress, and the classic white pants.  I already had several shift dresses for work, so first on the list for summer was the pants. White ones. GAH! Was I serious? I was never a fan of white pants.  They get dirty and typically only last one season. For some reason the following year they look yellow no matter how many times they get laundered.  I compromise by choosing ivory or off-white whenever I can, and when I do buy white, it’s cheap and bleach-able.

STYLE TIP: I bought the gauze pants to the upper left and they’re great. Unfortunately the top won’t work if you’re short, even in a petite size.

I’ve conceded that white jeans are a must for summertime. They feel dressier than blue jeans, though the whole concept of “dress jeans” distresses me because it’s an oxymoron:  You don’t wear jeans to dress up, dummy.  There are so few opportunites to dress these days, why waste them?

Still, I bought a pair, by Michael Kors, one of my favorite designers because his clothes come in petite sizes.  These fit me perfectly, they were on clearance, and they’re juuust a little bit off-white, so they’ll age better than most.

STYLE TIP: Unlike the model to the upper right, I don’t wear high heels with white jeans.  Here one wears expensive and/or embellished versions of “flip flops.”

So let’s see where are we at . . . White linen pants, gauze pants, drawstring pants, white “big” pants – I’m not sure what else to call them but big –  These pants fill my closet, all very versatile, look great, and unlike dresses, skirts and shorts they don’t require self-tanner. In fact white pretty much requires that one NOT wear self-tanner. Yay! Lose the sash, and I can wear these pants just about anywhere. Now that I’ve got the safe options covered I can move on to actual fashion. Shopping is fun again! Or, is it?

MMMMM not yet, not really.

How to dress an inverted triangle shape

Dressing the funnel-shaped lady

Style icon: Victoria Beckham

Shirts and blouses are very frustrating to me.  For most women it seems, jeans and pants are the banes of their shopping existence, but my bane is shirts and blouses.  They tend to make me look blobby. It’s my shortish torso and all the boobage that are so very hard to work with. Victoria Beckham copes with her petite and inverted triangle body shape by remaining freakishly thin and favoring deep v-neck tops.  My lifestyle doesn’t allow for that.

STYLE TIP:  Find a famous fashionista who shares your body type, and copy her look to the best of your ability and in accordance with your own life style. She can afford a stylist.

Consequently, if I am to look elegant and appropriate, I must purchase stretchy petite sizes that don’t look cheap, matronly or clownish, preferably in subdued patterns to hide what my bra doesn’t adequately cover. Furthermore they must be absolutely free of embellishments like sequins, glitter and bows. Shirts that meet my criteria are almost impossible to find on sale.

And pardon me a moment while I vent:  What IS it with the goddamn HORIZONTAL STRIPES? So they’re “nautical,” so what? What woman in her right mind buys them? Maybe model-like thin girls with flat chests and narrow shoulders?  There are perhaps 15 of them in my state, which is why the outlet stores are glutted with horizontal striped clothing nobody wants.

STYLE TIP: Don’t buy horizontal stripes.

Sigh. Anyway. I finally bought a few things from J. Jill, and just as I predicted last year it made me feel old.  I am not their target baby boomer market, but they do have plain basics in petite sizes.  The trick is finding them on clearance.  Unfortunately the shirt to the left is not on clearance.

Then, there’s the tunic. Soft Surroundings, one of my favorite catalogues, has a perfect array of tops for those who rely on tunics to look and feel put-together.  Unfortunately I have to be careful with tunic styles as they tend to make me look pregnant.  Paired with some skinny pants, however, I might be able to pull off the looks below. Maybe this autumn, when they go on clearance, I can get a few for next year:

That’s what I did with one of last year’s toppers; i.e., crossed my fingers and waited a year.  It goes so well with what I have already, and since I was patient I was able to get it for a song:

These toppers are great for my body type, in that they’re long and meant to be worn open. They lengthen and thin out my torso, and cover the boobs. Add some pants with a little flare and a pair of statement shoes and I’m balanced out.  For now at least, long thin open sweaters are making up for my inability to find decent tops on sale.  Plain t-shirts appear to be the best I can do for now. So let’s forget about tops and talk about SHOES, shall we? They probably deserve a post of their own.

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Leggs is trying to market nude pantyhose into a fashion “comeback.”   

To that I say, rots of ruck.

Pantyhose. I don’t think it ever really left the fashion scene, at least not in Flyover Country.  I haven’t been ito the Deep South lately to notice, but when I was women were still wearing nude hose, even with open toed shoes during the summertime. Meanwhile their New York and Los Angeles sisters went bare-legged, because they’d Had Enough. 

The hosiery industry is painfully aware that sales are sagging worse than grandma’s silk stockings.  No wonder: Why wear pantyhose if you don’t have to?  Some stores even stopped carrying them.

Leggs probably knows that getting middle aged women to wear pantyhose again is a hard sell.  Tights maybe, because they’re opaque and durable, but sheer hose? Nah.  Special occasions only. We don’t care if Duchess Kate Middleton wears them, because none of us are being fast-tracked to Queen any time soon.  Women are required  to wear pantyhose and closed-toe shoes in the presence of  the Queen of England, and besides, Kate can afford a new pair every day.  The rest of us can’t.

Consequently, what Leggs is trying to do is increase its appeal with the younger crowd, the demographic that doesn’t have unpleasant memories of pulling on the obligatory pair of ugly, runny, snaggy, saggy or sweaty hose every time they had to wear a skirt.  I don’t think Leggs gets it, so here is my advice to their marketing department:

We didn’t stop wearing pantyhose because they were “unfashionable.”  We stopped wearing pantyhose because they were uncomfortable. We stopped wearing them because they would run or snag after the first or second wearing and they were too expensive.  We had other things to spend our money on and other things to wear, and got sick of spending $15+ per week on nylon crap just to pass as “appropriate” when we could just as easily wear pants. Sure, pantyhose smooths out and firms our butts but so do power-panties, and they don’t run.

So here’s my advice, Leggs: Make a pantyhose that breathes, and doesn’t run or snag.  You have the technology, you know you can do it, you just don’t WANT to. Regardless, if you want to sell pantyhose, do it anyway. Rely on good design and comfort to attract repeat customers.  Then, perhaps, we’ll buy pantyhose again because today women have choices. At the present price and performance pantyhose is not  attractive to any demographic, least of all teens and young adults, who would rather spend their disposable income on music, food, entertainment, anything but disposable garb. Women need quality, not quantity.

If Wolford made these indestructible I would pay just about anything for them. As things stand I wouldn’t buy them, even if I could find them. Photo: German Vogue, but I had to crop out her hiney to keep this blog G-rated.

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We are not scared any more. Your threats to arrest us are meaningless to us as you cannot arrest an idea.

(French accent) Uh oh. La Resistance! Eet has begun!

Sigh.  OK,if you MUST. Just . . . Sigh. Here ya go.  WHATEVER you do, if you have to get involved, just be original. Don’t dress like those Euro-weenie nihilist-anarchists who express their individuality by looking exactly alike! (I’m a fashionista, I have standards. I can’t help it.)

My advice to the earnest:

1. Beware of any video, website or plan that looks too “slick.” If it’s beautifully and expensively produced (Zeitgeist, etc.), and especially if it purports to be a “news” site but with no visible means of support, somebody’s tax monies – or some very rich PTB type – probably paid for it.

2. If it’s a “foreign” website meant for an English speaking audience, it’s probably a (DoD funded – hi guys!) psyop.

3. Beware the agent provacateurs. No, not the lingerie models(NSFW), though you should probably beware of them too.  I mean the Feds pretending to be Reds. The agents are “flash mobbing” in Philadelphia this week (yawn). Those booted bandana brigades are likely on somebody’s payroll.

4. Mind the minders. “Anonymous” is not anonymous. There is no such thing

The stakes are really high here. This is a bankster faction war, with an “enemy within” as perceived by the present Powers, with double and triple agents working at cross purposes to one another. We’re in the middle of an End Game.  Wannabe anarchists, if you think you can figure out who’s who in this clusterfuck, you’re delusional. You can’t tell the black hats from the white, so be really, really, really careful about picking sides. If you do pick sides, just know that someday you may despair that you picked the wrong one.

For instance, if you’re not a fan of socialism, maybe you want to avoid being caught up in the “world revolution” at your doorstep. Look up the term “useful idiot” and the basic steps involved in such takeovers. Then think about it.

Then again, for all we know the bankster factions are just fighting over who gets to live off the labor of the American/European/African slaves (us), in which case I wouldn’t want to help any of them, including letting my rage be channeled into activities that ultimately serve their interests.

Besides, would I want my “brilliant anarchist plans” to totally bollux a nearby operation run by people who really DO have the country’s best interests at heart? If there are any? Personally, I would never take that chance.

I have faith in the US military.  Of course, I’m biased since I work for them. I don’t care. I’m just going to let those (former . . . ish?) rangers, seals, crows and Flying Templars do their thing, because really, do you think they’d be standing idly by? Hah! They actually held up their hands and swore to uphold the Constitution and literally devoted their lives to American interests, so I’m inclined to take them at their word. Me thinks they are extra, extra busy these days.

All hail Discordia and all that – I’ll do my part to frustrate the Controllers with GIGO. I’m also prepped up the wazoo. But the Powers and the Controllers rely HEAVILY on our electronic footprints. The ultimate way to frustrate the hell out of them is not to SIGN UP for the resistance, for God’s sake, or express your creative rage on the internet. It’s to make your trail go cold!

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The Jersey Shore is Fashion Hell.  When I finally realized it I panicked a little. But I’m getting used to it. Maybe, even, I’m beginning to enjoy it. A little.

I’m only an hour or two south of New York City, one of the premier fashion hubs for the world.  Fashion migrates a bit south but for the most part stops at the Monmouth/Ocean County line. I live in Ocean County, the Land that Fashion Forgot.  I think people like it this way.

 It’s not due to lack of money. Actually there’s so much money at the Jersey shore it’s almost embarrassing. This just does not matter, however: The moment one crosses into Ocean Country it’s Flip Flop Living. When I get a picture of Spooky’s pile of flip flops I’ll post it year and you’ll know what I mean.

So shed a tear for me, boo hoo, it lonely out here for a fashionista!  I have at least 50 pair of high heels but few places to wear them. Life isn’t like that here. High heels really aren’t appropriate most of the time. Besides, I don’t want my stiletto heels stuck between the planks on the boardwalk! 

When living in an area more attuned to Philadelphia I wore dresses often, and sometimes went for the dramatic with hats and capes. And knee-boots!  It was an artistic thing with me, maybe even a compulsion, an expensive one, but very colorful and cheaper than therapy. Today I still have subscriptions to fashion magazines to keep up with the general look and feel of the moment. Unfortunately it all looks silly and out of place in this beachy vacation paradise. 

Ye olde shopping grounds

For a year I continued to drive over an hour toward Philadelphia to get my fashion fix, because the far-inland region of South Jersey is pretty fancy.  After a year of sartorial confusion and making due I came to terms that I had a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. Horrors! Lord knows I tried to make up for it, but I couldn’t find much of anything at the local stores.  Mandees and Dress Barn do not count as “fashion” in Pinky’s world.  I like good tailoring. And I can’t find it in Ocean County, at least I’ve not been able to find it yet. 

Gotta cross the border to find this

So here the entire country is in an economic depression, and I’m worried about where to shop??? I know I know. LAME. For what it’s worth here though it seems New Jersey is doing okay, because the parking lots in Atlantic City are full and the beaches are jam packed.  The people here are driving normal cars (Toyotas, Chevys, Hyundai, etc.) so I know it’s not just the BMW/Mercedes crowd spending money. They’re just regular folks.

There are a few high end clothing stores in Atlantic County, at the Pier, and sometimes both Spooky and I will cross the border to indulge ourselves there, but for the most part only foolish tourists with too much money pay those prices.  Even the so-called “outlet” shops are too expensive. Unfortunately there are few alternatives because locals are not interested in fashion, and most tourists are trying to rid themselves of any concerns over their appearance, which I understand. I feel alone in my search for garb, but I carry on.

These guys/gals are from NEW YORK!!!!!

And we wish they’d STAY THERE!

The No Snooki Guide to the Jersey Shore

I’ve been watching the shore crowd and have come to a few conclusions.  There really is a “Jersey Shore look” but it’s different depending on one’s age.  If you watch TV, you’ve probably seen a lot of Seaside due to that unfortunate reality show. Teens and young adults at the Jersey Shore don’t necessarily dress like Snooki, who is a parody of herself and is from NEW YORK in any case.  However teens do typically look as if they’re on their way to or from the beach, even when they’re not.

Just like teens all over the United States, who express their individuality by dressing like everyone else, Jersey kids and teen tourists have a kind of standard shore uniform. The dress code for younger women appears to be short denim cutoffs and spaghetti strapped or low-cut shirts that leave little to the imagination. See Nicole Ritchie on the left: She’s rocking a more conservative form of the teen-or-very-young-adult look.

Younger men either dress like basketball players or take on the California surfer dude look. Whether these dudes actually play basketball or surf is beside the point.  The point is they must look as though they’re on their way to liesurely exert themselves, even when they’re not.

Teens and young adults are not at loss for things to buy at the Jersey Shore: There is a store offering t-shirts, sunglasses and flip flops on every block near the places where teens congregate. Grownups have a few more shopping options in Ocean County, but not many. There are three basic styles for full-grown adults at the New Jersey shore:

1.  Preppy

2. (men only) The Big Lebowski

3. (women only) Honey, You Shouldn’t Have (No really you shouldn’t have)

Style #1: Preppy.  I could dress like this every day and do just fine, for the rest of my life at the Jersey Shore. But I don’t want to, because it means I’d spend the rest of my life dressed like a boy. A preppy boy named Sterling or Thurston or Biff.

Here I thought the Prep Army was clustered in the Hamptons or Outer Banks. I was wrong! Believe it or not the Jersey Shore is a major prep outpost.  One’s preppy clothing choices include jeans/jacket prep, the plaid shorts/camp shirt prep, and the khaki/polo shirt prep. Clean cut and collegiate, preppy dressers who no longer wish to live in the logos from their alma maters shop at Tommy Bahamas, but only if they’re willing to leave Ocean County. Otherwise they shop at Old Navy, the Gap, Kohls or Target for their clothes, boat shoes and flip flops. 

A compromise:  “Sort of flip flops”

Yes, flip flops. The standard foot wear for all genders – and all three styles – is flip flops year round. Last year I overheard a woman talking about finding some “dress flip flops” and I wanted to scream. There are even “bridal flip flops” for sale at the Jersey Shore. Can you dig that? I couldn’t at first. Now I’m looking for my own pair. It took a year and a half, but I finally get it now: Flip flops worn inland announce “I’m on permanent vacation.” Only the very privileged can say that.

(I can’t believe I’m even considering it)

It’s a good thing both men and women embrace the preppy menswear look because otherwise I’d have nothing to wear.  Girly prep is extremely difficult to find. I see the shops here and there, but the old school Lady Lily Pulizer look is only occasionally seen in Ocean County, like the rare tropical bird, and then generally only on the 60+ crowd. Sometimes I wonder if I could be instrumental in bringing the Lily Pulitzer look back for young and middle aged adults. More options = better for Pinky!

For what it’s worth I could cross the Monmouth border to Coco Pari to escape preppy boy-dum (boy-dum = boredom, get it?) for my fashion fix.  Coco Pari probably the best fashion boutique in New Jersey, is less than an hour away, and features most of the big/hip designers.  Unfortunately, when Spooky took me to Red Bank to find my wedding dress I stepped into Coco Pari and discovered, to my dismay, that most of what’s offered there falls into the “Honey NO” category. Maybe it’s fine for North Jersey club scenes, but not here in Ocean County.

Style #2 (men only) The Big Lebowski 

The Big Lebowski  I-don’t-give-a-damn look is not exclusive to the Jersey Shore although it MAY have its roots here, even before California. Today it’s country-wide, involving variations on the jeans-tshirt-sportswear-pajama look that mutter “Don’t talk too loud, I’m still hung over.”  At the Jersey shore one can always get by dressing as if one does not give a damn, but only if one is a dude. Women are expected to put in at least a little effort, and generally they do.  And that’s a shame sometimes, as you will soon find out.  Read on . . .

Style #3: Honey, You Shouldn’t Have (No really you shouldn’t have). The “Honey You Shouldn’t Have, Really” look belongs almost exclusively to the female gender.  I’m not busting on working class women who may not know any better because the only money they see is on TV.  No ma’am, the Honey look requires lots of money.  It requires dark tanning-booth tans, ample cleavage, shockingly bad taste, and the delusion that dressing in tight clothes makes one look young or thin (it doesn’t).  Think “Jerseylicious” or Snooki playing dress-up.

 I don’t understand women who, on the one hand, take the time for full makeup and inch-long nails, tons of gold jewelry, the whole feminine works topped off with two pieces of bubble gum, but won’t make the effort to dress with a little dignity. I’m at a loss.

If it were not for the local TJMaxx, which occasionally offers out of season remnants from higher-end designers, I’d be in despair. Tahari is my new design refuge because generally the tailoring is good. I also like Jones of New York for work. I recently found a nicely black shift dress by Tahari, the kind Jackie O wore. Plain. Dignified. Preppy-boring but it can be worn anywhere. However, I still had to take it to a tailor to make it fit! Now I have something conservative enough to wear to a church or a funeral.

One fashion challenge down, but so many to go. On to my next search, this time for “summer casual dress clothes,” that elusive hybrid necessary for genteel-but-not-fancy social gatherings, especially shore-based night life. I’ve never really been able to pull off the look, because it’s always been either casual or dressy with me, plus I’m socially retarded in general. Given a toss-up I tend to overdress.  After a distressed survey of my local options I copped out: I followed Spooky’s lead and bought some long khaki shorts, drawstring linen pants, and a bunch of camp and polo shirts.  All very cheap. At least I can dress preppy now, the standard fallback position for the sartorially confused.  And think about how much money I saved! Now if only I could find the perfect dress flip flops . . .

Those are kittyprint flipflops!

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