I try to resist.
But every year at around this time, as summer really starts shifting into fall, I feel the stirrings.
I must shop.
I must look beyond the soft pastels, the gauzy skirts and cottons of summer, and think fall – and fashion.
For me, the two always have been linked.
So on a recent morning, I found myself staring at myself in a department store mirror trying not to laugh. I was decked out in what the sales consultant (not “salesperson,” please…) 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 looked absolutely absurd on me. It looped and sagged where it shouldn’t have. It gaped where it should have hung. And because I am small, it gave me the aura of a waif drowning in her mother’s dress-up clothes.
The sales consultant was now eyeing me warily. Clearly, I was 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 taupe and brown without looking like they have a serious case of the flu. They can surely find the perfect pumps for their perfect three-piece fall ensembles. And they would never, ever carry a pocketbook with a few suspicious pizza sauce stains.
I admit it: I’m a fashion failure. I’m out of step – out of sync – and out of inspiration.
The fall fashion pages of magazines 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. The sleeves of jackets always puddle beyond my wrists because I am, well, short. 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.
Never mind the fire-engine red number with the bat sleeves and the weird belt action. Or the suit that I thought would be perfect for meetings with editors that ended up a closet wallflower because of that ancient, most compelling of heartaches: it made me feel fat.
I have suffered fashion humiliations whenever I seek a dress for a Special Event – yes, always capital letters for these occasions of state.
Too many times, I’ve grabbed armfuls of scarlet and midnight blue cocktail dresses, 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 own neither.
I loved one of the deep, rich blues until I turned around and saw that it was virtually backless. And trust me, I don’t have that much courage – or the right underwear – to carry that off.
I looked feverish in the scarlet.
Invariably, I rush home from these forays and forage the freezer for solace. Never mind the nutritional/caloric consequences of these binges.
And just once more, I remind myself that I’ve lived these many decades managing to survive these Special Events in my trusty little black dress, minus the sexy sandals and the complicated scarves.
I could also RSVP to these Special Events with a polite, “So sorry – can’t make it.”
And somehow, the prospect doesn’t seem half-bad. ••