I’m Not Quite Ready To Wear A Leopard-Print Kaftan This Christmas

Full-Length Kaftan by MollyKaftans

How’s everyone faring in the depressing search for the perfect dress for Christmas parties and, ultimately, the big day?

I’m going to admit that – having trailed all the stores to the north of Sydney and exhausted the seemingly limitless stocks of The Iconic (and the patience of the very crabby lady at our local post office who handles my returns) – I’ve decided to opt for pants this year.

You see, I’ve reached the conclusion that there isn’t a dress waistband sturdy or stretchy enough to cope with the number of Pigs-In-Blankets and Christmas pud I intend to put in my belly this year.

I’ve also reached a level of post-winter, middle-aged lardiness where shift dresses in size 14 make me look like I’m wearing a tent – albeit that I haven’t quite reached the point of no return that is the Kaftan.

So this year, I figured that a smart pair of natural-colored culottes – neutrals are currently the rage in that center of fashion excellence commonly known as the Northern Beaches of Sydney – with the diamante-encrusted top I forage from the wardrobe every December, will do the trick. 

To be honest, I’m not fretting about my decision, not when to “dress up” in Australia can simply mean the choice of a pair of sandals over a pair of thongs. 

Unlike London, where the refusal to dress appropriately for an occasion is almost as disrespectful as not ordering the roast in the pub on Sunday – a cultural difference that I miss. Albeit that there few rules over there (and certainly no apologies) when it comes to daytime fashion – making it easier for middle-aged women stuck in that impasse of whether to dress for their age or wear what they bloody well want – there are rules about evening wear. Particularly at Christmas, when you wouldn’t be seen dead out at night in anything less sparkly than the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square.

And while their climate provides the mature woman with the perfect excuse to drown sagging boobs in voluminous jumpers and tuck escapee paunches into thick woolly tights – and trust me, it is possible to look stylish in winter woollies with such a vast range of jumpers and sturdy winter coats available in the shops – the British take fashion up a few notches at night. Unlike Sydney, where due to the climate or the laid-back culture – I’m not sure which – you’d struggle to spot a sequinned cocktail dress at the ballet.

But understandably, many British fashions simply wouldn’t work over here – and that’s not just because our seasons are out of kilter. Brits embrace color and elements of fun and quirkiness in their style – undoubtedly a concession to the climate – but that could be a terrifying prospect to the breed of middle-aged women who adhere to the motto that “black is the new black”. 

So, while in Britain, the little black dress has been ousted in favor of metallics, luxurious textures in deep reds, purples, and orange, and this year’s print of choice, the animal print – a design that I have avoided like the plague since I hit my fifties…because, cougars – I may have to place my leopard-print kaftan on hold until I reach the true zenith of not-giving-a-fuckery, (which I imagine will be closer to my sixtieth year). Although, admittedly, that time is starting to feel reassuringly closer.

Have you reached the point of no return?

The Fabulousness Of Clothes Shopping When You Don’t Actually Need Anything

Found on seedheritage.com
Found on seedheritage.com

The old man gave up on buying me a proper birthday present a long time ago. He will tell you it’s because I’m fussy and difficult (and probably, a complete bitch), but basically it’s because he has no fucking idea (see previous post), and I would end up disappointed that he had wasted valuable shopping money on something I wouldn’t be seen dead in.

So what we’ve agreed on is that he gives me a token gift to open on the day (which I look suitably appalled at) – this year it was a dead bunch of flowers and a card that somewhere in his planning he had forgotten to sign – and he also allows me access to a guilt-free wad of cash from the bank, to (his words) waste at the local mall.

Another reason why men must have come from fucking Mars, is that he simply doesn’t get the whole clothes shopping thing, particularly the aspect of buying something you don’t really need.

And this is what I am living with on a daily basis.

Luckily, therapy has stopped me from him making me feel guilty and spoiling all my fun, and so a few days ago I set off to the shops to spend my wad, an excited glow lighting up what has become a habitual greyness around my middle-aged face.

One thing he was right about, was that I didn’t really need anything – but that was actually great because it took the pressure right off.

I took along with me my own advice about shopping for quality rather than quantity now that I’m fifty and mature and dragged myself away from my usual high street faves like Zara and headed instead towards the grown up end of town and David Jones.

I’m not actually a wasteful shopper. There are very few clothes in my wardrobe that I’ve NEVER worn and many of them I’ve worn for years. Well, apart from the black and caramel striped jacket that Kurt says I look like a bee in, several pairs of shoes I’ve bought at the market that I was hoping might someday fit my bigger than Asian feet and several tops that I think make me look fat – chosen hastily in changing rooms with trick lighting or bad mirrors. Or perhaps I was having my period. Or I just needed to buy something.

Found on seedheritage.com
Found on seedheritage.com

I also start to feel a little queasy at spending close to the $100 mark on one item.

But it goes without saying that I couldn’t NOT go to ‘Seed‘. I’ve mentioned my obsession with the Seed brand on my blog before, because I think it personifies me. Most of the range is in my colour scheme of black, cream and caramel, (apart from this shitty khaki green shade they insist on using, which I’m sure I can adapt to, given the time). But what I really love about Seed is that it offers more shades of cream than Dulux, the perfect range of linens and silks and and fucking loads of black, which is my comfort colour.

So, of course the minute I entered it’s haloed doors I just fell in love with this to-die-for black skirt because I decided recently that I need to get my legs out more as they are the only part of my body that hasn’t been swollen by hormones or etched with lines. Then I found this sleeveless jumper that makes my boobs actually look illogically pert AND BIG, and I’ve always loved that cut on the shoulders. And I could have gone on and on but wisely decided to head to DJs at that point because they have a Champagne bar there and as we all know, shopping can be a very stressful business.

Found on frenchconnection.com.au
Found on frenchconnection.com.au

Fortified by bubbles, I was on a roll and found this cute top in French Connection which, admittedly looked pretty shite on the hanger, but I knew would sit so nicely in the cream section of my wardrobe, and when I put it on I realised it’s one of those versatile tops you can dress up with nice trousers or down with shorts, and most importantly it will hide my muffin top without looking like that’s why I bought it.

It never ceases to amaze me how many clothes you can buy that you don’t actually need.

My Latest Clothes Shopping Tips for Middle-Aged Women

Credit Card

 

It was uncharacteristically magnanimous of the old man to allow me to abuse the credit card at Pitt St Mall yesterday.

 

It felt strangely odd to be actually GIVEN PERMISSION to spend, although equally as enjoyable as my usual furtive credit card abuse.

 

I’m sure he had his reasons and his moment of generosity had absolutely nothing to do with his guilt at not producing EVEN A FUCKING CARD for our anniversary – apparently, a loving text is enough – nor was it an attempt to pay me off and guarantee a quiet Saturday afternoon in front of the golf on television.

 

Whatever the old man’s reasons, yesterday afternoon’s shopping experience cemented that buying clothes as a middle-aged woman, (and one who is still in the process of slowly adjusting to a new body shape and style), can be a torturous experience and one that doesn’t always meet expectation.

gp2

Although don’t get me wrong – even though I might struggle to find the brands that suit my ‘old-in-body yet young-in-spirit frame’ these days, I still FUCKING LURVE a good shop.

 

Which is something men will never understand.

 

These are my latest clothes shopping tips for middle-aged women: 

  • Sexy lingerie is uncomfortable now that our bits have been rearranged from childbirth. Be honest, you WANT to wear granny knickers most of the time now because the discomfort imposed by all those itsy-bitsy, up your crack smaller styles like boy briefs and bikinis make my vagina quiver with fear. Go for it!
  • Middle-aged feet are irresistibly drawn to flat shoes for comfort and to protect our backs for the future – stop resisting and suck it up.
  • Those stretchy, clingy fabric brands, which you are supposed to layer to make you look even more fucking HUGE, (and which I had pinned all my hopes on to flatter my new ‘curves and edges’), are not your friend.
  • Either I’m shrinking or trousers are designed for Amazonian woman these days – Stick to leggings no matter how bad a fashion rap they get.
  • I sobbed in those shops that showcase those cute and classic 50’s style office dresses that are simply not designed with middle-aged women in mind, or in fact for anyone with a bigger bust than a developing teenager. There’s not even enough room for my strained teabag B cup breasts, let alone real mama jugs. And as for packing the muffin top in those tailored waistbands – SO not happening. Go for the shift!
  • Hems are getting shorter, which is fabulous when you’re young and nubile with legs up to your armpits, but not quite so hot on orange peel thighs or for those of us who don’t want to flash our granny kaks each time we bend over. Footless tights are your friend now.
  • Your new safety zones in the mall include accessory stores, homeware shops and the ladies bathroom now.
  • Shoes, scarves and handbags are not ageist or sizeist and can still provide an excellent form of retail therapy to the serious middle aged shopper in need of a fix.
  • Your new shopping comfort zones are those yummy specialty macaron shops or frankly anywhere that sells coffee and has an all-day license.

    Coffee Hazelnut Macarons
    Coffee Hazelnut Macarons (Photo credit: *bossacafez)

Christmas Is… Love Actually

Love-ActuallyThe family lived vicariously through Love Actually again the other night. It’s a tradition in our house at Christmas, rather like gorging on salmon and cheese canapés, the family row before Christmas lunch and over-salting the vegetables.

It’s almost as traditional as watching the Queen’s speech, if you’re part of the Commonwealth.

That film still manages to evoke emotions from me that remain dormant for the rest of the year. It still makes me laugh out loud, weep and ‘feel’, no matter how many times I watch it.

That part where Emma Thompson goes to the bedroom to have a dignified weep when she discovers that her husband has given the gold necklace to that bitch at the office, and you just want to tear Snape’s throat out Twilight-style for being so fucking blind to what real love is; or the funeral with the Bay City Rollers theme that makes me bawl my eyes out even more than My Sister’s Keeper, if that is even biologically possible; or the cleverness of the timing in the dialogue between Jamie and Aurelia. Then there are the word cards held up by lovesick guy from The Walking Dead and the fact that Keira Knightly still looks so fucking gorgeous on that incredible wedding day in her drop-dead gorgeous dress which still remains timeless – whereas my wedding dress wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘what was so wrong with the 80’s hall of fame’ now.

I could probably go on Mastermind with Love Actually as my specialist subject.

That’s MY wedding next time. Just saying.

In fact, the only part that grated for me this time was when Rowan Atkinson was wrapping the gold heart necklace. Perhaps the memory of waiting at a cash desk was still raw after experiencing a similar situation in Myer’s men’s department only that day.

I had an elderly man serve me and not being ageist – because that would be hypocritical – I had been initially keen to secure his service. Funny how quickly those charitable thoughts can turn to despair and bitterness and vile emotions so far from the spirit of Christmas, that I feel veritably mortified now.

But he was particularly slow, like tortoise-with-no-legs slow, which was not conducive to a great shopping experience in what was a particularly frazzled Christmas shopping atmosphere created by an understaffed department store of shoppers hellbent on completing their Christmas shopping that afternoon, because they had left it to the last minute like me.

I wasn’t in an empathetic mood either. I’d spent the previous hour in my annual torture of shopping for that elusive new swimming costume that fits the middle-aged body yet smacks of  ‘maternity’, finally ending up in the ‘plus size’ section as they had the only offering of costumes that would comfortably roll over my pre-Christmas baby belly.

I am appalled to admit that my sales assistant may have suffered from arthritis and English wasn’t his native tongue and he obviously had the same grasp of modern technology that I have, and didn’t know the procedures for the million and one special offers that Myer was offering just to remain in business for the next six months.

We got through the first part of entering each item through the till, despairingly slowly, while the queue elongated behind me and a chorus of tutting began. But then the real confusion set in. Not only had I accumulated various discounts from pre-pre-pre Christmas sales, (fundamentally, because retail is on its knees), but because I had spent over $200 (on a long overdue new wardrobe for the new man), I was now entitled to a $20 Myer gift card.

Stupidly, I requested the amount be taken off my bill.

The sales assistant looked instantly worried as we both realized that we might actually be spending Christmas Day together among the Beckam boxers and Calvin Klein briefs if I seriously wanted to get that level of superior transaction over the line.

Three assistants, twenty-five new grey hairs, six under-my-breath FMLs and at least thirty minutes later, I was on my way out of the store, cursing my ill-fortune.

And then the remorse set in. It’s Christmas. That guy was probably holding onto that job by the skin of his teeth and although I hadn’t been ‘THAT shopper’ and cursed his ineptitude publicly, I had thought very bad, unwholesome thoughts that might have involved sticking pins into his body at one point.

It’s not as though I was really in any rush to get back to Dysfunctionality house. I could have consoled him rather than privately condemning him. We’ve all been in that horrible situation in a job where we feel helpless and under pressure and have to ask colleagues twenty years younger than ourselves for help, at some point in our lives.

And it hurts.

I wasn’t chivalrous. I wasn’t rude, but I also wasn’t empathetic either.

Sometimes we all need to remember that Christmas is… Love Actually.

My Top 5 ‘Young Fashion’ Shops For Middle-Aged Women

I refuse to dress like my grandmother just because I’m over 40. I might not have the body I had in my twenties, but I still have my pride.

Shopping Bags courtesy of richmondsquarephotos @ www.flickr.comI have made a few concessions to my age in terms of fashion, admittedly – wedges, flats and loose fitting dresses have become much more prominent in my wardrobe these days, but I’m proud to say that there is still not a Hush Puppy or kaftan in sight.

But even though I want to stay fashionable, I don’t want to look like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ either.

So what’s a girl to do?

Well I’ve come up with this great little list of ’young’ fashion high street shops in Australia that provide great casual wear for mature women too; for those amongst us who are not ready to swamp ourselves in pastel tents or kid ourselves that Sportscraft smock tops are actually flattering.

 

But aren’t the clothes in ‘young’ shops poor quality and a little bit ‘mutton’, I hear you ask? 

Not necessarily. If you find the right items, they can be value for money and stylish.

Here are my reasons for not shopping in ‘wrinkly’ shops just yet:

  1. Lavenders, peaches, pistachio green and florals that look like wallpaper do nothing for my skin tone
  2. High, elasticated waistlines accentuate my post-natal baby baggage rather than concealing it
  3. I want a visual experience when I shop, not rack upon rack of of ‘meh’
  4. Sometimes, I still want to look sexy as well as stylish

And to be honest, I rarely buy my clothes from the high street retailers that are supposed to cater to my advancing years either. Mainly because they are just too damn expensive. I just can’t justify $250 dollars for a Cue dress, for example, no matter how much I orgasm over the designs of their cute little retro numbers. I might part with a week’s earnings for a special event, but not for everyday wear.

‘Witchery’ is another example. Love their look, but their focus on the colour ‘beige’ stumps me – that innocuous, fleshy colour palette may look sophisticated on younger or darker skin tones, but it washes me out completely.

So I’ve had to be resourceful and find shops that suit my lifestyle and budget, because even though I’m middle-aged I still want to look sophisticated and on trend.

So here are my top 5 ‘young’ fashion shops that are great for middle-aged women too:

Zara Zara

There’s a lot of hype about Zara and justifiably so. Stylishly European and offering clothes with an affordable price tag, Zara caters for all your wardrobe needs. Shoes are often expensive in Australia and you can buy well-made, stylish leather shoes in Zara for half the price of other brands and the  styles of their separates and dresses are so effortlessly chic, that even celebrities are happy to endorse them.

Bardot

IMG_0718 

Bardot sell sexy, loose-fitting tops that are fantastic for a casual night out over jeans or leggings. I simply love the high rounded neckline tops in particular, such as the Shimmer Cami which is flattering and priced well at the $30 level. Most of the dresses are a bit too short for me but some of the looser styles can still be worn over leggings and boots.

Forever New IMG_0720

I have a thing for sparkle and this season has been awesome in the bling department. Golds, sequins and studs are everywhere and Forever New has noticeably recently transformed its designs and the quality of its clothing. There is an assortment of great sparkly tops, vintage-style dresses and cardies, as well as shoes.

Cotton On

Cotton On

Nerd Child loves the vintage, layered look and Cotton On is a great shop for simple, lightweight, patterned cotton dresses (2 for $50 at the moment). I bought a couple for myself over the summer as well as a really useful ivory lightweight jacket for around $38 which looks great with a sparkly top over jeans, or even for work. Admittedly, there’s a lot of sh*te more suited to the younger kids but rake around and there are plenty of surprises.

Attik

Attik

Described on their website as ‘inner city festival edge’, Attiik is about colour and fun. It has a retro, hippy vibe and they offer beautifully patterned, loose fitting dresses and tops which look quirky over skinny jeans or leggings. Their colours are vibrant with a liberal use of the Indian palette such as vivid pinks, reds, mustards and turquoise but their designs are quite retro offering a sense of fun and individuality. I bought a great dress there that I have lived in over the summer, for $50.

BUT REMEMBER, there are still RULES with styling when you look to younger fashion for your wardrobe.

What to avoid:

Forget most of the skirts, because unless you want to look like you should be standing with Roxanne under her red light, in general the skirts are just way too short for the older woman, even if your pins are still fabulous. Ignore most of the accessories too, because at our age we just can’t get away with cheap and nasty bling or vinyl, poorly-made handbags. As for the ‘at the moment’ trends like gawdy floral jeans (probs not), faux leather jackets (not convinced), crop tops (NEVER, no matter how perfect your abs) and camouflage jackets and pants (ABSOLUTELY NO F*CKING WAY) – Walk away quickly!

I love buying new clothes and looking good and having some more expensive ‘basics’ in your wardrobe is vital. I spend my ‘serious’ money on shoes and dresses, but I also like to mix it up and wear new stuff, so sneaking a few cheaper tops and jackets into my wardrobe is how to keep it fresh. I’m not at all averse to the occasional op-shop either, as I mentioned here (You Don’t Have To Be Dita To Look Good In Vintage).

Don’t let the shops dictate what you should be wearing and how much you should be spending based on your age. After all, ‘age is just a number’.

Shopping Bags courtesy of richmondsquarephotos at http://www.flickr.com

Qantas Stole My Husband’s Look

English: David Beckham Nederlands: David Beckham
English: David Beckham Nederlands: David Beckham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The old man is always keen to impress today’s youth with his handle on current fashion trends. If boating shoes, seedy jeans and a comfortable tee-shirt have really been en vogue for the past thirty years, then maybe he is onto something after all, but I believe that even men’s fashion evolves.

In fairness, he has tried some new styles. He lived in beanies for a while when he was coming to terms with hair loss, and I do remember an occasion when he sported a marshmallow pink polo shirt much to his discomfort – both ‘radical’ fashion statements for the old man, for whom the acts of untucking his shirt or co-ordinating shoes with an outfit are deemed ‘making an effort’ .

His latest fashion faux-pas is that he has adopted his Qantas pyjamas as his preferred outfit for almost any occasion, without any consideration for the feelings of the rest of the family. The teens are mortified, but like the toddler that he is, the more they protest, the more often the combo seems to adorn his middle-aged frame.

I have mentioned in previous posts that clothes shopping is anathema to him.

Put him in the vicinity of an Apple shop and he is a pig in mud; abandon him in Oxford Street or a mall and he is like a stubborn lamb to the slaughter.

Like many men of his generation he has no real interest in style, unless it has a function. He shops once a year, generally when the sales are on or when he needs new business shirts. His selections are solely based around comfort. He is completely intolerant of itchy jumpers, expensive designer clothes (on principle), trying anything on, talking to sales assistants and poor service. In general, he is a mild-mannered, somewhat reserved man; in department stores, he becomes a belligerent tosser such is the stress that consumes him when clothes shopping.

It has taken me seven years to get him to believe that Converse and hooded sweatshirts are not just the threads of American hip hop artists and that it’s actually ok to undo your top button.

He’s more Simon Cowell than David Beckham.

Due to the constraints of corporate life, where he is straitjacketed in a suit from Monday to Friday, he chooses to become a libertine at the weekends. Anything goes. His style of choice has a sort of ‘labourer meets student’ bent and he will bare his chest all the time around the house if he can get away with it, much to our horror because white chest hair is obviously not a becoming look on anyone other than Father Christmas.

His absolute refusal to conform to any sort of dress code at the weekends makes ‘smart-casual’ invitations tricky and has been hotly debated during our marriage (like money) since our wedding day, because sometimes holey tee-shirts, gardening shorts and dog-chewed thongs simply don’t cut it. It may sound shallow, but occasionally I would like him to make an effort and look nice.

The grey Qantas business class pyjama top is unfortunately very similar in colour and style to a Hurley one I bought him. Unfortunately, he just happened to have thrown it on the other night when he and the HSC Queen were caught out by a whole bunch of her ‘popular’ friends from school, while hiding from one of my menopausal melt-downs in the village.

A family meeting was immediately called to address Dad’s complete disregard for the style reputation of the family and a number of suggestions were raised as to how we might cultivate a new ‘look’ for him. The first idea put forward was to invest in one of those colour therapy sessions for him, whereby he discusses the colours he likes and the colour ghuru finds the best palette and style for his body shape and coloring; the second, more vitriolic suggestion from the HSC Queen, was some man-scaping.

We realised, of course that we have as much chance of him committing to either option as I have in making him renew our wedding vows.

The aforementioned Qantas pyjama top has since been secreted in a bin bag which he unknowingly disposed of at his weekend trip to the tip, but our daughter is still scarred by the experience and still refuses to be seen with him in public.

Luckily, I married him for his money and not his appearance.