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 Best Skinny Jeans For Women That Aren’t Skinny

Not sponsored.

8757PWDE_BLACK_3_largeNothing gives a middle-aged woman more pleasure than great customer service. Perhaps, because we’ve been through the mill of life, getting hurt, feeling under-appreciated and losing friends we once believed to be loyal, given the right treatment, we are about as loyal as a royal Corgi.

And in my opinion, overall, customer service is improving in terms of the quality of staff and that horrid small print about our rights as consumers that we only seem to know about once we’ve lost our receipt.

However, when I returned a pair of new trousers this morning – that I’d worn over the weekend and for which I had thrown away the receipt – I’ll admit that I thought my chances of a credit note for them were as high as an apology from Trump for existing his speech yesterday.

With my trip to the UK at the forefront of my mind at the moment and my concern about Game Of Thrones-style Westeros weather, I’ve wasted a fair amount of time fretting about the limitations of my wardrobe. Here in Sydney, for most of the year we get by with layering – no layers for three seasons of the year and a couple of light layers in winter – but if memory serves me right, “layering” holds little sway in the northern hemisphere and its icy winds, unless they’re made from mammoth fur. Added to which, the weight I have gained this year from eating too much menopause, means that most of my trousers no longer fit.

So last weekend, I ditched my lifelong lie of ditching some weight before I buy new clothes – the lie I’ve told myself since I first discovered beer at university – and I bought myself what I thought was a sensible, safe new pair of cargo-style trousers, with an elastic waist.

E.L.A.S.T.I.C W.A.I.S.T… Sounds so good, doesn’t it? Almost sexual. Almost as good as “early night” or “more wine?”

And, understandably, I was excited to wear them, because nothing says “comfort” or “eat as much as you like,” like an elastic waist. So I did, for most of yesterday, until I discovered that “elastic waists” are not quite as efficient when their flexibility means that they don’t hold your trousers up, and after a day spent yanking them up in awkward places and generally fretting about them, I decided to take them back.

I’m lying, it was NC who convinced me to take them back – which is easy when you’re not the one trying to negotiate a credit on the basis of a design fault that may actually have much more to do with the bizarre shape of your body and which is guaranteed to leave the junior members of staff in your local shop, hating on you.

However, credit where credit it is due, the wonderful ladies in Decjuba, pretended to believe my story and, long story short, I came away with the most comfortable new sausage casing for my legs, EVAR! And they don’t fall down.

According to the lovely assistant that won the short straw of offering me help and advice (even though I was spending a suspect credit note), the Riley Stretch Skinny is their most popular style of skinny jeans – and she didn’t even add “with fussy, middle-aged woman with nothing better to do than give underpaid retail assistants a hard time.”  And I can understand why. Because, if like me you are forever searching for that elusive jean that makes your legs look skinny and long while absorbing the full wondrousness of your full-blown winter muffin top in comfort, these are the jean for you.

But, obviously… I can never go back to Decjuba.

Where Were The Boys From Queer Eye When Meghan Needed Them?

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Most Republicans and anti-Royalists would agree that having feigned disinterest in a royal wedding for months, there are only two reasons to surrender our idealism and watch it on the day:

  • The dress/dresses
  • The potential cock-ups

I know I sound bitter, and perhaps my honesty is not what you’d expect from a British citizen – nor one who physically lined up with the rest of Britain in the Mall for the wedding of Charles and Di. Nevertheless, the intolerance linked to ageing has released a niggling discomfort about the privilege, discrimination, hypocrisy, and refusal to move with the times of this family that is representative of the Commonwealth.

Admittedly, this royal wedding offered the greatest hope of making some of the necessary changes to this antiquated regime, and like many have commented before me, no one (who watched Harry follow his mother’s hearse) could wish the young prince anything other than well in his future with Meghan. And from what I’ve read about her, she represents what modern women (and particularly the royal family), need as a new female icon. 

And Britain does do pomp and ceremony spectacularly well – as it should, for it has had lots of practice at the expense of its taxpayers – so yesterday, anyone counting on potential cock-ups from half a congregation of commoners and Hollywood social climbers would have been sorely disappointed. There were few, if any opportunities, to make us all feel a little better about our status as commoners, other than Harry’s nervous comments to William, (translated by lip readers before Meghan arrived), the disrespectful reaction to the preacher by some, and the wonderful yawn of that cute, toothless page boy who stole the show.

And the fashion was SO deliciously British. I always forget how much the Brits love a splash of color – an attempt to counter those grey skies, I suspect. On such a stunning day in May, it was breathtaking to watch such a kaleidoscope of fashion risk, although Amal’s outfit stood out for me. To be honest, it would have been hard for anyone to ignore her confident strut down the path with an attractive man – I believe to be her husband. And Camilla always seems to get it right. That JuJu hat with its matching pink dress – compared by one journalist to a flamingo massacre – was the height of sophistication and style, as was the pistachio green outfit worn by the mother of the bride. Posh looked like she was going to a funeral – not the best advertisement for the head of a successful fashion empire – but then she did have to compete with David’s Botoxed boyish good looks, tats and fake tan.

Don’t hate me, but I have to admit to a twinge of disappointment as Meghan’s dress was unveiled, although I luuuurved her tiara and Stella McCartney evening dress. I’m not sure what she and Givenchy were trying to say by its classic simplicity – all the right things, I think – but it didn’t talk to me. I never expected her to flounce down the aisle in ruffles and crystals – and I’m certain that there was a list of rules of decorum that she had to abide by – but ‘boring’ sprang to my mind as I searched aimlessly for any tiny detail of her voice or personality.

That’s not to say that she didn’t look beautiful, but a small intervention from those boys at Queer Eye might have produced some froth and value for our taxes.

The Eternal Battle of Comfort V Style, And If I Really Have To Get Back Into My Jeans?

 

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Sportsgirl curtains, I mean, culotte pants.

 

DON’T MAKE ME, PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME try to get back into my jeans…

 

I dread this time of year as we approach winter and the weather turns in Sydney, because I have to think about squeezing my lardy-ass back into my jeans. Although currently, we are being lulled into the false sense of security posed by some beautiful, temperate Autumn days, anyone who has ever lived in Sydney will tell you that come June 1, we’ll be freezing. And it’s tricky to have to choose between warmth and style, especially when layering simply doesn’t cut it in beach houses not built to withstand winter.

 

And once again, my wobbly bits have defied my minimal attempts to shift them, refusing to miraculously disappear through the salad months of summer. Instead, they remain steadfastly fixed around my waistband, forcing my body into its annual battle with the suffocating constrictions of my winter wardrobe.

 

Comfort versus style. Comfort versus style…it is an eternal battle.

 

The problem with the comfort-thing is that while I know I should be ready for my pink cardie and Uggs – because my children tell me – I still like to look good when I go out. And when it comes to fashion – in spite of my age (and no doubt my children’s desire for me to dress appropriately for my age) – I like to stay on trend, albeit within the rules dictated by my age – apparently. MY rules, I hasten to add, NOT the rules laid out by young people for us. However, there is no denying that I have reached the stage of my life where I hate to feel uncomfortable.

 

Although I have, however, reached an acceptance of my body.  I do what I can to avoid gaining more weight, but I have come to terms with the fact that hormone changes, medications and an addiction to wine and Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked on a Friday night mean that I will never be the svelte size I was on my wedding day – and, to be honest, nor would I really want to be, because fat cells fill lines.

 

So at least 3kgs heavier than I was this time last year, there’s probably less chance of me squeezing into the un-forgiving clinginess of the drainpipe jeans I’ve worn for the past five years than the world’s media leaving Meghan Merkel and her dubious family the fuck alone – at least not without a sous-vide and an oxygen mask.

 

And in all honesty, why should I have to, when leggings exist?

 

I’ve struggled to understand the rap that leggings have received over the past few years. We can probably blame the collection of rather unsightly Kardashian camel toes in magazines or the association of the casual legwear with an attitude of not giving a fuck – and your point is? –  however, my feeling is that with a long top or dress and a pair of high boots, leggings can still look stylish on the pins of older women.

 

However, there is an alternative. Because much to NC’s initial horror, my saving grace in the trouser department this year has proved to be culottes or culotte pants as we call them here. Comfortable and stylish with flats or heels, they look chic without appearing too formal.

 

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Gingham and Heels Culottes

 

 

My first pair was a pin-striped pair from Uniqlo, and since then I have never looked back. In fact, they appear to have reproduced in my wardrobe. I now own the pair of crinkle crop pants from Sportsgirl (see image at top of my post) – that apparently remind the old man of his grandma’s curtains – a floral pair from Cotton On, and I recently acquired this more formal, khaki pair from Gingham and Heels  for those unmentionable days when the old man forces me to leave the house and work.

 

Middle Aged Clothes-Shopping Hell

big-1708092_1920Ahead of my birthday celebrations last weekend, I foolishly chose to waste a whole hour of my remaining lifetime on The Iconic, when I could have been catching up on The Bachelor and drooling over Matty J’s ass with NC. Needless, to say I drew a blank.

 

Now I’m not going to bag the Iconic site, necessarily, because this post is a general burn about the fashion available to middle-aged women and the continued gap in the market for the less subtle physical charms of our physiques and to be fair, they do offer some plus-size fashion.

 

But although I’m sure there was a time in history when it was acceptable for women to conceal their extra kilos in ruffles and frills, peasant tops, kaftans and gypsy dresses – Medieval times, if I’m not mistaken – that style does not work for everyone and at the moment it dominates the High Street. It doesn’t take a fashionista to know that “loose fitting” does not conceal – all it does, in fact, is highlight that you’re trying to hide “problem areas”. Think Elizabeth Taylor – frankly the only woman in the world that could pull off a kaftan and still look sexy.

 

If you’re not Gypsy Rose, don’t want to look like Fiona from Shrek, or aren’t brave enough to squeeze swollen breasts into crop tops and satin night dresses that make you look like a plus-size sex worker – currently en vogue and at the other end of the fashion spectrum – (KILL ME NOW!) – you probably need to migrate to a nudist colony. I like to think that I’m prepared to make the occasional fashion statement when I slip out of my yoga pants, but flashing stretch marks is not the sort of first impression I want to create, no matter how comfortable my fucking hormones have forced me to become in this new shape of mine.

 

I blame Game of Thrones – which brings me to the obvious question of what the fuck are Bishop sleeves about? As far as I can see, about the only thing they’re useful for is for storing food.

 

Anyway… once I decided for the gazillionth time that online clothes shopping is certain to trigger my first heart attack, I bravely headed out to the stores to try out some frills and spills in the vain hope that for once those (predominantly male) designers know what they’re talking about.


 Hmmm….you get my point.

 

This, my friends, is why I only buy shoes and cardigans these days, and why I’m feeling as twitchy as fuck at the flies and mosquitoes that herald the approach of summer because I won’t be able to layer. So I did what I always do when I have a “nothing to wear” low, and consoled myself with (wine) a new cushion mountain. But as the old man pointed out, there are only so many times you can wear a cushion cover as a top to the pub.

 

My needs have changed. I no longer crave to look young – that boat sailed a long time ago – but I do want to look tailored, sculpted, to have the promise of a fine wine rather than a cleanskin. Which is why shorts and short skirts disappeared from my wardrobe a few years back – not because I don’t have the legs, I hasten to add – indeed they remain the only part of my body whose BMI meets the current recommendations. But modern shorts are not tailored for “women” who chafe easily and have nether regions stretched beyond recognition from their reproductive duties.

 

Which is why I’m seriously torn about the current discourse about plus-size models on the catwalk promoting obesity. Fact: the average woman is a size 16 and it really makes it very difficult to imagine your body in something modeled by someone who has only ever dreamed of Mac n’ Cheese.

 

When I posted my frustration on my Facebook page, some lovely friends recommended the following sites, so  you might want to check them out:

Ezilbuy 

Cos Clothing 

Although, in the end, I played it safe and bought a classic, tailored white shirt which I wore over my favourite Zara skinnies (the best for stretchiness), which made me feel very dignified and not too try-hard until I dropped my fifth glass of Sangria down it. Unfortunately, I was upstaged by one of my best friends who wore exactly the same outfit – Bitch stole my look – but I won’t mention her name – FIONA – because I know how mortified she was and although I’ll never be a size 10 again, I try to remain a good friend.

The Fashion Mistakes Teenagers Need To Make

We’ve been through a lot of stuff with our son Kurt, as many of you know, and I can’t deny that there have been occasions when I’ve felt a tad wistful as I’ve walked down the street and spotted groups of clean-shaven, preppy-looking boys in their Polo shirts and boating shoes. musician-664432_1280

 

The weight of loss at my son’s refusal to conform was brought home to me the other day when I took Kurt shopping for some new clothes. Well, I say ‘new clothes’…however Kurt’s shopping destination of choice is an inner city suburb in Sydney called Newtown, a hip, trendy neighbourhood that you’d hate to find yourself in alone after 7pm unless you’re between the ages of 17 and 23, (hence stupid enough), armed, a drug addict or an impoverished student.

 

Kurt has always had an individual style. I remember that we went through his Dalmation phase when he was four or five, when he insisted on wearing a dog costume everywhere he went for at least two years; then there was the phase when he refused to wear anything other than NC’s summer school dress, (until the day the old man decided that enough was enough after Kurt paraded it in front of all our friends at a dinner party), and finally there was his Michael Jackson year with that much crotch-grabbing I wondered at one point if he’d ever be able to have children.

 

We have recently reached his ‘impoverished student’ phase, even though it must be hard for him to carry it off when he lodges with us in one of Sydney’s more exclusive suburbs.

 

Looking back, we all went through this stage. I remember wearing sexless, baggy tee-shirts and ripped jeans at university, in fact anything to disguise the fact that I was a middle-class girl with breasts and hips and not the working class heroine who could talk about the unfairness of life with some authority that I aspired to be. However, in those days we shopped in charity shops to earn our badge of poverty, unlike Kurt, who shops in vintage stores. And we all know that whenever you add the ‘vintage’ label to clothing, it doubles in price.

 

What this means is that I am effectively paying the same money for second-hand clothes as I would pay for the equivalent new clothes in a high street store.

 

I wouldn’t mind so much if his choice of ‘vintage’ wasn’t always the most deplorable, kitsch, eighties-style, insult to fashion you can imagine – the sort of shite you beg, steal and borrow for an Abba party. Yes, I’m talking shell suits, headbands, patterned knitted jumpers and cardigans and button-fly Levi jeans.

 

It hurt me physically to part with the cash on the day and I sensed that even the heavily pierced assistant with the purple hair and tattoo sleeve felt some empathy for me when I moaned about it, sounding every inch as middle-aged as I felt while Kurt writhed with embarrassment beside me.

 

Just another stage, I reassured myself as we left. I know I need to encourage my son’s freedom of expression but it did hurt to watch him leave the shop looking like he needed new clothes.

Finding The Perfect Cocktail Dress At Fifty

Exciting! I remember thinking facetiously as I ripped open the invitation to my father’s third wedding, which takes place in London this week – (hence journey from hell mentioned in previous post) – unable to repress the feeling  of being every inch the middle-aged Cinderella, when it dawned on me I’d need a dress.

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Eat your heart out, Kate Moss!

And not just any dress, but a cocktail dress.

 

To be followed by a loud fuck (!) and a serious wallow in ‘I’ve got nothing to wear-land’ when I also remembered who else from the fam was going and why I had zero chance of being one of the belles at this particular ball with stunning future step-mom, beautiful (much) younger sister, new potential sister-in-law (close in age to NC) and a couple of new step-sisters’ who are far from being wicked.

 

And then there’s the fact that I’m more of a leggings and tee kind of a girl.

 

And it was blatantly clear that the Pretty Woman moment where your man says ‘you need a dress’ and points you in the direction of the most expensive boutiques, just wasn’t going to happen.

 

Finding the perfect cocktail dress is testing at any stage of your life; at fifty-plus, it’s terrifying. You only have to look at some of the monstrosities at the recent Met Gala, where the women have money and stylists! 

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Registry office wear

 

And  I really fancied dressing to impress for what may be my father’s last wedding. I wanted the posh frock – something we rarely get the chance to wear out here in flip flop/thong land.

 

But eventually I got myself some Helen Mirren balls and decided to visualise myself as the fifty-something version of Kate Moss, rather than Olive Kitteridge.

 

And I actually started to feel excited. Right up until the finance Nazi got involved, rapped my knuckles by spelling out the impracticality of spending a fortune on a dress I would wear once, and came up with some ridiculous budget to aim for.

 

Which was obviously plain silly, because like fine wine, evening dresses don’t come cheap when you’re a woman of a certain year and size…and I’d used up my lace card at my father’s birthday party last year and just about every fucking cocktail dress in the shops was lace …and did I mention that it is a principle of mine never to buy from any shop that suggests my body is a size 14 rather than a 12, which narrowed my choice by about eighty per cent?

 

But not one to be defeated, I tried on a lot of dresses, growled in front of a lot of very unflattering changing room mirrors and swore that I would lose weight. But then…food. In desperation I even looked above budget, and if you have a caring, giving partner and $300-$500, I strongly recommend Myer’s Montique brand or Karen Millen as a great starting point.

 

But the thought of listening to the old man’s moans of grief when he checked out our bank statement was enough to bring me back to reality.

 

I couldn’t even decide on a colour. ‘Red’ made me look like I should be in the Pretty Woman cast, ‘maroon’ washed me out and ‘blue’ wouldn’t match my shoes. At one point I even hunted out an old Cue dress I’d worn for Melbourne Cup a few years ago, starved myself on cabbage soup for a week and cut my wine allowance by half – sadly, the zip on the side still refused to budget.

 

So this is the final result, ladies – a black and cream classic from Portmans at a very budget-friendly $99.95, which although really a work dress, I’m glamming up with some huge cream drop earrings. I’m still not sold on the floppy hat for the registry office, and it turns out that my half-priced raincoat from Gap is not waterproof, (so let us all unite and pray for uncommon occurrence in London of sunshine, please), but this girl IS going to that ball.

 

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‘Evening Wear’

Photos patiently (!) taken by Kurt in exchange for a box of Goon.