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?

Shopping, Friendship and Embracing Your New Middle Aged Body

I am usually a lone shopper. I take my shopping habit very seriously and can quite easily waste an entire Saturday trying out new styles that I would never actually buy in a million years. I enjoy the beauty and creativity behind beautiful clothes, fabrics and home accessories – I like looking at them, touching them, trying them on or imagining them in my home. The benefit of my impulsive nature is that sometimes it leads me to try on wildly different styles than neither my wallet or body can really take, but even on those days I come away from the shops empty-handed, shopping is always a delicious stress-buster. buy-1299519_1280

 

And I have built up good brand knowledge as a result of so much active research in the field. I know which brands are shockingly under-sized and make me feel like I’ve eaten all the pies, and which ones are more accurate for older women. Interestingly, I have a far calmer approach to buying clothes now that I’m officially middle-aged, whereas in my forties I stressed out when nothing fitted or looked right, or when I couldn’t find the appropriate style to suit my increasing age and girth. I’m much more chilled about the process now; finally, I know what suits my body and can appreciate that rare experience for what it is, when something… ANYTHING…fits. If all else fails I console myself with lingerie and shoes.

 

Although, that approach may also have something to do with my meds, too…

 

Not so for one of my besties, however, who up until recently avoided shopping malls like holidays in the Middle East. Just as I’ve been forced to discover a new pleasure for buying underwear in middle age, my friend has transferred her shopping affections to the purchase of super-expensive cosmetics, such is her fear of trying on clothes that don’t fit or flatter her new body shape.

 

So much so that occasionally when she reaches rock bottom or has a major ‘nothing to wear’ moment, she’ll reach out to me in desperation for some guidance – I assume to boost her confidence. 

 

I agree that at our age clothes shopping can be about as as much fun as having your eyebrows threaded; not like in our younger years, when everything looked good on our pre-baby/menopausal bodies. Whenever NC and I shop together, I take a perverse pleasure in admiring just how good everything looks on her, as though it was designed for her fabulous, lithe, young body, whereas statistically I have about a 10% chance of getting the zip up on a good day.

 

Yesterday this friend joined me in the city on impulse, and although I only returned home with one purchase (much to the old man’s delight), in the form of a beige trench coat that was reduced by 50% in the Gap sale, meaning I actually saved money, it gave me the fuzzies to see how excited she became in what is normally a terror zone for her, egged on by a little help from a friend. It’s not that we necessarily share the same taste in style, (hence there was no in-store fighting over the last pair of Cue sale trousers), all she needed was a boost to her confidence; someone to push her to try things on, tell her when an outfit looked good, be firm if it looked shit, to surreptitiously steer her away from her comfort zones and force her to embrace her new figure rather than resenting it.

 

We’ve both gone up a size since our forties, although we suffer from different body issues, but we shared a mission yesterday, with trips booked back to the UK in a few weeks time – mine for Dad’s third wedding and hers an overdue trip to catch up with family and friends.

 

So we want to look our best.

 

By the end of the day, I had even convinced her to buy three new bras – once she’d finally conceded that she might have gone up a bra size since her previous purchase at Marks and Spencers in London three years ago.

 

It’s a new world out there, and we need to feel brave and empowered, not anxious. It’s a time where it’s important to draw our true friends closer, and embrace the physical embellishments of a good life lived thus far.