“It’s going to be an ‘80’s party,” a friend shared. “Leg warmers, purple eye shadow, and scrunchies. Remember when we used to wear all that?”
I was nodding and tracking until she got to the part about scrunchies.
“What’s that about scrunchies? I still wear scrunchies. Don’t people wear scrunchies,” I wondered.
From the look on my friend’s face – poor thing, she was flat mortified for me – I surmised that the answer was no, in fact, people are no longer wearing scrunchies. Over the next weeks, I began looking around and indeed there was nary a scrunchy to be found. When did this happen? Why does Wal-mart still sell these things? More to the point, how did everyone figure this out except me?
Over the summer I attended a neighborhood swap. What a great time! Bring all your junk and take home mine absolutely free. I roamed around on the lookout for good finds.
“Ooh, Kel!” a friend called. “Aren’t you a size six? Grab that pair of Sperry Topsiders.”
Sperry Topsiders. Every girl in my high school sported a pair. They fit like a glove. I took them home faintly puzzled that I now had shoes left over from the preppy era. Suddenly I saw Sperry Topsiders everywhere. All over the swank stores at the mall. On the feet of a nine-year-old sitting in front of me. A neighbor saw me wearing them and called, “Cute shoes!”
When did Sperry Topsiders come back into vogue? How did everyone learn of this trend? How did it escape me?
Fashion mystifies me. There is some mysterious formula that other women seem to absorb. For me it’s like memorizing irregular French verbs. Scrunchies are out; Topsiders are in. Scrunchies are out; Topsiders are in. Say it again. Got it.
The crux of the problem is that irregular French verbs don’t morph; fashion does. Everyone seems to get this except for me. And the mystery of it all leaves me with a sinking feeling that I have somehow time travelled back to the sixth grade.
That was the year my family moved. While in geographical terms we migrated a mere four miles, in other respects it was a world away. We moved from middle class digs to a wealthier neighborhood and a new school populated by hoity toity girls who, I promise you, emerged from the womb with an uncanny ability to both accessorize and flirt.
They primped and did makeovers and read Seventeen Magazine. I still enjoyed climbing trees.
Oh, how I wanted to figure it all out! I, too, read Seventeen Magazine – from cover to cover - mostly because I was desperate to crack the code! Baby blue Levi’s corduroys? Check. Over-sized comb in the back pocket? Check. Bubble gum flavored Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker? Check. Beyond that, I was hopelessly lost.
To some degree, I still am. Maybe there’s a gene that failed to pass on properly. Maybe my secret decoder ring got lost in the mail. Who knows? Oh, I have managed to find a style of sorts that I call my own, but it isn’t easy for the fashion impaired. Rebecca Teti could have been describing me when she wrote:
Ladies, I am not a fashion maven. I try not to look utterly out of step with the times, but as I have neither the temperament nor the budget nor the figure to make shopping fun, I’m content with a style (if something so haphazard can rise to the level of a “style”) I might call “presentable middle-aged mom.”
(Or perhaps “last year")
Can I hear a shout out for presentable middle-aged moms in last year’s fashions? We keep Sears in the black!
I was trying on shorts when the micro-inseam was still the rage. Good grief! What post-pubescent female could actually wear those things? Now I am not exactly fit, but neither am I large. I must have tried on thirty pairs of shorts. In the middle of this, I began to wonder if there weren’t yet another memo I failed to received, this one detailing some special sort of underwear one should don when wearing these odious shorts.
(Note: If low-rise shorts require underwear that starts with a “th” and rhymes with “song,” I say no, thank you to both the shorts and the undies. I am in full agreement with a friend who refuses to invest in an item that is designed to do exactly what every woman has spent her entire life trying to get her underwear not to do.)
Maternity clothes present their own set of challenges. Looking around the pool this summer, I was so impressed with the array of cute maternity bathing suits. Where were these darling numbers a year ago? Then pregnant with Ainsley, I scoured both the online and the brick and mortar maternity world and found there was one word to describe every single bathing suit: skimpy. Yes, skimpy. I can think of a number of adjectives to describe the look I had in mind, but, trust me, skimpy did not make the list. I ended up getting a suit from a friend. Cute, it was not. It brought to mind words such as moo moo and caftan. My sister actually burst out laughing when she saw me in it. What’s a fashion-challenged pregnant mother to do?
Nursing brings another wave of fashion woes. With birthday cash in my pocket, I hit the mall the other day intent on finding something snazzy. With a few extra pounds here and there – pounds that I fully intend to lose really, really soon! – nothing I tried on was flattering in the least. Frustrated, I bopped into Strasburg Kids and spent my birthday money on a dress for sweet Ainsley. She looks better in clothes than I do.
Eventually I get fed up with the entire process. I go all Felix Unger and conclude that if I can’t pull off trendy, at least I can be neat. I grab my trusty Lands End catalogue and place an order.
All of this begs a basic question: Why bother with it at all? Well, for two reasons. First, I actually do enjoy looking nice. It’s something I like to do for myself, my hubby, and for all the people who have to look at me all day. Rachel Balducci and Hallie Lord took up the issue here. It captures the balance between too much and too little.
Second, I have found that ignoring any area of life doesn’t make that area any easier; in fact, it just complicates things further. Going back to those post-partum days, the simple process of getting ready for Mass would become an ordeal when I had nothing to wear. The entire family would be headed for the van as I stared at a bed covered with three blouses, two skirts, and a slew of bras.
I recently enjoyed several good hair days in a row. The reason? An updated haircut. A little maintenance, a little attention and these areas of life are less of a headache.
I am not a nun who dons a wimple each morning. While there are moments when shaving my head sounds tempting, that is not the life God has called me to lead.
So here I sit still waiting for my fashion decoder ring to arrive. In the meantime, I can always count on Lands End.