When I was in high school, my mom told me I dressed like an athletic coach. Naturally, I blew my whistle and penalized her 15 yards for unnecessary honesty.
Several years prior, I had won the Ruth Buzzi look-alike contest in my junior high school. Confession: it wasn't so much a contest as a "pet name" given to me by...um...the entire school.
I went through many vinyl handbags defending myself during those years. (Luckily, though, with my giant melon I could wear adult-sized hair nets and not have to get kid-sized ones custom made.)
Then, after high school, it was off to college where, believe it or not, I became even less skilled in dressing myself. I ricocheted from one regrettable decision to another (and, no, I'm not talking about dating - that's fodder for another, more disturbing post). It was 50s housewife one day, Madonna wannabe another, extra from "The Great Gatsby" the next.
Our little college town was full of used-clothing stores and I loved to dig through the musty racks, hunting for a treasure with a little piece of masking tape on it that read $2.00, written by hand with a Sharpie. Some of my finds that were worked into my "wardrobe" again and again over those four years:
- A surplus Eisenhower jacket in army green wool, military patches intact
- A strapless, pink satin cocktail dress from the 50s whose lining was in such bad shape that the dry cleaner made me sign a release before he'd touch it
- A men's black overcoat with a plaid lining, popular with flashers across the country
- A multi-pastel petticoat made of such stiff tulle that it would occasionally roll down the hallway of my dorm like a tumbleweed. (I also suspected it of having cannibalized several pairs of my jeans in my closet while I was away at class.)
What would I do with these ultra-swank items, you ask? Why, I would combine them, of course! Picture the trim, masculine cut of the high-waisted army jacket perched above the springy tulle petticoat hovering around my hips like the lingering, pastel cloud of some chemical explosion, and, to complete the outfit...wait for it...cowboy boots! Woo-Hoo! Add to that the motorcycle helmet I always had in my hand when schlepping across campus and there you have it.
Paging Mr. Blackwell.
In my defense, it was the Eighties.
These are the images that were running through my mind the other day when I stumbled across a book on my shelf that I didn't even remember having - a book about fashion. More specifically, it's a big list of the clothing pieces every woman of style should own. [Note: if I were going to buy one of these books today, I'd buy Imogen Lamport's. I'm just sayin'.]
So I took a moment and flipped through the book and I was like, man, are they way off! A cape?! Seriously? When's the last time you wore a cape? I mean, not counting your roller derby costume.
I thought I'd share a few of the must-have items from this book and translate them into actual, real-life items from my admittedly sketchy
"Stylish" Women Should Own: Silk Pajamas
Really? Are we fancy? Does your husband often strut around the house in a satin smoking jacket and cravat? Neither does mine. (Okay, the first one did and, frankly, I didn't care for it.) Why so dressy when all you're going to do is fall asleep and have that same nightmare you always have? (The one where you're in the grocery store wearing nothing but a pool float and desperately trying to find a manager so you can get a refund on a bag of circus peanuts but then you run into your old boyfriend who for some reason has turned into a centaur. You know - that nightmare.) If I'm going to be sweating and kicking the covers off and waking up in terror, I want to be comfy. My real-life alternative: ancient, oversized college t-shirt and, you know, drawers.
"Stylish" Women Should Own: Leather Pants
Stop right there. I can think of maybe five people in the world who have any business in leather pants, and only two of them are women: Tina Turner and Chrissy Hynde. Period. What do they have in common? They're ROCK STARS. Rocks stars have highly trained butts that are honed and polished by years of shaking their moneymakers onstage, then soaking them in champagne in their private trailers afterwards. It's a strict regimen they follow for at least two world tours before even attempting leather pants. And for good reason: woe be to the woman (of any age) who foolishly inserts her derriere into leather pants without proper rock star credentials because she will be smote for all eternity by:
OLD LADY BUTTWe've all seen it. Think back to the mere mortals you've seen wearing leather pants and you'll remember that their tushies looked like upholstered cinder blocks, right? Right. To be avoided at all costs until you go multi-platinum (and, no, I'm no talking about your highlights). My real-life alternative: Jeans. The ones I wear pretty much every day (for years now) and wash on most major holidays whether they need it or not.
"Stylish" Women Should Own: Fur
Okay, we'll set animal rights issues aside here and just say, "Huh?" Maybe it's because I live in Los Angeles, but I can' t imagine wearing fur anywhere in my regular life. My local Albertson's? School pick-up? The dog track? Hmmm... And why is it that when I picture myself wearing fur, I'm also wearing a turban, dark glasses and holding a long-stemmed cigarette, muttering something about Mr. DeMille and my close-up? My real-life alternative: Black satin baseball jacket. (Goes great with one of those Italian horn gold chains. Shicka-BOW.)
"Stylish" Women Should Own: A Caftan
Well, excuse the Jo Anne Worley out of me, but even I - in my most questionable fashion moments - would not be caught dead or alive in a caftan. Nowhere along the Pippi Longstocking/George C. Scott continuum will you find Mrs. Roper. No way. My real-life alternative: the Hawaiian shirt. Like all parents, my folks sent up a silent prayer before I was born to the tune of, "Please, God, let her look like Jimmy Buffet." The Hawaiian shirt is the great equalizer, turning women into men and men into clueless tourists. Like the Greek fisherman's cap, which should be worn only by (that's right) Greek fisherman, so the Hawaiian shirt is beyond reproach only in its native land. That being said, however, I own several of these babies, in colors that will make your eyes bleed.
"Stylish" Women Should Own: An Evening Gown
Okay, finally! I'm on board with this one. Here's how it works in my closet: Once a year, I pull out the garment bag and slowly unzip it. Then I work my way into my fanciest dress, which lives in pristine solitude, tags still attached, in the back of my closet. I stand on a footstool and turn slowly, assessing the overall look in the bathroom mirror. Year after year, the verdict is the same: I look like a sack of doorknobs in this dress. I gingerly slip it off, return it to its velvet hanger inside the garment bag, and return it to its shrine in the recesses of the clothes rack. A very satisfying ritual.
Kind of like Groundhog Day with cellulite.
Bitchin' New Blog Alert - That minx Marinka (along with ShallowGal) is at it again with an addictive new blog called Secret Spineless Whine. It's a tastefully discreet little hideaway out there in the blogosphere where a person can sample whines of all varieties...or pour their own. Highly satisfying and (side benefit) it doesn't turn your tongue purplish-black.
Thank you to all my friends from SITS who stopped by earlier in the week when I was Featured Blogger. Wow - so happy to see all of you and meet all the new visitors! (Still can't believe I ran out of three-layer dip - damn!) I'm making my way through the comments and visiting lots of new blogs, so if I haven't stopped by yet...I will soon. And, if you're wondering what SITS is...it stands for The Secret Is In The Sauce and it's one of the nicest groups of broads on the Web (the kind who always have fresh blue water in their powder room potty). I've made many true bloggy friends through SITS - I'm so happy I found them. Stop by and see for yourself... Thanks again for the awesome comments and support!
Thank you to Kim at Hormone Colored Days for shouting out to my Meme of PMS! Kim's having a contest and the winner will receive a...um...well, she tells it better than I can.
And thank you for the mention by the tres formidable (that's European for wicked awesome and do not dog me about the missing accent) La Belette Rouge. We will be tying on the ol' feedbag today for the first time and I'm very excited to meet her! I will, naturally, be wearing a corduroy jumper that I have BeDazzled especially for this occasion.