Tag Archives: wardrobemakeovers

The Rites of Fall

Last week totally got away from me. We’d left the cool coastal weather for hot, steamy Austin and resumed normal, non-vacation life – which included discovering a dead car battery, a pool that was neon green, a wonky garage door, physicals, dental visits, haircuts and other end-of-summer transitions.

More than January, September always feels like the true beginning of a new year. For my husband, the return of fall football is his favorite ritual. For me, it’s all about curling up with the big September fashion magazines; the fatter, the better.

Every year, as I flip through the pages, I ask myself: 1) Who would be caught dead in these get-ups? and 2) What, if anything, can I (still) wear?

Stacy London, former host of What Not To Wear, recently wrote an impassioned piece about the challenges — sartorial and otherwise —  of being a woman in a society that doesn’t value aging. It’s hard to evolve your appearance in a way that feels truthful, relevant and flattering.

I’m not about to adopt a style that doesn’t suit me just because a magazine says it’s “in”. But reading about the latest trends gives me fresh perspective on stuff at the back of my closet that could potentially live to see another day, given a tweak or two.

The older I get, the more those “trends” start to seem like classics. Every September, the fashion bibles trot out some version of menswear plaid, Victorian heroine (velvet, lace), preppy chic and Goth black leather. This year, “athleisure” is still going strong and leopard is everywhere.

I’m not yearning for lace or embroidery, and I’ll limit black leather to coats and bags rather than heavy-metal biker outfits. Ah, but animal print? That’s the real me.

I first fell in love with leopard around 7th grade back in the 60’s. (Notice how fabulous Anne Bancroft looks in The Graduate and you’ll know why.) I’ve never stopped wearing it, though most years I confine my leopard obsession to shoes, scarves or other accessories. I’ve also considered giving it up, wondering if I’m too old to be flashy, but then I look at nonagenarian Iris Apfel’s exuberant ensembles and think, hey, who cares?

This year, I’m channeling my inner Kate Moss and looking for a full-on leopard print fake fur coat. It will be too hot in Texas to wear until December but I don’t care. It will keep me fashionably current, appeal to my inner glamour puss, look cool in my closet and add some verve to my dull everyday uniform of jeans and a sweater.

Rituals keep us connected to our history. My husband loves watching football as much as he loved playing the game in high school. And the September magazines remind me that playing with fashion is a way to have fun, feel inspired and reinvent myself – even if it’s only in my own mind.

Shop on!

Clothes Encounters of the Male Kind

Left to their own devices, I suspect most men would barely notice what they put on their bodies.

This explains some of the odd items lingering in my husband’s closet: The polyester smoking jacket. The Hawaiian shirt in cheery shades of brown. The pilled sweater circa 1995.

As I’ve stealthily upgraded his wardrobe over the years, I’ve been fascinated by the differences in our fashion philosophies. If these “rules” remind you of anyone, there may be a closet makeover in your future, too!

  1. If it fits, it’s fine. A lot of guys have been wearing the same style of khakis since college. Hell, a few are still wearing the same pair – and are so proud they can fit into them that they’re completely oblivious to the giant rip in the rear end or the ground-in beer stains from frat week ’71.
  1. Avoid clothes shopping. He’d sooner get a prostate exam. And the only thing he hates more is un-shopping. If he buys a shirt that’s two sizes too big or too small he’ll leave it in the back of the drawer growing moss rather than go back to the store to return or exchange it.
  1. Buy cheap, especially if you’ve gained weight. If most of your man’s clothes are labeled Costco, you know what I’m talking about.
  1. The best clothes come from Dick’s Sporting Goods. You may think fan gear is silly; to him it’s sacred, as well as a fashion staple. Moreover, it’s a known fact that if you don’t wear team gear on game day, your team will lose. That simple.
  1. Underwear lasts forever. Whether it’s saggy, full of holes, or the elastic is all stretched out, if he can still put it on, it’s still “wearable”. Ditto, socks.
  1. Stockpile old shoes in case you have to repaint the bathroom someday. That Boy Scout “Be Prepared” thing is drilled into his subconscious. I don’t think they meant six pairs of worn-out loafers, though.
  1. Sweatpants are appropriate for all but the most formal occasions. And if he could wear them to the rehearsal dinner, don’t think he wouldn’t.

Happily, although many men hate shopping, they love receiving gifts. This gives you the perfect excuse to introduce him to natural fabrics, a tie that’s not a military stripe, and something other than a Black Sabbath t-shirt to wear on casual Fridays.

Order jeans and khakis online (stores like The Gap carry a variety of styles and sizes) so he can try them on at home instead of in the dreaded dressing room.

Since most men will avoid twirling in front of a mirror to check out their butts, it’s up to you to tell him what’s flattering and explain why pleats are not his friend. Likewise, why cotton will “breathe” and synthetics will make him sweat faster than getting a letter from the IRS.

Once you’ve stocked up, it’s time to purge. Toss the frayed underpants, moth-eaten slacks and anything with a 5” lapel. Keep the t-shirt from the kid’s alma mater, no matter how beat up it is. One pair of ratty old sneakers should be sufficient for future home improvements.

Soon enough, he will start to appreciate nicer clothing and trust you when you tell him if a particular garment doesn’t look good. And by then, he won’t even notice you threw out the sweater his ex-wife gave him.

Let the intervention begin!