Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekend shopping booty ahead

In Vancouver for the weekend again. No Pilates this week so I was able to catch the ferry after work yesterday. Paul had dinner ready for me and then stayed out of my way while I watched Grey's Anatomy -- I know, how romantic! We've learned after this many years of separate living how to do the re-entry on the weekend. And this weekend, starting Thursday night and with Monday a holiday, we'll have four nights, a bonus! It's going to be busy -- we have opera tickets for Saturday night, I've got a big H&M trip planned with sister, daughter, and niece, we'd like to see my mom, take in the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit, catch a movie or two (not to mention a stack of marking I have to get through). Not sure how much we'll manage, but we'll enjoy it all.
Given all the recent chat about women over 40 and how they should and/or how they want to dress (and, of course, this mater is over 50, not just 40), I thought I'd respond to the consternation expressed when women "try to dress like their daughters." I have three beautiful and stylish daughters, aged 25, 28, and 31, as well as a gorgeous 25-year old daughter-out-of-law. I never try to dress "like" them, but I am always inspired by their style and we often own the same, or similar, items. My best shopping companion is my oldest daughter whose personal style is much more restrained, more edited, than I can ever manage, but who "gets" me and can honestly recognize the difference between clothes she would never wear but that look good on me and those that she would never wear (and I like) but do not look good on me. She also recommends items outside of my usual zone and will honestly concede that they don't work on me, but will equally honestly encourage me to wear something that she thinks flatters me.
What I get from my daughters is an inside ear on a conversation that I believe is part of Fashion/Style. While I think a craven attention to what's latest makes fools out of hapless consumers, I see no weakness dressing in response to context, picking and choosing from what's available at Holt's, H&M, The Gap, consignment and vintage stores, the mall, and my own wardwrobe, to create a look that expresses my personality but also reflects my engagement with the time and place. For me, this time and place is marked by my continual engagement with the (young) university-college students I teach. Although I don't want to dress like, or try to be, one of them, I do want them to see that I walk the same streets, that I'm part of the "real world," that I respect and understand some of their fashion/style choices, as much as I pay attention to music, movies, TV show, etc. Some aspects of mass culture either bore, irritate, or even disgust me, but I'd prefer to focus on the common ground where I can engage my students, and style is often one spot. I know I risk appearing the foolish older woman in the short denim skirt and high boots being snickered at from the back of the class, but I believe I manage that risk well, and, after all, life without risk . . . ? (so far, I'm stayng away from the short denim skirts!)
At any rate, in almost any season, any year, there are elements of what is current that can be combined with what I have in my wardrobe. In my work environment, jeans are acceptable, although I prefer to dress these up somewhat -- a jacket, heels, cashmere sweater, scarf -- something the students are much less likely to wear with their jeans, something that lets me "own" the look, rather than merely appear to copy it.
About four years ago, having already learned to wear dark denim and not to choose tapered, thus avoiding the dreaded 'mom jeans,' I thought I'd check out the designer jeans and see why my careful daughter thought it was worth paying so much for these. She took me into Aritzia, a store geared to the young, certainly, but which offers such staples as leggings, t-shirts, sweats, cardigans, jeans, etc. in styles which mix trendy with classic in a way that works well for my lifestyle. (I'd link you to them, but I'm working at the apartment where Paul's computer gets upset if it's asked to open a second browser window).
I tried on jean after jean after jean, and after a while, I began to see the finer differences Bronwen was pointing out, and started to identify washes that I liked, and to quickly reject overly-whiskered versions. I settled on the Ingrid, by Citizens of Humanity, in a dark denim, but distressed pair -- they're stretchy, low-but-not-too-low waist, fitted through the thigh but then a slight flare. I've actually worn them through, patched them for around the house (my other daughter tried nabbing them last year as they're rock-star perfect from the wear) and have since bought another pair.
It took me a while to get comfortable wearing the jeans. At first, I felt like what the kids call "a total poser," even though I wore mine more conservatively than they did, always making sure I had total coverage of any skin at the waist, no matter what the angle of view. But gradually I realized they weren't attracting undue attention and I appreciated how easy it was to dress them up or down depending on shoes, jewelry, etc. They made packing for travel easy and dressing for work, shopping, or even a casual dinner out quick and fun, letting me focus more on accessorizing my "uniform" of black and denim.
Several months of wearing my jeans later, my daughter asked if I'd mind getting her a pair for her birthday, so we headed back to Artizia where we played the same game in the dressing room and, surprise, she ended up choosing the exact make and model, the C of H Ingrid (another daughter has the same model as well!). While trying to decide, turning one way and another in front of the mirrors to try to catch every possible view, Bronwen turns to me and asks, "Are you sure they're okay? They're not too much of a booty jean?"
My trusted shopping consultant! She was worried about being the daughter who tried too hard to dress like the mother, the mother trustingly strutting around in the booty jeans for the last several months. . .
We finally agreed that they were not such an abomination, and have happily and chastely been wearing them since. Unless you've seen the Ingrid, or seen us in these, you'll just have to take my word for it that these really are not booty jeans. Meanwhile, there's a glimpse for you of the risks of mothers shopping with, if not dressing like, daughters. Mutton, lamb, indeed!


  1. You make a good point about looking current and how it might impact your interractions with your students. In my department at work, the majority of people I oversee are in their 20's and 30's and I think they do respond more positively to bosses who don't seem horrendously out of touch.

    Have fun shopping this weekend!

  2. So what'dya get?!

    Can someone explain why jeans now cost close to $200, and does anyone know where one can acquire a decent fitting pair for under $100?

  3. wow, thanks mom. we do make good shopping partners but I hadn't really thought about all that went into it. I have just had my favourite citizens (the ingrids you bought me 3 years ago) patched where they've worn through and will be looking for another pair when I go to seattle in a couple weeks since they will be cheaper there (ha!)


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