Twenty Pairs of Black Pants

March Break - AMc - 2005

March Break –  2005

          March really is the cruelest month.   The daffodil stalks are peeking up optimistically through the thawing ground, but the temperature is still in the negative.   The bone-chilling cold of January has been replaced by the raw damp winds of March, interspersed with a few bright sunny days, a tease of warmer weather to come.  There is always that one last snow storm or bout of freezing rain to crush your expectations of spring, when it is a relief to wake up in your cozy bed listening to the sleet against the window and know you have no place to go.   Now that I’m retired I have more days like that, in fact I don’t even have to get dressed at all.  I can stay in my PJ’s all day if I want.   And that is the dilemma with retirement clothes.  

           Just what do you wear when you are now longer working, or maybe like Cinderella you toil at home, not necessarily scrubbing the scullery floors, but looking after wee ones or freelancing or blogging.  (Does anyone else have writing clothes?)   If you have been a career person who lived in business clothes most of your life you may find after a period of social inactivity that your wardrobe has sadly deteriorated into a sloppy mess of old sweatpants and t-shirts, with perhaps a few dressy items for going out.   Even the last few years of my working life, my wardrobe had dwindled into a collection of black pants, of which I must have at least twenty pair (there might be more I’m afraid to count), and an assortment of tops which have lived in my closets for years.   Yes, I shop in my closet.

            A recent report on the CBS (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), said that the average Canadian buys 70 new garments per year, and we spend 400% more on clothes than in the 1980’s, all due to Fast Fashion which allows us to buy more for way less.   The report went on to describe how most of the old clothes we donate to charities end up in the landfill, either here or in African countries, as they are not needed, and urged people to hold swap meets and to buy less.  For once it seems I am ahead of the game, but not necessarily for the environmental reasons they suggested.  (see Sears RIP blog for the death of style). 

           Is it possible to look stylish and comfortable on a limited budget? Scraggly old sweats and stained t-shirts are fine for a few hours relaxing on the couch or doing laundry, cleaning or gardening but I’m not sure I want to live in them all the time.  There must be more attractive options – it’s time to hit the stores. 

             And the stores are full of black yoga pants and black leggings.  I have finally gotten used to skinny jeans but I hate yoga pants and leggings…worst thing ever invented.  All that spandex, and the material doesn’t breathe, and most of the time they are way too tight, your legs end up looking like sausages or toothpicks depending on your weight.   If they fit at the waist then they are baggy in the legs, or the legs are skin tight, and how attractive is that, unless you prefer the boots/hooker look, and really what MAW (mature adult woman), looks good in that?   Even Madonna is too old for that look although she doesn’t seem to know it, but then neither does Beyonce and she is still young.    I did manage to find a nice pair of comfortable black Puma sweatpants at Winners for $25, half price.  (When you are retired, you have to be frugal).   The material was thick too, not Lulu Lemonish, so they will be good for walking in cold weather, which is all we are having right now.    I also found a nice comfy pair at Reitman’s, under their Hyba brand, soft and minimal spandex.    Both had a drawstring waist, an important feature, if you plan on eating in them.  (When you are retired you tend to go out for lunch a lot.)   And because Reitman’s had a BOGO 50% off sale, (oh what suckers we are), I got a soft blue sweatshirt….did I mention it was soft.  Of course even the small was too big at the shoulders, but the saleslady assured me it should be worn off the shoulder with a tank top underneath, kind of like that old eighties movie, Flashdance.   I also bought some black fleecy long johns (top and bottoms) at Mark’s Work Warehouse, for $30 each….very warm and cozy, and great for winter walking.  I have worn these under my old sweatpants, and have been quite toasty even in minus thirty degree weather.  Now if they only made fleece for your face, I’m sure I would venture out more.   I also bought a pair of lined (T-Max Heat) black pants at Mark’s Work Warehouse for $40 half price, which I have worn shopping or running errands, and they are nice too, so we have the winter wear covered….oops forgot about the hat. Got a nice thick red and brown knitted hat to match my red parka, at Winners…$12.  It’s hard to find a decent hat unless you want to look like a Gap ad with a pompom on your head, maybe attractive for fifteen year old models but not MAW.  (I could do a whole separate blog on hats.)   Oh, and because it is Canada, boots are an essential item – practical boots, $62 with a $10 gift card (oh what suckers we are), at Marks Work Wearhouse 50% off sale, black suede with fur trim, mid calf, good for snowdrifts and shoveling the driveway, not so good for walking in, but they probably need to be broken in…did I mention it’s been too cold to walk lately?

         On the days when it’s so cold, you don’t even feel like getting dressed, pajamas are important, so two sets, both navy, one plain navy with white piping, (I call them my Rosemary Clooney White Christmas pajamas only hers were red), and one with a thin-striped navy top and navy bottoms, both from Winners.    I find I am spending more time sleeping, nine hours a night, (for the first time in my life people tell me I look good….what they mean is I don’t look tired), and they are both great for lounging around in the evening.  Both are very soft cotton material, although a bit warm for the winter nights when it’s minus thirty below and I have the heat cranked up so the pipes don’t freeze.  Then I wear my summer PJ’s.

             Before Sears closed I bought a navy blue with white trim (I sense a nautical theme here), designer one piece bathing suit for 60% percent off, at $25, a real bargain.   It was for those water aerobics classes at the sports complex, but I have yet to wear it.   It’s too cold to go to the arena but I’m sure my bone density test will love it someday.   My last purchase was a new rose/brown sweater, again end of season half price $42, for wearing with jeans or black pants for lunches/dinners out.     And there you have it….retirement wardrobe covered, total cost, approx. $400.    I could use a few more casual tops for the sweats, but before you know it,  spring will be here, and I can switch to t-shirts and start my annual hunt for Capri pants that fit.   Is there anything more enticing than stores full of colorful spring clothes in the last dregs of winter – such promise of summer days ahead.   Or maybe next winter, I’ll just skip the whole thing and wear that bathing suit down south. 

         I wrote this wardrobe update summary the first year of my retirement, but in the year since then I have bought even less, (three more pairs of black Hyba pants, two summer tops, and a mint green Columbia spring windbreaker jacket), so obviously I am not the typical consumer the CBS based their poll on.  It does seem excessive to buy so much, not to mention expensive.   I remember spending more money on clothes in my younger years because I loved to shop and people dressed up more back then.  (see vintage blog)   Maybe younger people are happy with the available Fast Fashion.   But I am older and fussier now too – it must be of good quality, fit well, look good, be comfortable, practical, needed, a reasonable price and also bring me joy – a tall order for any poor garment.   No wonder I am buying less.  I have been reading about all things Parisian for future blogs, and the French seem to be perfectionists when it comes to clothing, which may be why they have such great personal style.   A French woman will shop for months for the perfect article of clothing.  I think I would do well there.  Vive la France!  

(Disclaimer:  I do not own this Paris picture, it was from a box of note cards but it is so elegant I just had to share it.) 

Postscript:   The snowdrops are out, the first sign of spring. Snowdrops

Thanks, It’s Vintage

My love of vintage fashion stems from my inability to get rid of clothes, which is why I still have an eighties closet.   I suppose you could blame it on not having many clothes during my formative years.  We had to wear ugly nun-like navy blue uniforms in high school and for a young girl who poured over the pages of the few Seventeen magazines I owned like they were the Bible, I think it must have somehow damaged my psyche.   My entire wardrobe fit into half a small clothing rack in the upstairs bedroom I shared with my sister, and a few dresser drawers.   Oh, we went shopping with my mother, but mostly we looked.  When I was a poor university student who lived in jeans and polyester shirts, my dorm closet was the size of a phone booth and still held my entire wardrobe.  It was only in the eighties when I started working that I had any money to spend on clothes, and graduated to multiple wall length closets, separated by season.  It’s not that I think the 80’s was a great decade for clothes, all those big shoulder pads and billowy sleeves…. the reason I can’t part with the stuff is the fabric – the fabrics were so beautiful, and the clothes seemed to be better made than what is available today in our throw away society – i.e. if you haven’t worn it in a year throw it out.  All those beautiful velvet dresses, because yes people actually dressed up for New Years Eve (think of Meg Ryan’s strapless blue velvet dress with matching elbow length gloves in When Harry Met Sally), and Christmas, (think Donna Reed’s black velvet dress with lace collar in It’s A Wonderful Life).

 They dressed up for work too – I wore tailored suit jackets (with pocket scarves matching the blouse) with skirts to meetings, in fact I don’t think I wore pants to work until 2003.   I still have the shirt dress I work to my first job interview – a fine worsted blue wool – I paid $200 for it…. but I got the job.  Then there were the April Cornell cotton sundresses (such vibrant colours and prints), which I wore to work in the summer, under a lab coat of course, when the air conditioning was broke – because even though it was a hundred degrees out you couldn’t be seen in bare legs, capri pants or skimpy tops.   It seems we have chosen comfort over elegance, but I don’t remember it being a chore to dress up back then.  Although it might have been a relief to change into jeans and sweats, we didn’t live in them.  Clothes today don’t seem to have as much style, and the material is inferior, and you certainly can’t tell when shopping over the internet, so it becomes a hassle and an expense having to return things.  Maybe I am just in that in between age, too young to shop at the stores my mother shops at but too old for most of the stores in the mall, and department stores seems to be a dying breed.  I am still mourning the death of Eaton’s…will Sears be next?

      The decades I really love are the 50’s and 60’s – the elegant Audrey Hepburn Dior dress era with the little black hats with veils. 

Audrey Hepburn-Breakfast at Tiffanys

I remember my mother having a Jackie Kennedy-like navy blue taffeta dress with a small bustle which she would wear with a string of glass pearls, on the few occasions my parents went out…usually to funerals.   The dress is long gone, but I still have the pearls.   The roaring twenties was also a lovely era for clothes (think Downton Abbey – elbow length evening gloves and all those hats).  You had to wear a hat to church up to the mid-60’s or you would be excommunicated.   Hats made a brief come back in the 80’s with Lady Diana, I have two vintage hats, one black with a stylish brim and one white with a big feather…. hats are probably a whole other blog.

 Vintage purses are fun especially those that close with a decisive click, and it’s always interesting to look at old jewelry and see if it can be refurbished.  I like to browse in vintage stores, but I don’t care for tacky vintage, no matter how expensive the designer label.    Likewise, if it’s shopworn….it must be in excellent condition.   I once saw a beaded flapper top in a vintage store which I loved but it was so stained under the armpits I couldn’t even try it on.   The same store also had the exact same black velvet dress I bought in the 80’s (which still resides in my closet), for $80 – when I went back a month later it was gone, so there might be some money in selling some of this stuff.   My friend offered to make me a quilt with the April Cornell sundresses, if only I could be brave enough to cut them up.     Last June I needed a WW2 40’s style dress for a swing band dinner dance, (we got last minute tickets the day before), but after a quick visit to Valu Village and the Goodwill I still couldn’t find anything, so I raided my closet and wore a yellow Laura Ashley sundress with a full skirt – so sometimes that vintage closet does come in handy.  When we got to the venue, which was an airport hanger they had decorated with war memorabilia, there was a similar yellow dress on a mannequin beside an army jeep.  I wish I had thought to get my picture taken beside it, but when I got compliments on my dress, I replied, thanks, it’s vintage!


1920 ‘s daring to show a little ankle

This is a picture of my grandmother and her sisters around 1920 when women were just starting to show their ankles.  I wonder what they would think of all those strategically placed barely there dresses movie stars wear now…

Songs of The Day:   Blue Velvet – Bobby Vinten – click here for music link

Frank Sinatra: They Can’t Take That Away From Me – click here for music link

Book of the Day:   Vintage by Susan Gloss – see The Vintage Corner on main menu or Goodreads review on the front page.