I've had a uneasy relationship with blue jeans my entire life. I didn't wear them growing up - they were what the farm kids wore, not us "town" kids. I did have a pair of brushed denim wide-leg overalls that came from either the Eaton's or Sears' catalogue when I was in high school, but that was my entire denim experience until I left home at 18. I had a couple of pairs of high-waisted straight leg jeans (I am wearing a pair in one of the photos in my "hairstory" post) when I was in university, but after getting my first full-time job, I decided blue jeans were too "mainstream" for me. The only denim I would wear was a pair of skinny black jeans that spoke to my inner angsty punk girl. I loved those pants and wore them with over-sized men's blazers I found at the thrift stores and pointy black flats. I never found a second pair that fit me as well, so I wore those pants until the waistband fell off.
I made it through the rest of my adult life without wearing blue jeans until about five years ago when I decided to give them another chance and purchased these dark denim, wide leg ones. In this photo from 2013 I paired them with a 70's blouse, and this outfit was immortalized in one of Spy Girl's digital catwalk sketches. Alas, I have since "outgrown" the waist on these and they will go off to a new home. Part of the reason I didn't wear jeans is that I could never find any that fit properly. My waist to hip ratio means that anything that fits my waist is too big in the hips and butt, which makes shopping for any kind of fitted pants a frustrating experience.
What the completely inappropriate almost-54-year-old is wearing this year
I found the jeans I'm wearing in the photo above at Value Village several years ago for $8. They are by the brand French Connection (FCUK), and were sloppy-big on me when I got them, but I wore them occasionally anyway, cuffed and belted with clunky boots. Now I'm bigger and they fit better, and I will often wear them on weekends, and they don't feel mainstream at all. Especially since those annoying "What to Wear (or Not Wear) After 30, 40, 50" lists you can find in almost every women's magazine tell me I should be wearing mid-rise, dark denim, boot cut jeans. In fact, I am breaking all kinds of rules with this outfit:
1) Several lists proclaim No graphic t-shirts after 40- I don't think there is a best-before date to wear a Johnny Depp as Cry-Baby t-shirt - below the photo of Depp is the line "good girls want him bad, bad girls want him worse!"
2) Going "sleeveless" is discouraged after 50 as it may reveal your aging skin (horrors!). I don't like short sleeves, so I rolled the ones on this shirt up and fastened them with safety pins. And I do arm weights at the gym, so Fuck you, list people.
3) I'm wearing red lipstick, which some people think is too flashy for us mature dames. I've only just started wearing it in the last decade and I'm going to keep wearing it until I don't like it anymore. Bella of Citizen Rosebud did an excellent blog post back in 2012 titled "Real Women Wear Red Lipstick.
4) I'm sure there is a list somewhere that suggests that Converse are not appropriate footwear for the mature woman, but I beg to differ. They go with everything from jeans to dresses and I put arch supports in mine so I can walk for hours in them.
5) And then there's the hair, but I covered that in my last blog post.
Over the last several years, my hair style has become the thing for which I'm most recognized for - I thought it might be fun for you (and me) to see some of my own personal "hairstory" in photos...
Yes, that is me, back when I could be called "cute". Even at that tender age, you can tell that I was doing my own thing when it came to my hair.
Again, still cute at age three, and one of my favourite photos from my childhood. I'm clutching the arm of my cousin Jeff, who was a year younger than I, and who, along with his two younger brothers, would become my playmates during the summers. I suppose you could describe my hairstyle as a "bob". Saggy crotch leotards would become the bane of my childhood existence.
Throughout public and secondary school, my hair went through whatever style was deemed workable for fine, straight hair, even the ghastly all-over perm. While I was growing up, long hair was the norm for girls, while mine was mostly short, except for around Grade 5 (bottom left), when it reached shoulder-length. I think my mother most likely did not have the time to spend on the maintenance that long hair required, and by the time I was old enough to make my own hair style decisions, I don't remember having any strong desire to grow it out.
Then I graduated high school and I moved away from home to go to university in London, Ontario, and for some now-forgotten reason, I decided to not only grow my hair, but also get it permed. This is the only photograph I have documenting that brief experiment, from around 1982. I was taking dance classes at university and if my technique and flexibility were not impressive, I was at least determined to look the part - note the Ballet-themed t-shirt, leg warmers, and jazz oxfords (I'm surprised I'm not wearing an off-the-shoulder flashdance sweatshirt). That's my friend Joanne on the left.
What a difference three years make! Joanne came to visit me in London around 1985 after I graduated university and got my first apartment on my own. I was working in a record store, and had embraced my inner punk (I was especially happy with my black fishnets over pink tights look).
From that point on, aside from a short-lived Louise Brooks style bob in my early 30's, my hair stayed very short, and the experimentation with colour began. I soon discovered that having close-cropped hair meant put me on the receiving end of comments like "what are you, a dyke?", or the unimaginative "Freak!" It could be pretty upsetting at times, but oddly enough, it didn't make me grow my hair. More than one boyfriend wistfully askd me if I would let me hair grow, and some guys felt it necessary to point out that "I would be prettier with long hair".
I kept it short, and it made me feel rather sassy
I bleached it blonde in 2008, and when I finally realized that was not the most flattering colour choice for me, I added hot pink.
For the last few years, I've had the "shaved back and sides, long on top" style, and it feels very much like "me". I stopped colouring it all over about 3 years ago and the "natural" sides and back let me get used to the incoming grey, but still gives me a long piece on top to play with, and as you can see from the photos, I've tried a few different colour combinations. It's interesting to note that I don't get called a "freak" anymore because of my hair - most people's reactions are very positive - but the assumption is still made that I'm a lesbian because of my hair cut. When I moved into my current apartment 3 years ago, a neighbour informed me (after we got to know each other) that he has assumed I was gay before he met me because I had a "lesbian hair cut". And I didn't know such a thing existed!
I was surprised at how versatile a small chunk of hair can be - I can wear it down and straight, up in a swoop, curl it, and experiment with scarves and other headwear.
My favourite? The Big Swoop - it takes a bunch of hair product, some time with the blow-dryer and a near-toxic amount of hairspray, but the end result feels like I am wearing a piece of sculpture on my head.
Have you had a hair evolution, or have you remained true to a specific style/colour for most of your adult life?
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a media contact for Value Village, inviting me to a "Preview Event" of the re-opening of one of their stores here in London, Ontario. The east end store that I frequent was moving to a larger location right across the street from its current location, and they were having a special shopping night for invited guests before it opened to the public on August 6th. The best part was that they offered me a $50 gift certificate to shop with, and as I love shopping with other people's money, I accepted the invitation.
Value Village is a for-profit thrift retailer selling used clothing, accessories and household items, with over 330 stores across Canada, the United States and Australia. The first store was opened in San Francisco, CA in 1954, and the company came to Canada in 1980. A number of non-profit organizations, (including the Canadian Diabetes Association which is my charity of choice for my clothing donations), benefit by selling donated goods to Value Village, and unsold items are recycled and sent to developing countries.
I've been shopping at Value Village for many years, and have scored some great things there, but had been cutting back on the frequency of my visits, mainly for two reasons: the prices had increased quite significantly over the last few years, particularly on items from "Fast Fashion" retailers, and there were fewer vintage items to be found. I was told the store tries to price items between 10% and 30% of the original selling price, which sounds reasonable, especially for higher quality designer items. However, when I see used dresses from The Gap, H & M and Joe Fresh priced at $18.99, I think it is highly unlikely they were retail priced at over $60. When you can pick up a new Joe Fresh dress for $25 - $30, and The Gap has regular sales of 40% off, why would you pay almost $20 for a used one?
I forgot to take a photo of the store when I arrived around 6:30 pm, so this one was taken around 8:30 pm when I left, and it was getting dark. The exterior is sleeker and more modern-looking than that of the old store, and the interior is larger. The new address is 1553 Dundas Street.
I wasn't sure how many other people would be there as I had no idea who else had been invited, but as it turns out, there were a large number of other shoppers who were "Club Card Members" so I had some competition. I didn't take a photo of the inside of the store, but it looked very similar to every other Value Village I've visited.
Unfortunately, this is my least favourite time of the year to shop at
the store, as at least 1/3 of the floor space is taken up by Halloween
costumes and accessories. That said, I did grab one of these Dia de Los Muertos ceramic skulls from the Halloween section to decorate my desk at work.
I spied this vintage doll in the housewares section and immediately thought of my friend Krista, who has a few of these in her collection. If her outfit has been more interesting I may have taken her home, but as it was, I left her on the shelf.
I like Mexican pottery and this candle holder caught my attention for a moment, but it wasn't as nice as pieces I already own.
I have no real strategy when shopping in large thrift stores, although I tend to look at the housewares section first, and then veer off to the coats, dresses, and skirts. I throw everything that looks like it may have potential in the cart, and then weed out the "No's" in the change room. Mindful of my $50 budget, there were a few things I liked, but didn't love, that went back out onto the racks. In the end I came home with five items, including the ceramic skull, averaging out to $10 per item.
I waffled over this Made-in-Thailand Kaftan style dress - I loved the colours, and the drawstring gave it some shape but I questioned whether I really needed another long summer dress. Of course, we avid thrift shoppers know that most of our purchases are more about "want" than "need", and after wearing it out of the changing room a few times to hang up unwanted items, I decided to take it.
Thinking ahead to fall, I picked up this pencil skirt to wear with tights and boots. The fabric has a bit of a sheen to it, and I loved the fab colours.
Even though we are nearing the end of Summer, I scooped up these wedge heeled sandals because of the juicy colours and the bunion-hiding twist of soft leather. I have been wearing them around the house today and they are pretty comfortable.
My final purchase was this jacket by the German brand Kapalua. I wasn't familiar with the brand, but I was attracted to the unique styling of the jacket. The back and the sleeves are made of chiffon, and the collar changes shape depending on how far you do up the zipper. This is the kind of piece I would purchase retail - modern, well made, with a simple shape and unusual details.
Many thanks to Value Village for the shopping trip - it was fun, and I found some things that I will happily integrate into my wardrobe.
Yesterday was a "two maxi" day, which is note-worthy, because I have few "one maxi" days (this sounds like I'm discussing "feminine protection" instead of dresses) , much less two. While I admire how Vix and Curtise rock their vintage maxi-dresses, I have always felt more comfortable in skirts that are above my knee. However, I'm always willing to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to getting dressed and it's summer, which is the perfect season for a long dress.....
Maxi Dress #1
I found this dress at the London Community Players costume sale fundraiser earlier this summer. It was handmade, from a substantial fabric with a unknown fibre content (I do hope it's washable). I loved the colours in the pattern and the basic shape. Even though the fabric is relatively thick, it was very comfortable to wear in 26 degree Celsius weather. I wore it to the Western Fair Farmer's Market with my bestie, and then out for a coffee, and a quick stop at Talize.
Maxi Dress #2
I found this made-in-Zimbabwe dress at a Salvation Army Thrift Store in Toronto a couple of years ago. I didn't try it on, and didn't even know if I would wear it, but I was smitten by the embroidery and the fact that it was under $10. As a piece of art, it was well worth the price. It deserved to have an evening out, so when Christine, owner of Renegade announced she was having a party to celebrate her first year in business, I knew what I would wear.
Heather had not been able to attend any of the previous Renegade parties so I was happy she was able to go with me to this one. She looks freakishly tall in this photo (I'm 5'7 in flats) - I'm crediting her platform wedge sandals for the extra height. After seeing this photo I realized the pattern on our dresses seems to be drawing one's eye to our respective pelvic regions. Now that I've pointed that out, you can't stop noticing that, can you?
Christine, owner of Renegade
Christine and her partner are very active in the local Roller Derby community so there are always derby girls at the store parties. The gal on the left is Sugared Hits and Reign in Blood on the right.
The women at the Renegade parties are always better dressed than those at any other party I've ever attended (not that I go to many parties). They are thrilled to have an opportunity to show off one of the fun dresses they have recently purchased from the store, like this great cat print one.
I really liked this skirt with the Virgin of Guadalupe print
Kayla always brings her best style game to the party
There were a lot of eye-catching accessories, including zombie shoes and a witch bag
Some people brought their significant others, and Aimee and Dave, who are both very active in the local theatre community, looked perfectly coordinated in black and white.
The icing on the cake of the evening was a performance by local band, Marcellus Wallace. Their high energy motown groove had us all dancing, and the fancy footwork and charm of the lead singer made them fun to watch as well as listen to. I had never seen them play before and by the end of their set was an enthusiastic fan.
Thanks again to Christine for hosting a great evening of yakking, snacking, drinking, shopping and dancing!