When Bad Things Happen to Good Sweaters

This looks like a cute and perfectly basically simple purple sweater, doesn’t it? It’s from Cynthia Rowley, known for her free-spirited ladylike style, and Younger Daughter grabbed it with delight as we were picking through a TJ Maxx clearance rack. The front of this sweater looks as if it’s saying, “Put me on with a pair of jeans and killer boots and let’s have a great Sunday afternoon just kickin’ around.” It’s casually cool, which pretty much describes Younger Daughter. She was grinning as she placed her find in our cart. But then she picked the sweater back up, looking puzzled. Because she’d gotten a good look at the back, which looks as if it’s saying, “I used to be a super hero entitled to full-cape privileges but then got demoted to merely super assistant. Plus, my back is cold.”

Always optimistic, however, Younger Daughter tried the schizophrenic sweater on and and it fit perfectly. Always willing to ruin new clothes by trying to rework them attempt alterations on my own, I offered to take it home and attack it with scissors fix it. Some careful trimming made it more wearable. But now when I watch Ms. Rowley on “24 Hour Catwalk,” I’m just sort of thinking, “Really, Cynthia? You don’t like that designer’s pink feathered-and-satin top with the velvet bows? Because I’ve seen what you do like, and honestly, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge.” And speaking of “24 Hour Catwalk,” can we somehow A) buy hairbrushes for Ms. Rowley and Alexa Chung — and demonstrate how to use them and B) ask Ms. Chung to please maybe wear clothes that fit and have some relevance to what normal 21st-century women actually wear — or, if not, to stop talking about designers creating clothes that fit and have some relevance to what normal 21st-century women actually wear. Two-facedness Schizophrenia apparently is rampant.

Bowling for Fashion

We’re making our way through college football’s bowl season leading up to Monday’s Bowl Championship Series once-in-a-century twice-in-a-century showdown between SEC West powerhouses LSU and Alabama. And the most pressing question is not “What? Them again?? When is ‘Dancing with the Stars’ coming back on???” but rather “How can I look stylish and exhibit team spirit while squashed between screaming drunk people while it’s 35 degrees outside?” At the recent Music City Bowl, Mississippi State fans pretty much took over the downtown area of host city Nashville, Tenn., and swamped the LP Stadium at game time with maroon and white. But opponent and eventual loser Wake Forest showed up with a few fans who braved the freezing temps in black and gold.

 

These Are Not Your Mother’s Maternity Clothes — But If They Are, Ask If You Can Borrow Them

Have you seen maternity clothes lately? If you didn’t know these photos were taken in a baby/maternity boutique, would you have guessed? These are from Older Daughter’s current favorite shopping destination — Posh Mommy, in Madison, Ala. At  close to seven months pregnant with 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s younger brother, she  ends up here anytime she’s got a few spare minutes. Her favorite part of the store is the baby and children’s sections – more on that later — but she’ll still wander through the maternity aisles and point out her favorites. However, always the practical one, she won’t let me buy her one of these pretty dresses since, as she says, “I don’t go to an office anymore and I just wear yoga pants and t-shirts all the time so you should save your money.” But she looks beautiful and glowing in whatever she wears, and since she generally has better financial sense than I do, I keep nagging her to try something on until she gets irritated and goes to look at receiving blankets graciously give in and do what she wants.  Back to my original questions, though. Did you realize  maternity clothes now are practically indistinguishable from regular clothes? I first noticed this trend four years ago during our first round of maternity shopping, but this time it’s even more pronounced. And I think I know why: Maternity clothes have become much more stylishly mainstream in the past 30 years or so (combining runway details with hidden expanding-tummy tricks) and, at the same time, regular clothes have become much more maternity-like (with empire waists, soft fabrics and flowing lines). It’s as if the two met in the middle and created a love-child of chic and sexy yet comfortably wearable non-maternity maternity wear. And yoga pants.

Camouflage Style

My husband looked at me contemplatively as I got dressed that morning. “Sweetie,” he said, “why are you wearing a camouflage shirt?” I didn’t think I’d heard him correctly. “A what?” I said. “I’m wearing a what?” He nodded his head as if to confirm his fashion diagnosis. “Yes. You’re wearing a camouflage shirt and I just wondered why.” I could not believe what I was hearing. “What’s wrong with you?” I said. “This is not a camouflage shirt. It’s an abstract floral pattern in earth tones — very ‘in’ for spring, I’ll have you know.” He just smiled. “Sure, dear,” he said. “Whatever you say. But it’s a camouflage shirt.” And, really, looking at these photos now, I can sort of see what he means. Just as long as y’all know it is not a camouflage shirt but it a highly stylish piece of fashion art. Or something. Also: I blame the neck wrinkles, tummy bulges and droopy boobs you see here on my husband’s photography and the fact that he would not let me do the half-turn hand-on-hip camera-friendly celebrity pose.  And those are streaks of blonde in my hair, not streaks of gray. Other than that, though, this is pretty much me. Minus the camouflage shirt.

Shopping

I really don’t know much about men’s clothes. My husband buys his own and pretty much dresses himself without any help from me — that’s what getting married for the first time at age 47 does to you. Oh, he will occasionally ask fashion questions, but they’re usually along the lines of “Do you think you can sew this button back on?” and “Do I have any more black socks?” So I’m clueless about men’s style. But I’m easily impressed, and this gorgeous display of lavender and blue dress shirts and ties at Dillard’s in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, grabbed my attention this past week. I just wanted to touch all that soft and rich-looking fabric and play around with putting this shirt with that tie or maybe using that one over there. And I got a tiny bit jealous that men can wear what essentially are silky scarves every day. On the other hand, we women usually look better in a dress, so there you go.

Pizza and Purses

Old Venice Pizza Co. in Tupelo, Mississippi, has turned into one of our go-to places for a good and quick lunch. Dear Husband will say, “I’m thinking pizza,” and we’ll head on out to hit the pizza/hot food/salad bar buffet, washed down with draft Blue Moon — and grab a nice melty soft cookie on the way out. (Thank you to whoever puts the cookies on a tiered server up high, under the buffet’s warming lights. Genius!) Thumbs-up all the way around. But you know a restaurant’s ladies’ room is just as important as the menu and the service — to me, anyway. And Old Venice in Tupelo passes inspection. I especially like the way the graceful branches of the dried flower arrangement echoed the intricate swirls of the wall decor. Probably whoever figured out the warm-cookie thing took care of this detail, too. And usually I manage to keep myself out of the shot but I  wanted you to see my favorite purse. Younger Daughter gave it to me for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago, and I carry it practically every day from April through August. I love this purse! I can cram everything I need in it and it never gets full. It’s comfortable, and I get compliments on it all the time. In fact, one time in Mufreesboro, Tennessee, I left my husband to do some business while I wandered around the square, shopping and browsing trying to support the local economy. When he tried to follow me several minutes later, he correctly identified a store that seemed to be one I’d be interested in — who could resist those adorable sundresses in the window? — and went in inquiring about his wife. “Oh, she was the one with the cute green purse, right?” said the sales clerk. Right! Clean pretty bathrooms and cute green purses — what else does a woman need? Oh, yes — good pizza. Go to http://www.oldvenice.com/ to learn more.

Lost and Found

I had a 24-hour run of very weird things happen to me — well, weird in my world, at least. Some of this may be slightly gross, so you have been warned. First, I lost my underwear. What happened was that I was visiting Older Daughter and I was taking a shower in 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s bathroom. I brought clean clothes in and took off my pajamas and underwear and then when I got out of the shower and got dressed in my clean clothes and gathered up my already-worn clothes, I could not find my underwear. Anywhere. Completely disappeared. I looked in all the towels and under the rugs, but nada. I even wondered if they’d gotten tangled up in the clean clothes — cargo capris and a T-shirt — I’d just put on but they didn’t seem to be there anywhere. (Notice how I’m trying to avoid the use of the word “underpants” since I am a good Southern girl and we just don’t use language like that out loud in mixed company.) My son-in-law gives my 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable his bath in that bathroom and I really didn’t want either of them to find my missing … well, you know, but a thorough search turned up nothing.  So I sort of forgot about the mystery and went on about the day — playing outside, going out for lunch, meeting and greeting — until a few hours later when I returned to the bathroom. And as I was leaving, I felt something soft skitter down my leg and there on the floor was the missing article of clothing. It apparently had gotten tangled up in my pants and had only then worked its way down. Very strange. And what I want to know is: Has this happened to anybody else? Is there an epidemic of underwear falling out of people’s pants legs? Do I need to be on the lookout for this?

And the weirdness only continued: The next day I was late for a hair appointment but the salon was closed when I got there so I left to run more errands and then the stylist got there after all and thought I was late but I came back and we were each glad we hadn’t given in to our impulses to leave scathing voice mails. So I got in the chair and she started cutting and all of a sudden she asked me if I had any old pantyhose. (Yes, even when it’s 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity, we Southern women will still wear pantyhose.) Turns out hair salons are collecting the hair that usually ends up on the floor and sending it to the Gulf for use in buoys that will soak up some of the oil spill. And also collecting pantyhose to put the hair in. The stylist and I debated the merits of used versus new pantyhose for oil-soaking-up and didn’t reach any conclusion. But my hair did contribute to the cause.

Then I needed lunch but my favorite downtown lunch place turned out apparently not to be my favorite since it had closed two weeks ago and I didn’t even know. So then I craved a veggie burger from Burger King but the nearest BK had a note on the door saying its broiler was broken although they could still fry anything you wanted. Add in road work and detours everywhere. So there you go.

But all was well this morning because my weekly column in the Florence, Alabama, TimesDaily ran next to a story about “Sex and the City” fashion so my column and photo is right next to a the headline that reads “Fabulous at any age.”  Yes, ma’am. I’ll take any adjacent and reflected glory I can get.

Fashion

I don’t know about where you live, but here in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi, it’s hot already. Summer definitely is here, and that means pared-down style — the simpler, the better. That’s why it’s good to have treasures like this sundress in your closet. I bought this in Birmingham I think about three years ago for around $150 and it’s one of the best buys I’ve ever made. This has turned into my go-to summer dress from May through September. I wear it everywhere for everything and I never get tired of it. “Why?” you ask. (You did. I could hear you.) “What’s so special about this dress?” Let me tell you. For one thing, it’s lightweight and comfortable, yet not so flimsy as to be transparent if I forget to wear a slip (you know we Southern women will not give up our slips.) It’s the perfect length — not so short as to make sitting down problematic but not too long as to look dowdy. Also, the straps are wide enough to cover bra straps but narrow enough to keep it in the sundress category. Plus, this fit is so flattering. With its shirred cummerbund-like empire waistline, it’s what Stacy and Clinton continually preach on “What Not To Wear” — have the emphasis at your narrowest part and let the skirt flow from there. And this dress is one of the most versatile things I own. The print isn’t so large as to be overwhelming yet it’s enough to camouflage spills. And I get a lot of spills because I wear this dress constantly. (Also: I’m a slob.) But the print almost qualifies this dress as a neutral, and as a neutral it’s easy to mix things up with a change of accessories. I’ve worn this dress with flats and heels, with big clunky jewelry and simple earrings, with blazers and sweaters. I’ve punched it up with yellow, green or blue accessories as well as white and black. I’ve worn it to casual cookouts and to fancy weddings, to graduations and baby showers, to church and out to eat. I love this dress! And your assignment is to go out and find one, too — and then let me know where it is so I can get another one.

Fashion and TV

Sometimes I truthfully do not understand fashion. Looking at this photo, you probably would think that this is a rack of leftover curtain fabric that somebody found in the back of an upholstery shop that closed in 1987 and had not been touched since then … sort of like an ugly-fabric time capsule. But, no. This is a rack of for-sale-now-get-‘em-while-they’re-hot leggings at a teen-friendly mall store whose name I will not reveal because I like their cheap jewelry and I don’t want to have to put on dark glasses to shop there — but think along the lines of “Sue 21.” I promise you I had dresses made out of some of this fabric back when we also wore stirrup pants and big oversized sweatshirts with appliqued puppy dogs. Not pretty. I know that girls wear these with denim minis and look adorable, but I still have a hard time reconciling bad floral prints with high style. I can’t figure out if teenagers are wearing these ironically or if they really think these are cute or if they’re just happy to find something to wear for $9.99. Or maybe all of the above?

And while you’re pondering the future of leggings, think about TV, too. Seems to me that there are some really good shows on now — shows that combine comedy with intelligence and real life. Well, at least more real life than we’re used to on sitcoms. Modern Family, Cougar Town, Community, Parks and Rec — they all are on my list of favorites, and I bet they’re on yours too. Read my weekly newspaper column on the state of TV sitcoms at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100507/ARTICLES/5075004 and let me know what you think.

Shopping

Back when I was a high-powered member of the media elite fulltime hack for my town’s daily newspaper, I had no qualms about squandering my paycheck on things such as $75 necklaces and $150 pair of shoes. And, actually, I still do that but I definitely have qualms … that my husband will find out. And, actually again, when I was a single mom of two daughters and eyeing every penny, I didn’t shop anywhere more expensive than the T.J. Maxx clearance rack. But when I got married six years ago and my household income practically tripled, I discovered the joys of shopping Just For Fun. However, now that my dear husband agreed I could leave the newsroom and be a poor struggling work-from-home freelance writer and we’re back to a one-regular-paycheck-family, I’m back to being conscious of what goes out versus what comes in. And all that is a long way around to say that when Younger Daughter and I found these adorable necklaces at Rue 21 in the mall, I scooped them up — and did a happy dance at checkout when I discovered they were all half-price, meaning that my delight at an estimated total of about $30 for all three was proportionally heightened when it turned out I only had to pay less than $15. I immediately put on the long one with the dragonfly and got three compliments on it before I’d even reached my car. They are big and colorful and cheerfully clanky and are just perfect for brightening up my usual T-shirt and jeans. Rue 21 is one of those youth-centric mall stores filled with throwaway fashion-of-the-moment — or so I thought until I went in and really paid attention. I believe I spied a sweater there that I’d seen on one of my most stylish grownup friends, so between that and my jewelry find, I’m adding Rue 21 to my rotation of stores-to-check-because-you-never-know-what-you-might-find. You’re welcome. http://www.rue21.com/