Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Yet more mutton

(photo credit, The Sartorialist)

Gina in the comments at my first mutton post, says:

It is a sad state of affairs when it comes to shopping at most malls in the US -- there's precious little between the extremes of Homely Housefrau Frump and Teenaged Hooker. Where are those clothes with attitude?

A valid question. I am fortunate to live in London, but I come to America quite frequently and I know the malls. The first thing to say is that many of the clothes in my wardrobe come from Gap, Banana Republic (which hooray, is supposed to be opening in the old Dickens and Jones building on Regent Street in January, though BR itself won't confirm it), Marks and Spencer (of which Jess Cartner-Morley, fashion editor of the Guardian, is a big fan as I know because I've seen her wearing their shoes) and Zara. The latter, in particular, is a fantastic source of incredibly well-designed, exciting things. I notice Trinny and Susannah, interviewed in the Guardian today say the same thing:

Let's move on. Where do you shop?

S: Zara is a great favourite of both of ours.

T: I'd say Zara and Balenciaga.

Now It happens that I go to the same hairdresser as T&S and I can tell you, there's a a Zara right next door. But are there Zaras in Middle America? You probably have to make a trip to the big city if you live in a small town, but what I want to say about mutton dressing, is that you're unlikely to find clothes with attitude in Ann Taylor.

I would suggest that you have to think out of the box if you want to have attitude at fifty. The box being your own budget. A while ago I was out shopping with a person of my acquaintance and we stepped into Emporio Armani where she was had the coup de foudre moment with a long, waisted cardigan with an extraordinary collar. It was £299 (over $600). Now for some of you paying £50 for a cardie has you reeling, while others might think it was a little on the cheap side. The point is, if you find that absolute knock-out garment you need to buy it whatever the price. We tend to put a ceiling on how much we're prepared to pay for clothes, based on a whole range of reasonable factors. However, to dress with attitude at 50 one needs to think more carefully about how one is spending one's money and on what. In other words, spend more on less.

If you live in Middle America and there's no Armani, wait till you make a trip to the city, or plan an annual shopping expedition. There's nothing more depressing than having a wardrobe full of so-so clothes. If the mall doesn't stock what you want, get on a plane and go to Barneys.

I'll return to the question of high street labels soon.


Deja Pseu said...

I'll have to look a bit more closely at Zara, I guess. I've done a walk through a few times and nothing's really called out to me (or if it did, they were out of my size).

They really are only in the big cities here in the US, and too bad for us they don't sell online.

twollin said...

I'm surrounded by the whole "mall-ization" of dress and my answer, frankly, is to make my own, using vintage patterns that I get from the internet.
My favorite fashion eras(and they seem to go with my "still has a waistline so let's show it off" body, are the 40s and 50s, so this is the way I do it. Others may be able to find nice things in thrift or vintage shops - I've never had the luck, so I make my own. Latest creation: burnt orange dupioni dress with fabulous front pockets made from a pattern from 1952 for my daughter's wedding. Fully a third of the guests showed up in black for an afternoon wedding, so I attracted a lot of attention (though not as much as my daughter in her peach and cream wedding gown.

materfamilias said...

I love the look and price points of Zara (we have one in Vancouver) but hate the lineups for a changeroom and find the fit is often off, for my body at least, which generally fits a size 8-ish without much trouble. Not sure what that's about, but I've tried on perhaps 20 items over the past few years and not yet bought anything.
I really believe in buying when you find the perfect item, and find the inspired splurge rewards for years -- I love having that base to my wardrobe of items bought from love rather than in respect of trends. Then it's possible to honour trends and stay current yet keep one's own personality and style in the foreground. And one definite advantage of the move into the supposed "mutton years" is that they are often accompanied by a bit more financial comfort (or, if not, the ability to defer gratification and save for the perfect, but pricey, piece).

Dana said...

Three cheers for color! Please, twollin, show us that dress!

twollin said...

Dana - I'd be more than happy to - need some technical assistance and permissions from Linda, I should think.

Thomas said...

Although I am male and 31, I couldn't agree with this post more. People stock their wardrobes like their kitchens - 30 or so dull, dangerous knives, pots that warp, weird gadgets with no useful purpose. A wardrobe should instead be stocked like a professional kitchen - quality tools, nothing that doesn't have at least two or three uses, and everything neatly squared away.

Recently I've stopped buying 20 things from the Gap (which I still quite enjoy) so that I can grab that one Trovata or Nom de Guerre item, and I am so much happier when I slip them on.

Dana said...

Twollin, all you need is Flickr and to let us know how to get to your photos.

Dana said...

And i do know why all us midwesterners look's because all the cool people went to live in London (see the Face Hunter).

twollin said...

Dana -- and anyone else -- if you would like to see pictures of the dress, please send me an email at htwollin at yahoo dot com and I'll get you an invitation from flickr. Linda - I think I've "hijacked" the comments here; I am sorry.

enc said...

Don't forget, we also have the Internets. They can help us find good clothes no matter where we live.

The sad fact, however, is that the vast majority prefer to shop at Ann Taylor. And many people don't know that there are alternatives out there.

Zara, H&M and the like are fantastic, and I have some great pieces from those stores, but they're 50 miles away from me, and I'm one of the lucky ones.

I like JCrew; they're getting more stylish and trendy without being too tawdry. They have a long way to go, though.

I have a brilliant blazer I got at Emporio four years ago for $700. The quality is great, and it fits perfectly.

I have a brilliant blazer I got at Zara two years ago for $69. The leather is super-low-grade, and it fits perfectly.

One never knows what one can find.

Linda Grant said...

No problem, that's what the comments box is here for, so everyone can talk, not just me.

Thomas said...

I suggest the following online stores (links seem to die here, so just google the name):

le train bleu

active endeavours


Gina said...

Twollin's idea of sewing clothing is a wonderful one, although not something that all of us can do. Perhaps, simple skirts can be sewn, interesting cardigans and pullovers can be knit and the rest can be bought?

I'm not far from the Zara in NYC, and I will go for a gander the next time I venture "downstate" from the fashion wasteland of Poughkeepsie.

To your point of thinking outside of the budget box -- spending more on less seems a great lesson for both genders and all ages. Our collective throw-away mentality towards clothing is not doing any favours for us on any level -- personal, financial, environmental, etc.

Thanks for the information and the decidedly wonderful belief that a woman can be smart, attractive AND interested in fashion!