Book Day Among the TGB Elders
INTERESTING STUFF: 29 October 2011

Two Elder Fashion Failures

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a bashing from a member of the self-appointed fashion police at a website called Stylite. “This is just not OK,” screamed the headline.

Hillary Clinton

Geez, I think she looks quite elegant in this photo from a recent meeting with the prime minister of Peru. What do you suppose could cause such a rude critique?

“Yes, a scrunchie,” screeches Justin Fenner, “the universally unflattering elastic vice grip of tonsorial doom, designed specifically to make people look like they have bad taste — or worse: no taste at all. Surely this accessory has no place on the head of one of the most powerful people in the world?

“And yet, there it is, glaring at us with no sense of irony or shame whatsoever.”

All this over a scrunchie? Oh, please. And since I put zero credence in, one of Dan Abrams' several websites that mostly trades in gossip and specializes in cheap shots (just my opinion, of course), the story and writer can be dismissed as nothing more than a gnat bite.

But it has raised the general question of fashion for me. Having recently lost a good deal of weight, I am in the market for a new wardrobe. All my pants but one pair either won't stay up or make me look like I'm wearing a clown suit. Sweaters and shirts could easily hold two of me now.

I don't need much, but so far I can buy nothing. In stores of moderate price range, I find nothing that warrants the price on the tags.

Fabrics are cheap and flimsy. Stitching is weak and loose, often with gaps. Sizes on one label bear no resemblance to those on another. Petite for short people no longer has meaning; one pair of pants so labeled was six inches longer than my legs.

Apparently, there is no standard sizing anymore. When I stopped in Chico's, which is not a place I have shopped much, I found that their smallest pant size is zero which turned out to be too large and trust me, there is not a chance in hell I am as small as what size 0 used to mean.

After a couple of weeks of sporadic attempts to find clothes that fit, I also don't know what size blouse or shirt I wear because of several labeled the same, one is too tight, another too loose and not one has been just right.

As to fashion (as in, style), there is none. What there is plenty of are chintzy, machine embroidery; too many flouncy sleeves that are sure to drag in the soup; a lot of low-cut necklines even in heavy sweaters; and large amounts of gauzy translucency.

It didn't help to increase my price range. At that level, clothes are almost exclusively work-related suits or glitzy evening wear, neither of which I need, so I'm giving it a rest for awhile. Except for food, I've never much liked shopping anyway.

So here I sit in my baggy pants and shapeless sweater with (wait for it) a scrunchie holding back my hair. I guess that makes two elder women to offend Justin Fenner's discriminating fashion taste.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, wisewebwoman: Might


Hey, you and your scrunchie are in good company.

I like her with longer hair and even more like that she no longer has to do 'the' thing with her hair which means going to a stylist all the time if you are a political female. Good for her. And why the media would even comment on such a thing just says how shallow they have become.

When I had to find a dress (which I almost never wear anymore) for a 50th high school reunion, I got very disillusioned by length. Maybe if I was a shorter lady, it'd have worked better but I am tall and every dress I saw or tried on was well above the knee. That was ridiculous as surely they don't think young women are the only ones buying dresses. For me to wear a skirt well above the knee to a 50th reunion would have said (to me at least) that I was desperate to deny my age. I ended up wearing a 20 year old dress and no sale was made which says to me if they want to stay in business, fashion type stores need to get real for who women are.

Incidentally I took my granddaughter shopping for her birthday present clothes in August and we found a nice selection of choices in Petites at Macy's (this one happened to be in Salem). We had gotten frustrated with Kohls for her as it seemed all their petites and juniors were low cut and too sexy to pass the daddy and mommy inpsection! (what's with all the junior tart outfits for young teens). She is tall though but very thin. Maybe you can purchase somewhere that they do alterations.

If I had long enough hair for a scrunchie I would use it.
I needed a fashionable dress for my son's wedding - in fashionable Buenos Aires - after shopping around the owner of a local shop at home was kind enough to ask me what I owned. I described my outfit I wore for my other son's wedding over 10 years ago - she said "wear it" - so I did. Saved me a lot of $$$ and let me get a second use out of a very expensive long dress.
As for pants - I find LLBean slacks sometimes fit me - the petite length is 27 or 28 inches. But they have resized their clothes - so now I wear a size smaller but I have not lost weight.

I am a huge Hillary supporter and I have shaken her hand in person. I am also NOT a fashion plate and have never heard of the silly Stylite website.

However, I will say I have often wished in the last couple of years she would do something with her hair, which in my opinion frequently looks unprofessional. Actually I think the photo up top looks good; she usually seems to leave it hanging down and looking pretty bad.

I find a fair amount of my wardrobe at resale shops, where I can buy clothing I like that is made well of good fabric for not much dineros. When I venture into most retail stores, I seldom find anything I'm willing to pay full price for. As for the scrunchie...Hillary's hair often looks as if it needs tidying or a better stylist. But egad fashion bashing public figures--and older women-- is such a popular sport. Her hair looks more professional with the scrunchie....Michelle Obama gets praise for wearing J Crew but Hillary gets no gold stars for the scrunchie...ah well. Good luck with the new wardrobe and congratulations on the weight loss!

Ronni--Only recently, I read a quote from Secretary Clinton saying that she knew how to deflect the media from any unpopular announcement she might have to make: she had only to change her hair style. The media would be so caught up in the trivial that the important would slide right by. It appears that she was dead on!

Hooray for you Ronni, once again articulating the realities of age discrimination. The changes in size labeling had already started in 1965. I was on the hunt for a suit to wear for a presentation to powers that controlled my agency's funding. Nothing fit. Finally a sales person (a guy) suggested I try a size smaller. No fit, but my eyes were opened. Went down to a 6, instead of my usual 10, found a fit and bought a suit.

Is the size thing all about bragging rights on how near an emaciated, runway-model look young women can achieve?

Now I hate to shop. Challenges similar to yours.

To me, Hillary is dignified and feminine.

After losing some weight, I headed to Goodwill. I bought unworn clothing. As I lose more weight, I will shop there again.
Best wishes on your weight loss efforts, too.

I shop thrift stores for a number of reasons:
1. Finding bargains is fun;
2. I don't have much money;
3. Can find more classic styles and generally better quality than I can find/afford in department stores (if I'm patient).
This might work for you.
(I'm also petite and getting more so. I sometimes shop large girl's clothing.)

Oh, how familiar this story is. I had to replace 3 pair of jeans this year. My last three finally fell apart after I don't know how many years of wear. I knew for the last couple of years that I would have to replace them and started looking. As you said: cheap cloth, poor stitching and inconsistent sizing. Further, most places around here carried the 'distressed' non-style. If I want distressed jeans I am going to be the one to distress them. I finally found some good jeans at a fair price from the local Lane Bryant. I am still of that size in spite of losing 50 lbs over the last three years. I have already decided that when I need some new tee shirts I will go to the men's department and get plain white. I do hate shopping!!!

One April morning I bought a pair of boy's large sweatpants and tossed my hair in a scrunchie. Then I joined my family on a 25 mile charity bike ride for Brain Tumor research.

Isn't what we choose to do with our time more important than what we choose to do with our clothes?

Kudos to you, Ronni, for calling it like it is.

I agree with the comment by Lisa Sheldon - I've been shopping at Goodwill and Sallie Annie (Salvation Army) for the past couple of years, since my job disappeared and my income dropped like a stone. I've gotten some wonderful, well made, inexpensive buy's in their stores. Granted I live in NYC, so I have many to choose from, but they are worth checking out.
I've noticed that I can't really go to them to purchase - the white blouse I need to match that perfect pair of pants. I just have to sort of browse through and see what they've got and what fits. Hope the suggestion helps.
Ta. M!

Hillary has to be one of the busiest people on the planet and she certainly doesn't have time to sit in a salon and have a stylist fuss over her hair. I think straight hair pulled back and held by a scrunchie makes perfect sense and I find it most attractive.

My sense of fashion is a joke. But I don't care about fashion that much. I fit into standard clothes for large ladies and that's that. Having a waistline helps.
I think my smaller friends have more trouble finding clothes to fit than I do.

Hi Ronni,
I am with you 100%. And the size 0 thing is such a joke! When I went into Chico's and couldn't wear a size 0 I vowed never to go there again. Obviously flattering us "older women" by lying to us is bringing them plenty of business but it just confuses me and frustrates those of us who are truly petite and happen to like their styles. Like Rain, I head to Macy's Petites for "nice" clothes that fit well and are well made. They carry almost all of the designers (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, etc.) and I was able to get a gorgeous dress for the one fancy occasion I went to this year for less than $100. I didn't look like a little old lady or like I was trying to be a cougar. It takes time to shop and also time to learn which labels suit me, but the payoff is worth it. As far as Hillary Clinton is concerned, what comes out of her mouth is far more important than what is going on in back of her head.

I like Hillary's new look with her hair. I also liked it short a while back. She has great hair and can wear it many different ways.

Bah Humbug to the "Fashion Police"

Congrats on your new shape, Ronni. I surely need to get myself motivated to lose a bunch myself.

Believe it or not I have found several acceptable articles of clothing at SEARS. And at reasonable prices.

At 5'10", I've always had difficulty buying clothes -- especially pants. And I've noticed all the changes in sizing and now own three set of pants/jeans in three different sizes AND my height has shrunk to 5'9 1/4" which means that soon I'll need another set if pants. I use resale shops a lot. My favorite is owned by a long-time acquaintance who calls if new stuff comes that she knows I like.

As to Hillary, I am with what Joan said. She's never presented herself as a fashion plate and I hardly think she's going (or needs) to start. I think she looks great!

I'm an old lady and I'm not trying to look like anything else. I have trouble finding pants that come all the way up to my waist, sleeves that cover up my ugly old elbows, tops that don't come down too low in front, and underwear that covers everything without strangling me in tight elastic. Also, I'm overweight, not tiny like many of you, so that makes it harder, too.

Chicos? Macys'?
You ladies are waaaay wealthier than me! I have lots of Chico clothes in my wardrobe but they are recycled ones from
World Thrift
Salvation Army Thift store
etc.etc. etc.

You need patience to go through everything but there are many excellent clothes to be found.

I love clothes and, even while working, enjoyed having my own personal "style." I still love clothes but basically I live in jeans and t-shirts. I focus my expression of style on shoes -- but no high heels and everything has a tie or strap.

I haven't worn a skirt or dress is 30 years, and I have ponte knit wide leg pants in various colors that I pair with tunics or various kinds if I have to go somewhere special. And I often buy online and always on sale.

I have many times said that the two most valuable skills I have are typing and sewing. (The typing sure helped when computers took over the workplace.) If my weight changes or I buy something that doesn't fit just right, I sew in the seams or take them out. And I have learned to remodel old clothes to re-style them into something I like better.

I also knit my own sweaters, so that I can make them fit the way I want them to.

I guess it takes some effort to look "stylish," but I'm one of those people who look at the process as one of my hobbies.

A pox on the fashion police, at least as far as Secretary Clinton is concerned. She looks elegant, and in her position she's earned the right to wear whatever she wants as long as it's professional--which it always is.

As far as clothing, I SO agree that most of it is not well-made and not very practical, either. My solution? Same as that of several other responders: Goodwill, Value Village and similar stores. When I'm lucky, I find brand names in good condition for under $10. I'm on the small side (5'2", 97#) so the selection isn't always as good as it is in more generous sizes, but most of my daily-wear clothes (jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, warm jackets for fall/winter)
are "gently used".

Target is another source. Their quality has improved considerably, especially in non-trendy items like winter wear. I still have most of my classic business-casual clothes from up to 10 years ago. With a few updates, most still do the job on the days I work. Even at almost 75, I must admit that I still enjoy fashion and try to make the most of what I have left (without looking foolish, of course). When I'm asked, "Where did you get that great jacket?", I enjoy divulging my shopping secret!

I, too, like Hilary's hair back, scrunchie or not. It's low maintenance--when she started growing it in, I wondered if this was where she was going. Looks like a great idea to me!

As for clothes' shopping, I, too, hate it, which makes me a little sad because I didn't used to. But of course, there used to be clothes for real life women in standard sizes, and now, as we all can attest, there aren't.

If I really like something, I take really, really good care of it. If I don't like it, I alter it or give it away. And if I'm taking on something new, I want to be very, very sure, so I try everything on (exhausting and dreary but effective).

The net result of these three initiatives is that the my closet got slimmer and better and I spent far less. And that's a good thing, because we all have far less to count on these days.

Plus, I can pretty much wear something I already own and like and be appropriate for most occasions. (Shopping trips for "that special dress" pretty much ended with the junior prom circa 1967 for me).

But--all that trying on, altering, and sorting IS a fair amount of work. It just shouldn't be this hard in a world full of "stuff," as ours is.

Maybe, if that scrunchie had been a wild color, or decorated with sequins or crystals I could agree with the review - but it is sedate and matched her outfit - so leave it alone, Justin, (whomever you are.)

Even while she was "first lady" of Arkansas, the media types were preoccupied with her hair. She used to wear a headband and that drove them crazy. I think Hillary has had more important, and interesting, things to think about than hairdos.

I am growing my hair out so I can wear it exactly like Hillary. In fact, I'm growing it out into an old woman-warrior braid! Towanda!

Ronni, I have exactly the same problem you're describing (though I'm bigger than you). I get so frustrated about all the time I waste shopping but not buying because I can't find a dang thing that fits or that I want to wear.

The other day I came upon a blog called Fab Over 50 that queried women on their favorite "uniforms." I actually liked some of them and am using them as my guide.

You wear a scrunchie? Oh, the shame. I’ll never speak to you again.

Anumber of makers use a 0-4 range with maps to the XS-XL range you are used to. The comparison is here:

Thrifts and consignment stores are excellent places to shop! But consistency in sizing has never, ever existed, so you just need to try things on.

I find it sad when we elders stop being interested in our appearance; every age has its beauty and a well-groomed and dressed (not expensively, just attentively) person feels better.

I personally dislike scrunchies and headbands, both of which Mrs. Clinton wears, but respect her right to do as she pleases.

I agree witih Duchesse that it's sad when we stop being interested in our appearance.

I shop resale shops and garage sales, outlet stores, etc. I'm a size 4, more or less, and need to try on everything.

For my son's wedding: Macy's for a skirt and dressy jacket and some really cool flats that matched. Also for pants in my size (size 2 or 4).

For work: Christopher & Banks, size small or 4, and sometimes petites.

For leisure: Lands' End, again size 4 jeans, size small shirts and fleece for this time of year.

My sister just sent me an email; she's small and found a pair of jeans at a rummage sale, hardly worn, and checked on line to see they retail for $269 a pair.

My goal is to look clean and respectable. I have friends who will no doubt be reminding me on their deathbeds that they are size 4 or zero, and what brand name their shoes are. But I love them anyway. lol

I echo many of the women who shop at thrift shops and garage sales. It is an inexpensive hobby and I always have lovely, classic, well-made clothes. The bonuses are 1--since most of them cost less than $5 I can toss them out when I'm tired of them and buy more, and 2--the fun continues when I come home and go on line to see what the original prices are, such as $15 for a grandmother of the groom dress and jacket which retails for 2-300 dollars!
PS, These days, I am tall and thin, which helps, I'll admit.

I do not wear dresses, simply because I cannot wear shoes, I mean things that are not sneakers or sports shoes. They just hurt my feet too much. And I have lost a lot of weight too. So I found someone to fix some of my pants, who did quite a good job on them too. The biggest problem was to find something to wear for my daughter's wedding that would look ok in her opinion and that I would feel comfortable in. Also, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. I found some items that ticked the first two boxes but the top I wore was way too expensive and I know I'll never wear it again. As it got stained by flower pollen, I will never be able to sell it either. Oh well, it was once in a lifetime, I guess

I think Hillary Clinton looks so chic in these pictures. I've wondered about her growing her hair out because she has worn it down. She and I share a common thing in one regard, that being we don't look good anymore with our hair down along the sides of our faces. It is why I wear my hair back in clips exclusively. I would use a scrunchie if my hair was thicker --and she has lovely thick you! --but a scrunchie will not hold my scrawny ponytail.

In any case, I hope she keeps it long and continues to wear it back. She looks great. And I bet you look great, baggy pants and all. I hate clothes shopping. Have you tried shopping online? I've been surprised at the unique sites. Even some yoga sites have really good-looking casual clothes.

Both Land's End and LL Bean have nicely made, classic clothes that aren't too expensive. You might try looking at their websites and checking out the sales. I've had the best luck with those two; other sites have clothes made cheaply and with the cheapest fabric.

For those in Ronni's neck of the woods, an absolutely marvelous and fun place is the mega-Goodwill outlet in Milwaukie, OR. 95% of all my clothes come from there, at 65 cents a pound if you go with a friend and buy together, and they look fine. "The Bins' as we call it, is also a real people-watching mecca as seemingly rich and poor shop there for clothes, books, & all manner of stuff. My best friend in NE Portland mails me boxes of things she knows will fit.

Other than that, I catch the 40% off sales at Fred Meyers for nice easy summer blouses, about the end of July. And every 5 years or so, I might treat myself to a little something from Coldwater Creek. Shoes for a snowy climate are a bit harder to find, but it sounds like none of us are going to fatten the coffers of the 1% into retail offerings for us!

I think that anyone who has time to criticize Hillary Clinton for how she does her hair should get on down to their nearest veterans hospital and spend some time doing something worthwhile.

I'm with you, Ronni. She looks quite elegant and I'll bet you do, too, with YOUR scrunchy!

Ronni--Re: Nancy Ewart's comment lauding LLBean and Lands' End - Bean's clothing has never fit me well, but their quality is good. Lands' End used to clothe, me nearly head-to-toe, while I was working. During the past seven years, Lands' End has quit carrying the classic clothes that I bought from them, and their quality has taken a marked dive - flimsy-weight knits (pants and tops) being most notable. Now, sad to say, the only things that I buy from them are swim suits and bedding.

You might try one of Nordstrom's "Rack" stores. A friend of my dragged me to one store in Portland to shop for a nice pair of casual blue jeans. They fit, were very stylish, and were priced lower than any other pants I could find. Check it out.


I'm late to this conversation but must confess that I still love beautiful clothes and shopping. Beauty does not have to be equal to expensive. On my very limited budget I restrict clothes buying to Christmas and my birthday presents and choose very carefully a few items that I love and will last a long time. JJill and Talbots have some good petites in their sales. Want to resist the stereotype that elders are dumpy by nature. I think we are gorgeous.

She just looks smart. Wish I had her hair and shape.

The highest and best use of thrift stores or consignment stores is to find something you like and that fits you at a reasonable price.
It is fun hunting for a bargain.

Late to this conversation, but QVC has been a godsend to me. I absolutely hate shopping and trying on clothes! Denim & Co. is QVC's own brand and most of my clothes are from that line (work clothes as well). Once you know your size, everything fits so well!

And, you don't have to watch the shows, although it does help to see it on their models (from young to elders, thin to more heavyset). Just go online and check them out. A lot of the time they also have the video of the models so you can watch online. And the prices are great!

Oh, one last thing--not only am I short (5'2"), I also have very short (stubby) legs and QVC's Denim & Co. petite pants are the PERFECT length for me!

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