When Will I Feel Grown Up Enough To Wear Grown-Up Clothes?

I know you’re probably thinking that this post is a replica of the one I wrote when I went through the trauma of finding a dress for my dad’s wedding earlier this year, but a second verbal vent is required after my most recent experience of trying to dress this sad, old middle-aged body. shopping-606993_1280


When the fuck are retailers going to cater for those of us middle-aged women who aren’t ready for floral tent-age and swathes of fabric un-tactfully placed to conceal our post-partum lumps?

How am I supposed to recover some of the confidence I used to have in my body when the world expects me to hide it away so I don’t offend anyone?

And how many Christmas cookies is too many?


After two separate, arduously soul-destroying and unproductive sessions at the mall -mission being to find a dress to wear on Christmas Day – I did something highly impulsive the other night. I ordered a dress online.


Obviously an excursion towards madness that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and the meringue will be going straight back to the online store – mainly because Christmas is not fancy dress and so my version of brandy custard was probs not appropriate. But it’s a shame, because the experience highlighted my continuing sensitivity about this new body of mine and I thought I’d matured and accepted that it’s not what it was a long time ago. It’s not like I’m the star of the Christmas Day show anyway – apparently Jesus is, (although I’m sure NC will give him a run for his money) – but the Leo in me always wants to make an entrance, refuses to lie down and give in to the part of the ageing process that has gathered for Christmas to party on down in the zone where my stomach used to be.


For as long as I can remember I’ve treated myself to a new outfit to wear on Christmas Day. It goes back to my childhood, when one of mum’s traditions was that no matter how tight the finances were, at least we would look our best, in much the same way that we always wore decent underwear in case we were involved in an accident.


Sadly, my *cough* size 14, middle-aged body is not catered for in the high street stores and I’m learning to interpret the pitying looks the sales assistants throw my way when I make such a ridiculous request – but I can’t deny that acceptance of that is a slow and painful journey, and it’s Sods Law that since I’ve found some level of grace in relation to my rounder edges, every other middle-aged woman I see in the street appears diminutive.


Which is why I reached that level of desperation after hours of trawling around various malls, by the end of which I honestly would have sold my children for the perfect dress. I’d even ventured onto that hallowed floor in DJs where where the assistants look down their noses at you unless you are carrying a Calvin handbag , but fortunately no-one took me seriously enough in my Havaianas and Uniqlo dress for me to waste my hard-earned cash on what I know is effectively one dress for one day.


After which I decided to change my tactics completely and take a peek at the ranges that cater to my age group – that aren’t maternity – and the racks of voluminous, frumpy dresses that fashion experts believe us poor women who wear the scars of reproduction, hormone combustion and a talent for eating lots of cake, truly deserve. And I nearly puked.


I couldn’t do it. I might feel fucking old some days but I’m not ready to give in yet, no matter how much shop assistants try to convince me that flora-vomit pasted over my body and fuchsia tones suit me, or how well a kaftan swamps hides those awkward bits. I don’t feel grown up enough to wear grown-up women’s dresses yet.


Have you given in?


Finding The Perfect Cocktail Dress At Fifty

Exciting! I remember thinking facetiously as I ripped open the invitation to my father’s third wedding, which takes place in London this week – (hence journey from hell mentioned in previous post) – unable to repress the feeling  of being every inch the middle-aged Cinderella, when it dawned on me I’d need a dress.

Eat your heart out, Kate Moss!

And not just any dress, but a cocktail dress.


To be followed by a loud fuck (!) and a serious wallow in ‘I’ve got nothing to wear-land’ when I also remembered who else from the fam was going and why I had zero chance of being one of the belles at this particular ball with stunning future step-mom, beautiful (much) younger sister, new potential sister-in-law (close in age to NC) and a couple of new step-sisters’ who are far from being wicked.


And then there’s the fact that I’m more of a leggings and tee kind of a girl.


And it was blatantly clear that the Pretty Woman moment where your man says ‘you need a dress’ and points you in the direction of the most expensive boutiques, just wasn’t going to happen.


Finding the perfect cocktail dress is testing at any stage of your life; at fifty-plus, it’s terrifying. You only have to look at some of the monstrosities at the recent Met Gala, where the women have money and stylists! 

Registry office wear


And  I really fancied dressing to impress for what may be my father’s last wedding. I wanted the posh frock – something we rarely get the chance to wear out here in flip flop/thong land.


But eventually I got myself some Helen Mirren balls and decided to visualise myself as the fifty-something version of Kate Moss, rather than Olive Kitteridge.


And I actually started to feel excited. Right up until the finance Nazi got involved, rapped my knuckles by spelling out the impracticality of spending a fortune on a dress I would wear once, and came up with some ridiculous budget to aim for.


Which was obviously plain silly, because like fine wine, evening dresses don’t come cheap when you’re a woman of a certain year and size…and I’d used up my lace card at my father’s birthday party last year and just about every fucking cocktail dress in the shops was lace …and did I mention that it is a principle of mine never to buy from any shop that suggests my body is a size 14 rather than a 12, which narrowed my choice by about eighty per cent?


But not one to be defeated, I tried on a lot of dresses, growled in front of a lot of very unflattering changing room mirrors and swore that I would lose weight. But then…food. In desperation I even looked above budget, and if you have a caring, giving partner and $300-$500, I strongly recommend Myer’s Montique brand or Karen Millen as a great starting point.


But the thought of listening to the old man’s moans of grief when he checked out our bank statement was enough to bring me back to reality.


I couldn’t even decide on a colour. ‘Red’ made me look like I should be in the Pretty Woman cast, ‘maroon’ washed me out and ‘blue’ wouldn’t match my shoes. At one point I even hunted out an old Cue dress I’d worn for Melbourne Cup a few years ago, starved myself on cabbage soup for a week and cut my wine allowance by half – sadly, the zip on the side still refused to budget.


So this is the final result, ladies – a black and cream classic from Portmans at a very budget-friendly $99.95, which although really a work dress, I’m glamming up with some huge cream drop earrings. I’m still not sold on the floppy hat for the registry office, and it turns out that my half-priced raincoat from Gap is not waterproof, (so let us all unite and pray for uncommon occurrence in London of sunshine, please), but this girl IS going to that ball.


‘Evening Wear’

Photos patiently (!) taken by Kurt in exchange for a box of Goon.


Too Fat To Party

Too Fat To Party
Cinderella by Nikki.Jane found on http://www.flickr.com

I am facing a first-world quandary of epic female proportions. It is every girl’s worst nightmare.

Alas, I am too fat to wear my party dress to my own birthday party.

This Cinderella may have to wear Spanx and an old dress to the ball. ‘Epic proportions’ being the key words here.

I have no-one to blame but myself and my insatiable appetite. I’ve eaten every fucking pie put under my nose over the past few months and now my dress refuses to compromise.

It’s annoying because this was supposed to be a magical moment in my life and my marriage where I proved to the old man that I can save money and am not as shallow as he thinks I am. Which is why I decided months ago that I would wear a previously-worn dress (*shudder*) to my birthday dinner in an effort to show him just how much I’ve grown up, now that I’m nearly fifty.

I’ll give you a few minutes to absorb that information, ladies.

It wasn’t THAT dire a decision in reality. I’d only worn it once before, during my recent trip to Europe – so it isn’t like any of my friends had seen it on me before and I was told it flattered my more delicate curves then, before I lost all self-restraint and respect and piled on several kilos because I thought it would make me feel better to add a packet of vege-chips each evening to my glasses of wine and to finish off Kurt’s Pods whenever he wasn’t looking.

(Who doesn’t finish a bag of Pods? How did I produce such a lightweight for a son.)

So, all in all, I think it was a pretty damn mature decision of mine to resist buying a new dress for such an epic event in my life. But I figured that this new-found 50-something wisdom that I’m supposed to have found, means that I understand now that it’s not the superficial stuff that counts.

Not the wrapper, but its contents.

So I sated my need to spend by buying some new shoes instead…which were in the sale…so effectively I actually saved us money.

But every time I try on the bloody dress, it gets tighter around the waist, pinches my boobs and exposes my bat wings. When did I forget that women of a certain age shouldn’t wear ‘sleeveless’ dresses? And I can’t help questioning if I really want to hold my breath in all evening so my muffin top doesn’t make an impromptu Kravitz-esque appearance.

And then there’s the galling fact that the Spanx cost me more that a new dress and yet they still struggle to contain my Pods baby.

So I have two options left: a frantic and disastrous last-minute expedition to the mall that I know will end in more self-loathing and tears, because the first law of being a woman is never to buy clothing when you feel fat, or option 2: to wear an even older dress from my wardrobe – preferably maternity – with ‘give’ in the waistband, but which everyone will have seen before.


What I have to avoid is the inevitable immaturity of the ‘I’ve got nothing to wear’ tantrum on the night, minutes before the guests arrive, because VERY deep down…SO deep down that I can’t really locate it, I know I SHOULD know that what I wear is not why people are coming.

My friends are coming for the wine.


Is Clothes Shopping Really Therapeutic For Middle-Aged Women?

I headed into Pitt St Mall with NC on Saturday. My aim was to have some retail therapy to help me compete with the other queens at Mardi Gras.

In my mind I was probably aspiring to end up looking like this…

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?
I really wanted to look like this…

I was certainly determined to spend oodles of cash – the old man has been pissing me off relentlessly for the past week, (for no real reason other than the fact that he’s there), so I decided than an assault on the credit card might be therapeutic.

At that point I still thought shopping would make me feel better – like it used to when my clothes used to fit.

I knew what I didn’t want, which was to end up looking like this…Nightmare on Middle-Aged Street.


But it was the same old sad, shopping story. Before I left, I got all excited and had envisaged exactly what I wanted to buy, but that was obviously before I discovered that the only shoes left must have been designed for miniature poodles and the only dresses on the rails were a perfect fit for Barbie dolls.

I tried to remain upbeat while NC found item after item and looked like a fucking model in ALL of them, and then I retreated to Myer.

Alas, even in my safe haven of Myer, the brands that I have come to rely on recently – the ones that give me some middle-aged feel-good factor – just didn’t deliver.

Blame those beeatch hormones for trying to confuse me or the painful cloudiness still fogging my brain (a result of four too many Chardies on what should have been a quiet night in) the night before, but nothing looked or hung quite right, so by midday I was red-faced and sweating in the changing rooms.

Two of my favourite brands in Myer of late have been Stella of Myer (www.myer.com.au) and Wish (www.wish.com.au). The Stella range has a lot of loose fitting dresses in trendy (not frumpy) Vintage prints and I like Wish’s floaty elegance – in particular their stylish tops that do the best job of camouflaging the old muffin top without having to resort to kaftans.

By the afternoon, the added FML complication of torrential rain that led to squeaky, painful shoes with accompanying blisters, didn’t help my mood and even the lattes were working against me by blowing up the muffin top to a balloon.

I decided to play safe. I’ve been quite partial to the footless tights/mid-thigh dress combo for a while now and as distressing as it is to admit to needing tights in the summer, (WTF global warming), over the last few days, I’ve been freezing my ovaries off.

So I fancied something like this little dress on the right, from Country Road, but unfortunately the budget said no.

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

Of course, whenever I’m shopping for sensible, atypical middle-aged, dresses for work, (because I have to look androgynous there), or have no money to spend, those short, funky dresses throw themselves off the rails to tempt me, but alas, with a hundred bucks still burning a great fat hole in the back pocket of my jeans, it was Sod’s Law that there would be nothing I liked.

So finally I did what any desperate woman does in a serious shopping crisis and I grabbed at a handful of ‘possibles’ and marched bravely towards the changing room, determined to buy SOMETHING…ANY FUCKING THING.

The changing room attendant did her best to challenge me about the number of items in my arms, but when I flashed her THAT look, even she KNEW, stepped back and allowed me to pass with SEVEN items.

Here are some of the ones I tried:

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

Inevitably I bought the ONLY item in the whole of Pitt Street Mall NOT in the sale – a cute little top from Toi Et Moi – firstly because anything with a French name sounds super stylish, and secondly because I wanted the old man to REALLY hurt like it.

But mainly because I’M FUCKING WORTH IT!

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

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10 Fashion Disasters You Should NEVER Make In Middle Age

It was not my best look when an ill wind gusted across Bradfield Park the other day and exposed my voluminous flesh-toned granny cacks to about two hundred St Aloysius catholic boys who were innocently playing soccer nearby.

What was I thinking? Even ‘comfort’ is no excuse for wearing granny knickers in public.

180. She Uses A Machete To Cut Through Red Tape
180. She Uses A Machete To Cut Through Red Tape (Photo credit: lism.)

Those wise words of my mother immediately came back to haunt me –those indelible ones about never leaving the house in fugly undies. I think she was about me being compromised in a road accident or something, but I now realise that this must be a widespread piece of motherly advice because, let’s face it, how often do you spot fleshy, nylon trunks in those ER scenes where they have to cut through clothing, anyway?

At least I know whom to blame for my anxiety issues.

So I added the incident to the growing list of fashion disasters I seem to have committed since I entered this arena called middle-age. As you know if you have followed my journey, it’s taken some practice to adapt my wardrobe to my advancing years and increasing volume, especially the ‘dressing your age’ part. And in my quest to remain stylish and attractive, I have made more than a few embarrassing fashion faux-pas.

Hell! I’m not afraid to admit that I’m still learning. But I do think that my dress-sense may have disappeared around the same time as the firmness of my boobs.

I’ve been more than a little guilty of being the proverbial ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ on more occasions than I’d like to admit and I also admit to resorting to ‘comfort’ fits prematurely, in the naive belief that I still looked good.

Here are 10 of my best disasters for you to learn from:

  1. That time in recent history, (before I discovered the maturity to understand that a high neckline can be more flattering for women of almost any age), when I foolishly assumed that a lower neckline and ‘getting the tits out for the boys’ might distract the eye from, let’s say, my less flattering areas. But I sometimes went WAY TOO FUCKING LOW and, frankly, I set off the mutton siren. I then often compounded my error by enhancing ‘the girls’ with a pumped up, ‘come and get me boys!’ push-up bra. Oh, the shame!
  2. Adorning my body with cheap and gaudy jewellery is one of my biggest faults. What can I say? My need for self-expression through a bit of sparkle increases as I get older! My excuse is that when they brought out my signature Lovisa range, the urge to ‘bling’ was far too overwhelming to ignore.
  3. My investment in a wardrobe of tent dresses to conceal my wobbly bits, because they looked so dressing gown comfortable. I know now that they make me look EVEN bigger, of course – just think about Liz Taylor and her range of kaftans.
  4. Alice bands –WRONG! WRONG! JUST SO FUCKING WRONG! NC actually smacked my hand yesterday morning when I picked up one of those uber-trendy floral headbands. I think her words were: ‘Are you fucking serious?’
  5. Big bold patterns that make a statement and look as though the dog just vomited on me. I now know they don’t make the kind of statement I want.
  6. Those cutesy, Cue, retro dresses with the cinched-in waistband that break the bank and look so good on the hanger or on young women. They’re too twee for us mature women of the world.
  7. The times that I’ve worn NC’s wardrobe in pathetic retribution for all of the times she wore my clothes and looked better in them, trashed or never returned them. I shudder when I remember face-planting in the drive in NC’s shoes.
  8. Going wild for fluoro colours, especially orange – hmmm – I’m not sure you should be allowed to even wear those colours if you’re white, to be honest.
  9. Crop tops – the less said the better.
  10.  The old combo of a tight top that’s just a little too short, over a skirt where the waistband is just that little bit too tight – P.L.E.A.S.E! – a squashed Big Mac springs to mind. A compromised muffin top is not a good look on anyone.

NC* suggested I add ‘bikinis’ to the list. WTF! Obviously I have cut off all her uni allowances, cancelled her subscription to Rock World and locked away her science and Harry Potter books for a week.  I also intend to flirt outrageously with NB* on his next visit.

NC* Nerd Child

NB* Nerd Boy

5 Winter Fashion Must-Haves for Middle-Aged Women

"Winchester Bag Lady"
“Winchester Bag Lady” (Photo credit: Flicktone)

It’s f*cking freezing at the moment and in a perfect world I would be allowed to just hibernate for the next two months and left to exist on hot chocolates and Schnapps like I tried to in Thredbo.

Unfortunately, reality dictates that I have to work, shout at horrible teenagers and pretend to live life to the full.

Which means that in spite of the urge to simply alternate my two warmest and fugliest jumpers, (which is exactly what I also did in Thredbo), occasionally I have to look like a normal human being, rather than my preferred winter alter-ego of a middle-aged Bag Lady.

The whole winter style issue becomes further complicated by my predicament over who exactly I want to be in my late forties, in terms of style persona.

Do I aspire to be Sarah Jessica Parker or am I going to settle for Kathy Bates?

I’m still desperately trying to find that outfit that suits my middle-aged spread physique, and to be honest, it gets harder in the winter. I have tried ‘layering’, but it has to be done right in middle age, otherwise you just end up looking bigger. And in my experience, to layer successfully, you need to spend money.

Five Winter Must-Haves For Middle-Aged Women
Stella Dress

The ‘need to be comfortable’ mindset is definitely edging out my old sense of style; although I’m not quite ready to roll over and die just yet. Deep down I would like to carry on enjoying fashion, but I need to stay warm too.

Age is definitely just a number; it doesn’t have to be an outlook too.

What I have found since resisting embracing my late forties by the balls is that the old man was quite right about one thing –  ‘quality is far superior to quantity’ – at least when it comes to classic wardrobe essentials.

I have recently adopted several trial ‘looks’ that seem to work on my evolving pear shape during the cold winter months, and these are: classic dresses, skinny trousers with loose tops and shorter dresses with boots and jackets.5 Winter Fashion Must-Haves for Middle-Aged Women

Although I am slowly veering towards more classic/Vintage-style pieces, I still like to have some fun with my style and offer the occasional Wow! factor (especially in the evening), so I’m not averse to pimping up my outfits where I can. I ‘sexy up’ plain classic dresses with colourful or sparkling accessories so that I still feel attractive and not dowdy.

So here are my five winter fashion must-haves for every middle-aged woman’s wardrobe:

Little Black Dress – There are some gorgeous classic-styled black dresses out there at the moment, and in my opinion you can never go wrong with an LBD; no matter what your age or size. I love the classic shift dress (which designers are thoughtfully designing in more ‘giving’ fabrics now, or the more vintage A-Line and Hepburn-esque shaped dresses with a belt or tie. I dress my LBDs ‘down’ for work with a contrasting belt, cardie and boots, or ‘up’ with some statement jewellery, heels, a metallic or animal-print belt and patterned tights for the evening. I love a black dress, black tights and contrasting shoes – the strappier the better.

Black Polo Neck Jumper – I have one of those chins that with time has sub-divided into about five levels and just about the only reason I like winter is that I can hide them with scarves or roll neck jumpers. I have always loved the loose-fitting, chunky-knit black roll neck jumper with either skinny jeans or a short skirt and boots (faux leather and metallic woven skirts are in at the moment and look super-hot with tights and boots).

Loose-fitting patterned dress – I admit that in previous posts I have said that women over forty shouldn’t be seen dead in short skirts or dresses, but I still really love a short, loose-fitting dress over leggings or skinny pants and boots. There are some great Vintage prints out there at the moment and colour energises aging skins – especially in winter when our skin tone becomes more corpse-like. I absolutely love the Stella range at the moment for Vintage prints, and their dresses are loose-fitting and reasonably priced too – find the range in Myer.

CardiganNOT (I repeat NOT!) Granny in style! I’m talking about the longer, more fitted style of cardigan that hangs mid-thigh and has some cotton in its mix. I have bought these in Country Road and Witchery in the past. Go as bright as possible if you wear them over your LBD – mustards, reds, olive green or electric blue or white all look divine.

Boots –My favourite are 70s-style vintage brown boots at the moment and I mix them with black all the time – something I never thought I’d do – I bought my pair in Witners. They don’t have to be high, but pick ones with some heel to lengthen your legs and make the look more slimming. Flat boots say ‘country’ to me – country style is about practicality not style.

Brands I head to for reasonably priced classics are Zara (www.zara.com.au) for jumpers and tops), Stella (www.stellamccartney.com for Vintage-print/smart loose dresses), Cue (www.cue.com.au – sale items only) and Portmans (www.portmans.com.au for classic dresses) and finally, Wish (www.wish.com.au for whatever else I can afford.

You don’t have to hide your body in winter, or run around like those crazy teenagers with barely anything on because Vodka Cruisers are obviously keeping their circulation going.

Embrace the winter cold with style, (and just wear your thermals and your grundies underneath).