frugal fashion shopper

Is age just another number?

The grey days of February – why not bring a little colour into your wardrobe?

I’ve had a couple of days away this week and the sun has shone for several hours and the skies were blue, and it was just such a pleasure to have some light and brightness in the sky.  The British countryside has a muted palette for most of the year with tints of grey predominating in the winter.  But the storms seem to have abated, and with the daffodils coming up in the garden, Spring seems to be just round the corner.

For me, the colour of Spring is green and it’s a colour I love.  To celebrate the Spring I’ve turned my blog back to the blue/green colour background (which attracted me to the template in the first place).

And there’s a lot of green in my wardrobe, which is why it’s the colour I look for when I hunt through the rails and racks in the many charity shops I visit.  I really try hard not to buy random clothes, instead, I build on what I have in my wardrobe.

For me, the colour green feels bright and cheerful and I wear it through the year.  It all started with a green parka, which was bought in the Brighton, Oxfam for £5.00 at least three years ago. In fact, in the winter I wear it all the time.  With it I often wear a lovely woolly green beret, which isn’t a charity shop find, and at £25.00 is perhaps the most expensive item in my wardrobe apart, that is, from my winter boots, which were a very reasonable £67.00 from a great shoe shop in Lewes. As I’ve said before, charity shop shoes and boots are hard to find.

P1010053Here’s a pic of me in Bergen, Norway wearing all three items.

Since buying the parka I’ve added to this green theme a lot.  I have a great pair of skinny green trousers that cost all of £3.00 and then a boiled wool jacket and scarf bought together in the same charity shop that cost just under £10.00. For the summer I have several greenish skirts; one bought quite recently from Seaford for £8.99 was quite an expensive buy, another one came from Worthing and cost only £3.99 and quite recently I found a sparkly green Per Una skirt that cost just £4.99.

All these clothes have been bought over two to three years and have leapt out at me as I trawl through the many multi-coloured dresses and skirts that so many charity shops stock.

I do wear darker colours and I have my fair share of black and grey clothes; grey does suit the paler skin of the older woman.  Have you been watching House of Cards (from Netflix)?  The colour grey features in Claire Underwood’s wardrobe a lot and I love her understated style.  A few days ago I guest blogged on Stylish Ole Woman (she features on my side bar of blogs I love) and wrote about this – do have a look!

But I guess my message is that in our climate where there are as many grey days as there are sunny, why not move away from those dark colour trousers and the black fleece or the navy cagoule.  They’re all useful; but why not bring colour into your life during these grey wintery days, and do that by buying something in a charity shop that will lift your spirits at very little cost.

That’s all for now

With love, Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper

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Mutton dressed as lamb – no way. Older women are beautiful whatever they wear!

When you write a post you’re meant to be upbeat and sunny, most of the time, to keep people happy and to attract new followers. But I have to stay true to myself and tell you what I think.  For instance, the term ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ has come up several times with me saying I hate it.  In this blog I thought I’d unpick those words and say why I feel this way.

The very act of saying or writing that phrase is a form of control over older women. It’s a slogan that puts women in their place and makes us feel uncertain, and unsure about the way we dress.  It polices us and hey, people, it only applies to women, there’s no equivalent for men – now that, I think, is not right.

Read a blog the other day on fashion and style for the 50+ age group penned by a stylist – no, never heard of her – who in her first paragraph wrote, of course we don’t want to look like mutton dressed as…… Excuse me, middle age stylist telling us older women what to wear, what do you mean by that??  Are we meat?  OK, if the phrase is about seeing us as old meat – this is ugly and we should have zero tolerance to anybody who says this. But, perhaps it’s a bit subtler than that.

The way we dress is very much governed by codes and society’s view of what is right and proper and appropriate.  Uniforms in hospitals and prisons define the divisions between patient and nurse, guard and prisoner.  One day I might give you a blow-by-blow account of how the first thing we were taught as nurses was to sew our frilly lace caps into place with a butterfly bow at the back! And there seems to be a continuing debate as to whether teachers gain authority by dressing in a (more) professional manner.  As I’ve said before, office wear in my later years was always sensible skirts and tops that veered from woolly jumpers at the local charity (cold office) to silk shirts in London (overheated office).

But as we age, and there are no longer office norms to contend with, why are we still made to feel uneasy about meeting required standards?  Twigg* (2013) has a good take on the almost oppressive rules that govern the way older women are observed and judged. Because we’re judged in a far more negative way than younger women.

For instance, the phrase mutton dressed as… is usually directed at women in late middle age.  And the underlying message is don’t wear short skirts or show too much of your décolletage.  And don’t, whatever you do, be inappropriately and overtly sexual at your age.  My view is that it’s a judgment that we should seriously ignore.

But there’s another judgment that is equally negative.  Look at the frayed jeans of the young.  To wear these jeans needs a sense of confidence and style to carry it off and, you could wear them at any age, why not?  But it could be that the fraying is just one step away from looking shabby and down at heel.

The argument continues that, while highly erotic in the young, any disorder in the clothes of older women (and, older men as well) signals a decline in one’s ability to cope with life.  So, there is a pressure to be reasonably well groomed to remain acceptable.  That’s the way I dress, you might say, but note that any tear, any fraying, any mark, any grubbiness, or, heaven forefend, a food stain, may not be/is not seen as that glorious déshabillé of the young but as a sign of decay and deterioration.  Am I being negative and pessimistic?  I don’t think so, just realistic about how professionals look at older people, I know, I’ve done it myself.   But let me know if you think different.

In complete contrast to that view is another judgment on older people (of both sexes) on how we must be toned, slim and above all else, active as we age.  Well, if we can, knee joints permitting, yes, do the yoga and the seniors’ gym but it sometimes verges on the – it’s not acceptable to look old  – which I think needs to be stamped on hard.

I say, to look old is to be beautiful.  Here are some great pics of older women with greying and white hair (Photos courtesy of greyfoxblog and any male readers out there, do follow this excellent blog).

My view is emphatically; we are the baby boomers so we don’t bow down to the pressure of social codes or meaningless, mindless phrases.  We are old (or ageing!), we are bold and to hell with all other opinions on our dress, within reason of course!

That’s all for now

With love,
Penny

The frugal fashion shopper

* Twigg, Julia (2013) Fashion And Age. Dress, the Body and Later Life. Bloomsbury. Read pages 16-17 for a fuller discussion on social order and dress.

P.S. Earlier this month bought (and wore Saturday last) a lovely short silver pleated sparkly skirt that will feature in the next blog!

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A trip to London: a style icon observed and my skin examined

I went to London, Wednesday last, to an exhibition on the style icon and muse Isabella Blow.  Not a particularly brilliant day weather-wise.  For those of you reading the blog outside the UK, we don’t have hurricanes here – well hardly ever – but I’m amending the blog since I published two days ago as we’re having a series of storms, with high winds, which seem to have got even stronger over the past couple of days.  And then there’s the rain, which has led to bad flooding in some areas: particularly the Somerset Levels and now the Thames Valley.   On that Wednesday London was wet, windy and grey and the day wasn’t helped by the tube strike either.

Not to worry I went around the exhibition in a near orgasmic state of ecstasy.   Little gasps of ‘oh’, ‘ah’, ‘gosh’ and ‘my word were involuntarily escaping from my mouth.  At this point some of you might be saying, Isabella who?  And I’d have been the same before my interest in fashion became a minor/major preoccupation. Won’t give you an account of her life, which sadly was short.  But she had an astonishing capacity to recognize the early talents of designers such as Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy and she wore their clothes not just for best but all the time.  She bought McQueen’s first collection and there it was – frocks and hats up-front and personal – available for you to peer at and gasp at their sheer beauty and audacity.  Because her outfits: the dress, the hat, the shoes were beyond extraordinary.

So, why am I extolling the virtue of someone so outside the realm of ordinary women?  Well, while we cannot be Isabella Blow we can aim to have our own style.  Whatever size we are we can aspire to curate our outfits and make a statement and, particularly, as we age.  Hey, we can do it.  We aren’t constrained by wearing clothes for work, so we can be more creative than when we were in our 40s.  It’s just that confidence thing and that awful maxim, ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’ (how I hate that phrase and see Invisible Woman’s take on it as well) that prevents us from taking that extra step to wear that dress, even that hat.  So, I say, within reason, and knowing what suits us, we can wear what we want, in any way we want, and we can do it for very little money if we trawl the charity shops.

KM dress cutoutHere’s what I wore up to London – it’s one of my Karen Millen dresses, a plain one this time, bought for £12.99 in a Brighton charity shop, which I wore with my favourite faux leather jacket.  OK, it’s grey but with big pleats all round and, can you see, a back hem that dips down lower than the front which makes it swish when you walk  – it was the right thing to wear going round the exhibition!

However, the exhibition wasn’t the main reason for my trip to London.  It was a treat after a Mole Check at the Mole Clinic, a place I’ve been going to every two to three years.  If you’re fair-skinned or have ever burnt yourself bright red to get that healthy looking tan, *laughs sardonically at self*, a regular thing I did every summer when I was a teenager, please go to this clinic.  Once there, you’re examined by a nurse, who, using a kind of one-eyed binocular, names every blemish on your skin.  (I have pale Scottish skin with many blemishes).

Yes, this tanning business – who remembers that particular, evocative smell of Ambre Solaire?  It was the only sun lotion around when I was younger, and must have had a protection factor of, oh, all of 0.  And the peeling of the skin, which, at my school, you practically boasted of how much was coming off your back.

Anyway, please, do go, because this time they picked up a tiny patch of basal cell cancer on my lower leg – apparently the most common sight for skin cancer. It’s so small, (only a millimeter in size) it’s almost impossible to see with the naked eye (it’s red, btw, not black or brown like a mole) but blown up on the screen, ah yes, doesn’t look all that good.  But the great thing about it is that as it’s been discovered at such an early stage it’ll be nicked out rather than a much bigger op with a skin graft, which is the way it would be done if I’d waited until I could see it.  Here again, is the link to the clinic and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

That’s all for now

With love

Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper

P.S. I’m probably going to move my blog from wordpress.com to wordpress.org at some point.  It’s a technical thing I need to do as I become more accustomed to the blogging business (you don’t have to do anything).  But with this platform I’ll have more control than I do now and I’ll be able to accept and pitch for advertisements.  And the first advertisement I’ll put on it will be the Mole Clinic, for sure.

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Hair Part II The debate around body hair. What to do with it, or not!

I said I’d return to the subject of hair and I have, but this time I also talk about the hair that’s not just on our head.  And no photos this week *coughs delicately*!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and hair has to be a feminist issue, it covers our head, but it’s also about ideals of femininity and womanhood.  Hence the current debate on grey hair; as in, no, it’s not a harbinger of our impending ageing, instead it’s great (and almost sexy) to be grey.  But why have that debate anyway?  Why don’t we just colour our hair whatever shade we want? Is it society?  Is it the male gaze that makes us fretful about our hair?  Well, yes, I would say.  One journalist has even described hair in the west as the veil of the western woman – we ‘wear’ a hairstyle, we style it and we (and that’s both men and women) judge it.

And then there is the hair on our body. I don’t know if you are aware of this but there is quite a debate going on about this.  One article I read recently said we should embrace our armpit, leg and pubic hair and leave it be.  Well, that’s OK, as far as one’s pubic hair goes.  If you’re old enough to have been shaved down there before giving birth, the regrowth …, stubble, no, no, and waxing’s not much better.  But the funniest article I’ve read for a long time was on dyeing one’s grey beaver!  And I’m not referring to the beavers that are needed to build dams in the Somerset Levels.  And in case you think I’m getting smutty can I say that this article comes from the Tatler (via Invisible Woman on Twitter).  After reading it, was speechless at the inanity, or indeed desperation, of those who think that the colour of one’s lady garden actually matters.

But I often think that these articles, which take the view let it all hang out from our armpits and everywhere else, are never written from an angle that excess hair might actually be a wee bit of a problem.

What did my mother say to a teased teenager who had long, luxurious, wavy hair all over her legs (yes, I really did), ‘don’t shave your legs, dear’.  Reader, I shaved and for the next 10 years shaved more and more – because, you have to – what an effort.  No worries, I discovered waxing, but I don’t read many articles about, actually, leg waxing might be a necessity rather than a fashion statement.

Then there’s the down on my face, (now don’t read on if you’re easily embarrassed or cannot accept the reality of the lives that women lead).  I got this from my mother, and it’s not that noticeable, only in certain lights.  And, my mother, bless her, if I close my eyes I can smell that Helena Rubenstein face powder she put on with a swans down powder puff, the delicate tendrils of which were echoed in the soft fair down that covered her skin.  Well, how lovely, you might think, but not so to the teenager I was, with the self same down on her face.   And when told ‘Don’t pluck those hairs, dear, they’ll go dark’, people, I did and……  Not to worry, I found that thing called electrolysis.  But again, I don’t read many articles on how it isn’t that good to have dark hairs on your chin – unless that is, it’s a kind of condescending acknowledgement that older women might suffer from this.  Er, no, teenagers can have those long hairs on their chins as well.

It seems to me that there are a whole host of opinions out there about what we ought to be doing with the hair on our head and our body.  Personally, I think you should be doing whatever makes you feel OK.  And perhaps we do a little maintenance here and there, but never more than what’s necessary, whatever that is for you.  And that’s all we need to do.

But you may think differently to me, what do you think?

With love

Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper

P.S. I was ever so pleased to see one of my fave journalists, Hadley Freeman, saying the exact same thing this week – that it’s up to us to decide whether or not to have that Brazilian!

P.P.S I’ve been so exceedingly frugal these past weeks that I haven’t bought much at all – but we’ll back to clothes and fashion next week, for sure!

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