frugal fashion shopper

Is age just another number?

The glamour of going on a cruise – it’s all about the dressing up!

I do love a good cruise and I’m going on one in May of this year.  And while that doesn’t sound particularly frugal remember I’m prudent and thrifty with clothes. Furthermore, I don’t drink, don’t even eat chocolate, so a cruise every other year – I have to have some vices!   Also at my age (see below) I think, as far as possible, do it now – ten years hence, who knows!

I didn’t always think like this.  Somehow, we got into the habit of spending practically nothing on our holidays.  But to cut a long story short one year we had a disastrous week in a cottage in Scotland.  We drove all the way there (that’s a long drive for Brits) and when we arrived it began to rain (it was the height of summer) and it never stopped.  On the second day my husband started a corker of a cold and was so ill he couldn’t go out of the rather meagerly furnished cottage (it wasn’t like the photo in the brochure).   And on the third day, I slipped getting out of the bath and bruised my leg so badly I couldn’t bear to drive let alone walk.  By the time we recovered it was the end of the week, and then we drove all the way back. This was my epiphany moment – when I got back I said, never again, and booked a cruise for our next holiday.

But, why go on a cruise, I hear you ask? Surely that kind of holiday is i) for old people and ii) it must be horrible going on those ships that look like a block of flats on a pontoon.

Ok, so far I’ve only been on one, and in answer to the first statement, yes there was a large number of people in their 70s and 80s on that particular cruise (to Norway – wonderful, in case you ask). But, isn’t it a bit ageist to think that you won’t have a good time with older people? What’s more I’ll be 68 on this year’s cruise, so I’m not that far away from the 70-year-olds, anyway. Actually, the people we met were dynamic, lively and interesting, and it was also seriously good for the morale being one of the younger participants on board the good ship Saga Ruby. And in answer to the second statement, Saga runs two small ships*, and the delightful Saga Ruby (now retired) looked like a proper old-fashioned ship.

I’m not sure why we decided on Saga, but having been on one of their cruises I have to say their standards are super-high.  What’s more, they pick you up from your front door!  Not sure whether that’s to keep the stress down amongst their older customers so there are no heart attacks just after people arrive (because there’s a lot of running around doing the pre-vacation chores and the packing) but it’s a good feeling to be pampered like that.

black dress on doorCruises take you places, for sure (we’re going to St. Petersburg and the Baltic states in May, international politics permitting) but it’s the dressing up that does it for me, *sighs with contentment*.   We just don’t live that kind of lifestyle so a cruise is the opportunity to wear that beautiful long frock and that sequined top.  Mind you, I absolutely refuse to wear those wide trousers that seem to be ubiquitous in cruise publicity shots.  I wear my skinny jeans during the day with a variety of tops, and then, as is the custom, I change into one of my cruise frocks.

The hunt for the evening wear; the long formal dresses and the shorter cocktail frocks began over two years ago (for the last cruise) and has been a source of great pleasure. Because all of them have come from charity shops, and the thrill of finding not just a bargain but also a beautifully cut, sequined and/or flouncy frock has been beyond thrilling – yes, I know, I’m easily pleased.

silver-dress-smallAbove is one of the cocktail dresses I’ll wear on the May cruise – it’s my 75p Karen Millen frock.  And the one on the left, costing all of £6.99, featured in a post I wrote for StylishOleWoman, where I explain how Claire (House of Cards) Underwood has influenced my dress sense, and I now look for more form-fitting clothes than I used to.

I do wear some of the frocks between cruises but not as often as I would like, because I think we should wear what we’ve got and not leave outfits languishing at the back of the wardrobe. But do let me know what you wear when you dress up and at what occasion, I’d love to hear your stories.

With love, Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper

*MS Saga Sapphire is a 37,301 ton ship with a maximum capacity for 720 passengers.   MS Saga Pearl II is an 18,591 ton ship with a capacity for 449 passengers.


Facelift or filler – er, no thanks – there’s plenty else we can do!

My blog seems to be evolving from being about (frugal) fashion to more of a critique of ageism, alongside some tales of how I’m managing my ageing (or not).  However, from time to time I’ll be including my best charity shop bargains and, this is important, what I don’t want to do is whinge about things.

The wonderful politician Tony Benn died last week and many of his thoughts have been quoted in the British media.  This struck a chord with me.  He apparently said, “…what do you do when you are old?  You don’t whinge, you don’t talk all the time about the past,… you try and encourage people…”

So, although this blog post has some serious concerns about society’s (or the media’s) perception of ageing, I’m ending on a note of encouragement.

OK.  I read Vogue, as *Invisible Woman says, so you don’t have to.  What an odd magazine.  It gives you the most up-to-date idea of what fashion is on-trend but who wants to be fashionable, as they depict it, at such a price?  Very little takes my fancy, although in the April edition I did see a silver sequined Breton top from Browns at £300 with a matching silver embroidered tulle skirt from Erdem at £785.  Both rather lovely – so something similar will be sought in my local charity shops.

But I get do quite flummoxed, annoyed even, by the lifestyle served up in the articles and fashion shoots. (I’ll return to my views on the fashion shoots in another blog post.)  For instance, one article on facelifts, and the merits of surgical intervention as opposed to non-invasive procedures, was filled to the brim with ageist assumptions about the need to do at the very least, something, as we women age. The journalist, btw, admitted to being 45.  Sighs, and feels exasperated!

What’s more, we get some seriously unassertive views from a few women (very much not a representative sample – my research hackles going up here).   And I say unassertive because they are all obviously wealthy women yet they are, as depicted in this article, breathlessly keen to do this ‘something’.   Which I find worrying, and almost sad, as when I was that age, I sat around the kitchen table with other women trying to raise my consciousness and all – remember that – was that the first wave of feminism? Has nothing changed?   Well, yes, things are different from when I had to resign from my job when I got pregnant, but it seems there is still much to fight for.

The article ends with the journalist saying she believes it’s easier to change ourselves than society’s view of ageing, and quotes the king of botox (?) as saying that women over 50, who would have been finished 30 years ago, have been taken “out of the cupboard” by having fillers, peels and botox.  And now, bizarrely, as a result of their procedures,  “are powerful, intelligent, funny…”

Well, if all you need to do to be a powerful and intelligent and funny is fill in the wrinkles and laughter lines we’ve earned over our years wouldn’t we all do this?  No! Although hang on, would I do a surgical something if I had the cash?  Probably not, because with a nursing background I know that, with all interventions, there is risk.   Although perhaps I am being simplistic here, as there are complex reasons why people choose to go down the surgical route.  But, even the non-surgical interventions, like the peel, sound horrific, with skin left so reddened you have to stay at home for days – oof, no way!

And there are many things one can do without spending mega bucks.  For instance:

Updating your makeup – by just keeping an eye on what is on-trend and then adapting it to your style.

Having the occasional facial – this can be really good for your skin.

Defining your eyebrows – no kidding, this lifts the face.  I get mine dyed every 6 weeks or so, but just an eyebrow pencil will do.

Looking after your hair  – a slightly new style can (with the right cut) lift the features.  But making your hair shine using the right kind of conditioner is a winner.  For those of you with grey/white hair have a look at White Hot Hair’s website.  Let me know what you think if you’re using these products

And finally, throwing out the old unworn clothes and bringing in the new.  You’re not necessarily being a fashionista – but being a woman of style!  And you know that you don’t need to spend much money either if you go to a charity shop for these new outfits – ‘nuff said! 😉

That’s all for now

With love, Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper

* Invisible Woman is no longer invisible.   Do go to this link to see why she revealed her name and came out of the shadows. Very nice to see her, btw.

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Maintenance – just like Nora Ephron – it’s 8 hours a week and counting!

OK, maintenance, we all have to do it – and I’m not talking about painting the outside of your house every two years – no, this is about the ordinary, everyday things you, well, I need to do as I age to keep myself from falling apart and looking like a bag lady.  And anyone who has read Nora Ephron’s I feel Bad About My Neck (which I highly recommend) will know that I’ve read (and love) her piece on the same subject.

Yes, gone are the days when I hurled myself into bed with the love of my life – he’s still here by my side, by the way!  No, starting from the top and working my way down to my toes (and doing all that I have to do) takes half an hour.   So, that’s me in the bathroom for half an hour in the morning and again at night.

I’ll spare you all the details, but let’s start with the eyes.  I wear hard contact lens and eye makeup, and I have an eye condition.  First, the contact lenses come out (sometimes not all that easily) are cleaned and put away.  Then the whole face is scrubbed free of powder and paint (actually, I don’t scrub, apart, that is, from my once-a-week exfoliating session – add another 5 mins for that).  And then I pay particular attention to my eyelids because I have blepheritis, which is an eyelid condition (do have a look at this link telling you more about eye conditions as we age), so out comes the paraphernalia to deal with that.

All of that takes at least 15-20 minutes and I have yet to start on the rest of me!  I haven’t even got to my teeth – ah yes, me teeth, *sighs*.  But I did look after my teeth, however, just after I retired, I lost two of them, and no, I couldn’t have caps.  Not, fortunately, my front teeth but near enough, so you can see the gap.  I spent some of my (very small) pension payout on a hugely expensive bridge (by expensive I mean £2000) that would last for 10 years, I was told.  Two years later with the bridge broken and beyond salvation I spent the best £350 ever (such good value) on two false teeth that are elegantly fixed onto a full pink plastic plate that needs the ubiquitous Sterodent fizzy soak in the plastic box thing that everyone would recognize as having false teeth in it. I mean, I love the plate for its value, and it’s so well made you wouldn’t know it was there and I still don’t have to put that glue on my gums.  The only things I have to watch out for are toffees and sticky Christmas cake.  Oh calamity, believe me, if your teeth get dislodged you have to leave the room!

But reader, what happens when you go away for a few days, and you’re staying with a friend and you share the one bathroom?  The question arises will I be able to do all the things I have to do, and even more important – where will I put my teeth!  And before any younger readers are put off this blog for life, can I say, this is a serious question – it’s quite a dilemma.  Actually, when I was away last month I took the teeth out in the bathroom and then scuttled back to the bedroom with the pot and put it on the window-sill, not really wanting my friends to look at the pot and think, yes, hmm, Penny’s teeth.

Anyway, all that maintenance, plus other stuff I do of a night and a morning, doesn’t include the time spent waxing (see the blog I wrote on body hair) the occasional manicure, the chiropodist for corns and the hair colour upkeep.  And no, I’m not going grey to save time (see my blog on going grey).

So yes, it’s well over eight hours a week and counting! Such is (my) life – but tell me what do you do?  And feel free to say whatever, including, that’s way too much time!

That’s all for now

With love, Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper


Skirts – frilly or sleek?

From some of the posts I’ve written you might assume that much of my wardrobe is full to bursting with multi-layered frilly skirts.  But, I’m ruthless at getting rid of things I don’t wear, so my clothes cupboard isn’t as jam-packed as you might think!  I’ve had a great time searching for (and wearing) this type of skirt, because they’re so unlike my working life gear.  Also, there’s an element of, well, frothy skirts are not what an older woman is expected to wear, so I jolly well will wear them.  And I can just about bring the frills off.

But recently I have been very influenced by what Claire Underwood (House of Cards) wears.  And yes, I have mentioned this before, and yes, I did write about it on Stylish Ole Woman’s blog, but I think my wardrobe is going to be tweaked somewhat this Spring which, of course, you can do if you’ve only spent about £3-£5 on a charity shop item.

Fashion is a funny thing and not to be taken seriously as Hadley Freeman has said in her usual eloquent way.  But looking through some of the high-end fashion journals it seems that whatever style takes your fancy could be on-trend.  For instance, there are still plenty of full skirts out there being promoted as adding elegance to your wardrobe.  And then there are pleated skirts, which apparently are huge on the high street.  Nope, can’t say I knew that.

shiny-skirt-webBut Red has a feature (both online and in its magazine) on ‘must buy’ statement skirts and these are different to the statement skirts I wrote about in August of last year.

Yes, these are shorter, more structured, more form-fitting and there’s a lovely, quite inexpensive silver skirt featured in the magazine, which is rather like one I picked up for £3.98 and worn a lot recently.

And Jess Cartner-Morley has written that it’s time to pimp your pencil skirt.  Yey, now that’s more like it!  You see Claire Underwood’s style is understated, yes, and to die for, yes, but it is also structured and form-fitting, and that’s the way I’m going with my wardrobe.

straight-skirt-web2Here’s a skirt I bought last week for under a fiver, and obviously influenced by the wonderful Claire. (I know she’s not real, but…)

And before you say, I can’t wear form-fitting dresses or skirts because of my age, or more critically, my size, I just want to say why not try a bit of structure and tailoring to a dress or a skirt.  A more form-fitting cut can tighten and define the silhouette and as a result slim it rather than (and this is heresy) that Judi Dench look of the flowing loose frocks which, seriously, although people may think it hides the figure, also thickens the outline of the body.   Instead, why not show your legs and your figure – you might be surprised how good you look!

On the other hand, don’t take any notice of what I’ve just said as I’d hate to serve up more rules for older women.  Read another piece on a website, supposedly for the over-60s, on how older women should wear age-appropriate, classic clothing and not dress young – oh, perlease!  No way (and my voice is rising at this point) because, people, this is just a step away from saying that dreaded phrase, Mutton dressed as…. and you know what I think about that!  No, as we age, We Wear. What. We. Like!

That’s all for now

With love,

The Frugal Fashion Shopper


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