Clothes Horse of the Midwest


I am not nor have I ever been a clothes horse. When I was 14, I had the same shape I do now, long legs, short waist, and a muffin top (more like a Bundt cake.) When my friends wore Bobbie Brooks, I was buying from the Bea Arthur Collection for dress-up.

Thankfully in the casual college days of the 1970s, the non-cool kids had a uniform, T-shirts, and jeans. When I graduated, I following in Melanie Griffith’s “Working Girl” lead and wore tailored suits with padded shoulders, pastel blouses, and leather pumps. Even when business casual became popular, I wore three-quarter length sleeved jackets, a nice knitted shirt, scarf, black pants, and the same old dandy leather pumps. (I purchased identical black pants three or four pairs at a time. Dark slacks are dark slacks.)

Now I’m retired, and I get to wear what I darn well please. (This is the retirement phrase and can apply to any sentence. I will do XXXX as I darn well please.)

I wear black or navy T-shirts and jeans or yoga pants. I also have a fleet of comfortable walking shoes, what we used to call tennis shoes. The only difference from college is that my shirts now say “Black Lives Matter” or feature the names of women SCOTUS judges instead of “Gerald Ford for President.” My shoes are still Adidas or Reebok.

My old work uniforms aren’t appropriate for social occasions that need a better look than my failed student journalist get-up.

So today I went to the mall to buy a couple of new shirts for those occasions when I need to ratchet up my game (add dangly earrings, ditch the walking shoes, and I can chaperone a high school Prom.)

I visit the Mall so rarely that when I walked in Dillard’s the entire store had been remodeled. I had no clue where the Plus Size department was. Going into any department store requires a circuitous path. With my respiratory problems and multiple allergies, the perfume section of the store is potentially lethal. What if I ran into an errant sprayer who thought I needed Tommy Hilfiger’s latest scent. No, I do not need a life-threatening asthma attack today; I need two new shirts.

I am relatively sure that designers of Plus Sized clothing are often drunk at work. These petite aliens drink half a bottle of Johnny Walker Red and then play on their design tablets. “How can we make overweight, mature women look like fools,” they ask.

Almost every casual shirt in the department featured horizontal stripes or Mondrian-like vast blocks of color. Precisely what every overweight woman should not wear unless she is wanting to look like a flag fluttering in the wind. I know there’s a different school of thought on color, but I’m Old School, and I want to look like a potted plant, not Monet’s Garden. There was a whole rack of casual shirts with horizontal lines that had a picture of the original Mickey Mouse on the front. (I know this makes no sense, but I would wear a Homey the Clown t-shirt but not Mickey Mouse.)

Turns out I’ve become my father, the man who cherishes his clothing like unique Christmas ornaments.  He has pants older than his grandchildren.  He’s quite proud of it.

I left Dillards and its eighty dollar shirts for the relative safety of the bargain racks at Macy’s. I took the escalator up to my comfortable Women’s Wear section and walked into the infant section. I hadn’t been to Macy’s for some time either, as Women’s Wear moved downstairs.  I walked right past it. w

Success in the Land of Alfred Dunner?

On the first floor, I found rows of sales racks with semi-appropriate shirts. I did not want a shirt with cut-outs in the arms — what woman with turkey waddle arms intends to show them off? I didn’t want a shirt that mirrors something Joan Baez wore in the Woodstock era, a peasant looking material with a gathered neck. (I have my own gathered neck, thank you, and I don’t need fabric beneath it to remind me.)  I did not want a shirt that is longer in the back than in the front, nor one with tails on either side.

Nor did I want a shiny, sleek, shirt of some polyester looking fabric of alien origin. If the material is unknown to humans and doesn’t breathe, no post-menopausal woman wants it.

(Who thinks of this stuff? Refer back to the aliens drinking shots above.)

Finally, I found two semi-acceptable choices in the house-brand section. Nice enough to up my game for social visits, but not too uncomfortable.  My budget was not busted, and at least for the foreseeable future, I can go out in public again.

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