Category Archives: Shopping

Why clothes don’t fit

dress with a bad fitWalking through town this morning I was horrified by some of the outfits I saw on people. “Unflattering” doesn’t even begin to describe what I was seeing.

This has very little to do with weight or fitness (though it never hurts to have the figure of a super model). What it’s really about is the crappy clothing we let manufacturers get away with.

A Fit About Fit

Women’s clothing used to come in many sizes. Sizes like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Now even jackets and pants are sold in small, medium and large. Buy a medium and it fits like an 8 — way too small. Go with the large, and it fits like a 14 — and you’re swimming in it.

Of course, one brand’s “medium” is another brand’s “large.” The new sizing (or lack of it) means that a very high percentage of what you try on in the fitting room makes you look like you’re wearing someone else’s castoffs. If you’re in a hurry and you buy it…ugh.

Construction Zone

There used to be these things called darts. The darts shaped clothing along the shoulders, bust line, and hips. Almost no clothing today has darts — unless you are shopping in a vintage boutique.

Lining also seems to be a thing of the past. Linings in jackets and skirts prevented clinging and bunching.

Darts and lining are both expensive, adding time (and materials) to the clothing construction process. Lined clothes require dry cleaning, which most women don’t want to be bothered with.

So, we have cheaply made clothes that look like we slept in them.

Material Failure

Stretch fabric for women’s clothing emerged in the 1960s, and a lot of it was bulky and sweaty (the dreaded polyester!). Today Lycra and other high-tech stretch fabrics get combined with cotton and wool and rayon in comfortable and attractive blends. Well — at least they start out attractive. Part of the problem with stretchy clothes is that they look great for a while and gradually began to bag, sag, and wear thin. The rayon blends are particularly vulnerable to sagging and pilling.

People tend not to notice this gradual degradation of their favorite dresses and pants and thus don’t realize they are soon running around looking like slobs. Sadly, there is little that’s uglier than a pair of designer yoga pants that are now wearing thin in the butt.

So there it is: Contemporary clothing sucks and we run the risk of looking ghastly in it. Don’t even get me started on the shoes that are crippling our feet.

 

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When it comes to Naot, think Vinyard

Naot sandal

Naot Reserve

Naot shoes are unique in their ability to combine comfort and European-style fashion. This year their Vinyard collection sandals, with a mid-to-low heel, are hot. The Cabernet has the gladiator look; the Chianti a very classic style that would work beautifully for dressy  occasions. The Muscat has a rather aggressive fashion look, and the Reserve is perfect for an office sandal. I just got the Reserve from Online Shoes, and am wild over it — the front band (as well as the strap) adjusts (via hidden velcro) making it perfect for my wide-in-front feet.

Look to Naot’s Impulse collection for dressier black wedge sandals. The Deluxe,  with lacy cut-out leather, comes in metallic black (as well as in some astonishing colors). It has a deluxe price of $190. The less-expensive Gallus is sturdier and has a tiny elastic inset in the back strap.

Be aware that to get traditional Naot support and comfort, you need to stick with collections that have sturdy soles. I tried the Cheer from the Avante-Garde collection (with a thin footbed) and it was just as painful and miserable to wear as most high-heel sandals from other brands.

Dyed-to-match cashmere sweaters…get ready for Advanced Style

The blog has always cheered me up and inspired me. Now these women come alive in a new documentary:

Fashion fail: Women’s flannel shirts in pastel plaids

Thousands of women looking to buy classic flannel shirts this season are in consignment shops and vintage clothing stores. They’ve been driven there by retailers who got some weird idea in their heads that women would like their flannel shirts in pale turquoise, pink and lavender plaids. Sorry, I have no desire to look like I’m from Clan McBarbie.

Classic plaid flannel shirts are based on tartan-weave fabrics, which date back thousands of years to early Celtic tribes in Europe. As early as the 1500s, tartans were used in Scotland to identify wearers by region or by clan.

This GiltMANual blog post has a lovely visual guide to some of the classic plaids in fashion: Royal Stewart, Black Watch, MacDonald, McQueen, MacLeod, MacGregor, MacArthur, and Wallace. Wallace is my own personal favorite, being thick and thin black stripes on a field of scarlet red. These plaids are characterized by rich reds, blues, greens, or yellows and plenty of black stripes.

The Pendleton wool mills brought plaids onto the fashion scene in the 1950s with wool shirts and shirt jackets. These went through a huge revival as an essential element of grunge fashion in the 1990s, and Pendleton plaid shirts are still in high demand in vintage clothing stores.

Outfitters like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Orvis, along with outdoor clothiers like Woolrich and Cabela’s, translated the Pendleton wool plaid shirts into less-expensive cotton flannel. (Expensive New York and London clothiers also make pricey viyella shirts in classic plaids. But I digress.)

Back to the basic plaid flannel shirt. If you’re male, flannel shirts in classic plaids are available just about anywhere that sells men’s sportswear. But if you’re looking for a women’s flannel shirt (especially in a petite size) this season, good luck. L.L. Bean was sold out of five of six colors of its women’s classic-colored Scotch Plaid flannel shirts by December 4 (Gee, I wonder why?). Woolrich has a few classic plaids left (I quickly bought two of the red Pembertons), but most of what they and other stores have in stock this year in the women’s plaid flannel department are your choice of pastels or (even more ghastly) fluorescent pastels:

The perfect pie (pan)

We haven’t hosted a large Thanksgiving in several years, so I can afford to use Thanksgiving as the opportunity to test the kitchen’s readiness for the December holidays. I make a list of what’s missing and, of course, discover what aging piece of equipment is about to give up the ghost. (This year, the toaster oven suddenly lost it while trying to heat a casserole dish full of extra stuffing.)

As usual, I volunteered to bake pies for the Thanksgiving feast we were invited to at our friends’ house. I love to bake piece because I have such great pie pans, especially this one, for fruit pies:

Apple pie

Apple pie in vintage HOLZIT pie plate with deep lip.

It is a medium-size (9-inch) pan with a wide, deep lip that catches any bubbly juices from the pie. That means I don’t have to fit foil-covered cookie trays beneath my pies or spend the next few days trying to chisel baked sugar syrup off racks or oven surfaces.

It’s not easy to find a HOLZIT aluminum pie plate! I inherited one, and I’ve spotted one or two on eBay over the years. There’s also a new $49 Royal Prestige 11-inch stainless steel pie plate with a wide, medium-depth, lip — pricy, but pretty wonderful (and available only through distributors or on eBay).

The Royal Prestige is notable because it’s an 11-inch pie plate — not easy to find in stores.  You can still find 11-inch vintage Pyrex (#211) on Etsy or eBay for about $15.

(The pie plate in the background, containing a pecan pie, is a 9-inch vintage anodized aluminum by Regal. It has a wide, but not deep, lip. You can find them, as I did, on eBay.)

 

Naked ladies and bright-colored jeans

photo of orange, blue and red Gap jeans

Gap jeans (Photos: Gap online catalog)

I desperately want a pair of this summer’s hottest fashion: lightweight, bright-colored jeans. In melon. Or maybe cherry red. Perhaps lime green.

But it’s not going to happen.

The chances of me finding a pair of jeans that fit are so slim (pardon the pun) that it just isn’t worth my time shopping for them. I can go to a major department store and try on dozens of pairs of pants without finding a single pair that look decent. For some reason, the only jeans that work for me are ones that turn up at consignment shops — strange brands no one has heard of, or past-season styles that are long out of production. My current favorites are:

• Kut from the Kloth straight-leg dark-wash jeans. I found a pair of Kut jeans at a local Buffalo Exchange shop — they turned out to be a size too large, but they inspired me to go to Macy’s to try on other Kut jeans in a smaller size. The style that works for me now seems to be out of production, but I’ve got two pairs and love them. The waist runs a bit large, but wearing a belt or the Hip Hugger from Hollywood Fashion Secrets takes care of that.

• Eddie Bauer chino-fabric capris. I bought these last year at an end-of-sumer sale and they’re no longer in production. Finally got them shortened to the perfect length this year. However, in the intervening year capri fashion got so much narrower in the legs that these now look baggy — what’s called “boyfriend” style. But one pair is a fashionable melon color and looks great with a lime tencel blouse.

• Jeans D boot-cut jeans-style pants. This pair of lightweight jeans-style cotton pants with a “Jeans D.” label turned up at a “naked ladies” party (where friends bring clothing to try on and exchange). I’d never heard of the Jeans D brand, but have since managed to locate them in the Juniors section on eBay, some under “Jeans D” and some under “D Jeans.” If anyone knows where I can buy them retail, please get in touch.

Shoes: They’re Simple. No, they’re not.

Simple sneakersI’ve been looking for the past five years for great pair of fashion sneakers. Something I could wear with jeans and casual clothes — without leaving the impression that I’d been in the midst of cleaning my garage.

I didn’t want the puffy white marshmallow-type track shoes I associate with soccer moms at Jazzercise class.

But I found that a lot of the contemporary “retro” sneakers had even less arch support than the cheap canvas Keds they are suppose to evoke.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my favorite fashion blog, Fashion for Nerds, when I spotted the perfect pair of sneakers. The blog lists all the items shown in the photos, and the sharp black and white sneakers (with grey ribbon laces) were “Simple.”

Indeed, it was simple to find them. But I was horrified to discovered that the eco-conscious Santa Barbara, CA, company that made Simple sneakers closed recently and all that are left of these beautiful and comfortable fashion shoes are a few size 5s on Zappos.com.

Ebay to the rescue!

It took only three days on eBay for me to find Simple sneakers in my size (I held out for the black-and-white ones with the grey ribbon laces). They arrived, they fit, and I spent all last weekend racing around a convention in them. Yesterday I walked a few miles through town, and my feet felt great.

Yes, I’ll be hunting for a second pair of them.