It is winter time in New England and I have found myself headed towards the old faithfuls in my closet again as I do year after year. Black very worn and tired Lululemon yoga pants, an Eastern Mountain Sports turtleneck and hiking shoes with wool socks. I, for many years now, choose warmth and comfort over fashion and sock-less shoes that seem to have become the go to fashion statement with leggings and oversized tops.
I am not comfortable in this, nor do I want to torture my body with leggings that this mostly confident and solid one hundred and sixty pound chick should probably not be wearing around town anyway. I look around at women my age and everyone seems to have the unique ability to look great, but my question inside is always, but are they comfortable?
I envy men’s clothing. They have much simpler choices in their comfort clothes. And all of their clothes have pockets in all of the right places. I want comfort and pockets, warmth and fashion. Is it too much to ask to find a few pieces of clothing that can not only make me look less frumpy, but actually feel more hip and au courant.
As I move quickly to the official title of mid fifties, I just want to feel good. I want to look good, but feeling good is of the utmost priority these days. For the obvious reasons, health, physical and mental fitness, yes. I don’t want to have to be in bed in a hospital ever again or be in bed with the pharmaceutical companies reaching out to me like the vipers they are at every waking turn either. So I find myself in a similar situation I found myself in after I had my son at thirty two, and my breast cancer reconstruction surgery at fifty two questioning who I had become inside and trying to find clothes that matched this new profound feeling outside.
Who am I now? And what types of clothing style defines this for me? I have used the brilliance of personal stylists like my friend, Jill Marinelli who will come to your house and, piece by piece, go through your clothes in your closet with you. Her expertise is style first, not so much comfort, but is excellent at her job if style is what you are looking for. I have had friends who love fashion give me their own ideas of my fashion, but I speak for me and me alone here, it always comes down to comfort. I must feel comfortable.
Jill helped me with some terrific pieces that I still wear to this day, but she also convinced me to buy that one pair of “skinny” jeans that I knew I would be miserable in, but bought anyway. And there they sit on my closet shelf causing dread every time I look at them and think of trying to wear them for even a two hour brief encounter. I don’t want to wear skinny jeans ever. I know this now. If I have to suck my breath in to button the waist for even just a split second, there is no way I am every paying hard earned money for this.
I am exactly one month from turning fifty five. FIFTY FUCKING FIVE. When did this happen? Fifty five is ten years away from SIXTY FUCKING FIVE. I have been divorced for ten years. Ten years flies by. My mother was fifty five when my son was only two. Eee gads. Now I am starting to feel the pressure of making sure my retirement savings are where they are supposed to be, that my wills and trusts are set up properly and all of the other adult things that seem to come with the significance of fifty five years old.
I love aging though. I wouldn’t ask for any years back prior to my current self. But where I get in a funk is in getting dressed and looking less like a bag lady and more like the way I feel inside. Strong, powerful, badass. If I could, (and I promise my friends cringing at the thought out there reading this today), I would seriously wear flannel pajamas every day- out and in. But I don’t. Mostly.
So last week, on the rainiest, dreariest of February Tuesdays, I found myself wandering into the new Athleta store in Newport, RI after doing a few errands. I had an absurd amount of store credits because I put all of my business purchases on my Banana Republic card and lo and behold Athleta is part of the Banana Republic/ Gap/ Old Navy Dynasty. So my credits work there and it was there I shuffled in praying for a come to Jesus moment.
I don’t know how many people reading this know that there is a word that describes the wearing of Athleta type clothing as fashion. It is called Athleisure. I heard of this word many years ago, but didn’t realize how much of a thing it would become as we chicks do our daily jaunts looking like we are not sure if we are headed to a yoga class or to a work event.
I wasn’t sure if I would have any luck on this particular day, but I knew I could find at least one article of clothing to spend my $160 of BR credits on. It seemed like Athleta somehow read somewhere in a study that $89 should be the magic number to price their clothing and I quickly noticed that whether I looked at basic yoga leggings or stretchy jeans, I would not be walking out of the store with just using my credits.
You know those rare magical moments in a clothing store when you meet the perfect sales woman and no one is in the store on that particular day so it is like you have a private personal shopper? This past Tuesday was just this day. Just when I needed it the most. Feeling dowdy and bland and, well, frumpy, I made my way in to this new bright and shiny space and met my new best friend, Kayla. She was one of those young sales women of yesteryear, where they actually enjoyed helping you find not only what you were looking for, but what you didn’t know what you were looking for.
Granted, she had the time. I am guessing I was only one of a small handful of women who made their way into the store on that day. There are not many people shopping on a cold and dreary rainy Tuesday in Newport RI. But one look at her and her own Athleisure style and I knew she could help me. She had the full hips and solid legs like I do, her height was similar, too and despite the fact that she was a good twenty five years younger than me I trusted her judgment immediately. Now it could have been that I was desperate to find someone who could help me on my clothing journey, but I learned after the first two pairs of pants that she understood my needs. SHE GOT ME. And four hours later and an exorbitant amount of money, I left the store a new and very improved woman.
Clothing is our outward cape. I am not the type of woman who needs to have sparkles and labels on my cape. I am comfortable in my skin. Almost too comfortable these days. This has created a fashion predicament for me. How to pair comfort and not looking like I just rolled out of bed. Despite the fact that comfort is my go to priority when I catch a reflection of myself in the mirror, I don’t like the clothing image staring back. My notion of comfort inside was not demonstrating its appearance outside. This is where Kayla used her fashion education and the plethora of comfortable pants and tops that Athleta makes for bodies like mine and gave me about fifty different looks with just a few pairs of pants, tops and sweaters.
How I walked in was not how I walked out. Yes. I am lucky to have the means to spend at a place like Athleta on a random Tuesday, but luck isn’t really the right word. I work hard. No one gave me this money I chose to spend that day. I am not reliant on a partner for income. I have chosen my life with a six hundred hour schooling and license in the beauty business.
My success in life is not luck, it is hard work and I want to feel outside like I do inside when I come upon the reflection staring back at me. My afternoon with a young woman’s expertise in not only knowing what to bring into the changing room, but to service me the way salespeople are supposed to take care of clients changed me. It changed my day, my outlook, my approach to my mid fifties and it gave me the inner beauty I espouse as my mantra of importance in the business I am lucky to have made a life from.
Beauty has so many layers. We must feel inside first. Outside can be a cape, or a body bag. If we rely too much on outward appearance, we often don’t allow the people around us to know that our insides may not match. In my case, I have a strong inside belief system of inner beauty, but I was finding that I couldn’t come up with a look that mirrored this anymore. And ironically this was causing disruption in my vibe.
Kayla and her sweet and kind smiling professional expertise changed this for me. As I walked out of the store that day with my fifty new looks, I was changed. Five years after my first breast cancer diagnosis on almost my fiftieth birthday, I wrote a piece called THE CHANGING ROOM. I didn’t realize back then how apropos that piece would be for the next five years of my life. But today as I reflect back on the past five fleeting years, I was lost and now I am found. New boobs, new clothes and a style that matches my insides is a trifecta of good change.
am grateful for the random meeting of Kayla this past Tuesday and if
any of you superchicks out there need a new style that is both casual
and comfortable and don’t mind spending some money, give her a call and
let her help you in your own changing room.