book reviews, fashion

Reviewing The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, by Andre Leon Talley…

As I recently mentioned in my review of model Paulina Porizkova’s memoir, I don’t really follow fashion much. I decided to download the late Andre Leon Talley’s book, The Chiffon Trenches, because I like true stories. Talley published his book in May 2020, just a couple of months after the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Amazon tells me I downloaded it in February 2021, probably after I read several sad articles about how Andre Leon Talley’s life was in a downward spiral as former friends were trying to evict him from his home in White Plains, New York. He had fallen on hard times after a long and storied career as a flamboyant fashion editor for Vogue, where for decades, he regularly rubbed elbows with famous friends like Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Yves St. Laurent, and Oscar de la Renta.

An item about Talley’s book and the legal dispute regarding his eviction from his home.

But, again, I don’t follow fashion much. I only knew about Andre Leon Talley from watching America’s Next Top Model, a reality TV show by supermodel Tyra Banks. I watched ANTM, not because I care about fashion, but because I enjoyed the ridiculous antics of young women stuck in a house together. Andre Leon Talley had temporarily brought some “legitimacy” to ANTM, when he served as a judge in cycles 14 through 17. He charmed me with his warmth and intelligence, although I had no idea that the man was considered a huge fashion icon. Sadly, by the time he died on January 18, 2022, he literally was huge, as he had battled an eating disorder for years. On January 18, 2022, Mr. Talley was a victim of a heart attack and COVID-19, which took his life at age 73.

He was much beloved by his fashion friends, in spite of his comments to the contrary.

Though it took me almost two years to get around to reading The Chiffon Trenches, I’m glad I finally did it. Having read his book, I understand why Talley was such a highly regarded editor for Vogue. I only knew him from television, which was not where he was in his element. As a judge on a show with Tyra Banks, it’s not like he would have had a chance to share much. Tyra Banks is not one for sharing the limelight. I suspect he took the job with ANTM because he badly needed the money. And yet, he still managed to handle the job with grace.

So who was Andre Leon Talley?

Andre Leon Talley was born October 16, 1948 in Washington, DC to his parents, Alma Ruth Davis and William C. Talley. His maternal grandmother, Binnie Francis Davis, raised him in racially segregated Durham, North Carolina. She worked at Duke University as a cleaning lady, and raised Andre with good, southern food and lots of church. Talley rarely saw his parents; they would divorce when he was eleven years old. France and the French language, fascinated Andre Leon Talley. He went to North Carolina Central University and majored in French literature, graduating in 1970. Because he excelled in his undergraduate studies, Talley won a scholarship to Brown University. There he earned a Master of Arts in French literature in 1972. Talley initially had plans to earn a doctoral degree and teach French for a living.

While he was at Brown, Talley befriended some students from nearby Rhode Island School of Design. Eventually, through his friends from that school, Talley met and impressed French-American fashion columnist Diana Vreeland. By 1974, he had abandoned his plans for a doctorate and was apprenticing for her, unpaid, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eventually, through Vreeland, Talley worked for famed American artist Andy Warhol. Working for Warhol led to stints at Women’s Wear Daily and W magazines, where he met and wrote about fashion designers and models. He further sharpened his skills at Ebony and The New York Times. Finally, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he worked for Vogue. He made history in 1988, when he became the first black male creative director for Vogue.

Andre Leon Talley co-authored the book, MegaStar, with Richard Bernstein in 1984. In 2003, he penned his first autobiography, A.L.T.: A Memoir. In 2005, he published ALT 365+, an artistic photographic look at 365 days of Talley’s life. Out magazine ranked Talley 45th in its 2007 list of the “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America”. However, in 2018, when asked about his sexual orientation on The Wendy Williams Show, Talley claimed to be “gender fluid”. According to The Chiffon Trenches, Talley was never one for having a lot of sex or using drugs, anyway. Talley was very devoted to his work, which he claimed “saved his life”. He watched many of his more promiscuous friends and former colleagues die of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.

In later years, he did extensive work with Savannah College of Art and Design. There is even an annual award named after him at the school. My nephew is currently a student there.

My thoughts on The Chiffon Trenches

After reading Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said, Andre Leon Talley’s book is like a cool drink. He really was an excellent writer– witty, engaging, and intelligent, and sometimes very funny. I was fascinated by the foreign world Talley wrote of, involving creative, eccentric, and fabulously wealthy and stylish people. There were people Talley wrote of I didn’t know; his descriptions of them were so interesting that I took the time to research them on Google. He also wrote about people everybody knows, like Elton John, Princess Diana, and Mariah Carey. Talley enjoyed a long friendship with the late Lee Bouvier Radziwell, to whom he dedicated his book.

NBC’s tribute to Talley.

One person I never saw mentioned even once is Tyra Banks, nor does he mention ANTM. However, Talley does write some lovely comments about Naomi Campbell, who is famously regarded as one of Tyra’s nemeses. I noticed that Tyra Banks posted a tribute to Talley after his death last year. I don’t know why he didn’t comment about Banks, but it probably had to do with legal considerations. Paulina Porizkova didn’t mention her in her book, either.

The Chiffon Trenches is an easy and entertaining read. I got the sense that I’d probably enjoy Talley’s company. We could bond over our mutual love of southern food. He genuinely seemed like a kind, warm, decent person, shaped by his formative years in the South. Andre Leon Talley grew up during the Jim Crow era, but he literally towered over his humble beginnings and became “somebody”. Even a non fashion follower, as I am, has heard his name. That’s really something special.

However, although I enjoyed Talley’s book, I noticed that he was pretty bitter about some things. Talley repeatedly writes about his long friendships with Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, and how they both cruelly “cast him out”. If I were to go only on his stories, I might be left with the idea that everyone in the fashion world is racist, superficial, and unkind. And yet, even as he complains about being ditched by his friends, he writes about how Anna Wintour staged an intervention for him and got Vogue to pay for his weight loss treatment three times!

Talley writes that his problems with binge eating intensified after his beloved grandmother died. He overate to drown the sorrows of bereavement, as well as to dull the pain of abuses he suffered as a child. Talley went from being tall and rail thin to a mountain of a man, forced to wear bespoke caftans. He could no longer dress like a fashion icon. Anna Wintour legitimately tried to help him. That sounds like something a good friend does. But she must have also realized that Talley was an addict, and the best way to help an addict is not to enable the damaging behaviors. I’m sure it was very painful for Wintour to separate herself from Talley’s drama. It would have been one thing if Anna Wintour had dumped him when he first gained weight, but she didn’t do that.

Talley might have more of a case against Karl Lagerfeld, whom he describes as extremely generous, yet very eccentric. When Talley met Lagerfeld in the 70s, the fashion icon gifted him with silk tunics. Talley said that if you were in Lagerfeld’s life, he dressed you. And he writes of how his old friend would routinely fly his friends in private jets to his sumptuous homes. He’d give them rare and expensive antiques, only to ask for them back again. Still, as strange as that behavior sounds to me, I couldn’t help but wonder what Lagerfeld would say about Talley.

I also noticed that Talley complained a lot about racism, but he was in an industry that embraces people who are different. Andre Leon Talley worked in a creative field populated by eccentric people, many of whom are not heterosexual. He worked with women of all shades and orientations. Yes, racism is a huge issue, and of course it needs to be addressed, but Talley worked in a career where being Black was no doubt less of a problem for him. He had an enviable life that most people can only fantasize about, regardless of their race or gender. His complaints about the lack of diversity in the fashion world are probably more on point. He does make some damning comments about Wintour not pushing diversity as much as she could have.

Although I can understand why Talley mentions racism, I wouldn’t say that he was a person who suffered extensively from it in his career. From what I can tell, he was highly revered and respected. In fact, I’ll bet in the fashion world, he was mistreated more for being a very fat man. But even his weight was accommodated by his friends. He writes about his fashion designer friends designing caftans for him. Naomi Campbell even managed to get him to Nigeria, where he helped promote Black fashion designers. Talley hadn’t wanted to go at first, due to his physical condition and enormous size. Naomi made it happen, and he was able to visit Africa, something he claims that even Black person wishes to do. Personally, I wouldn’t assume that every Black person wants to go to Africa, but Talley would certainly know about that more than I would. Below is what he wrote:

It is the wish and desire of every black human being to see Africa at some point before they die. But at seventy, highly overweight, and in poor health, it seemed a tall order for me. If only one person on God’s green earth could pull it off, it would be Naomi Campbell. I said yes and she said she would be in touch soon to sort out the details.

Talley, André Leon. The Chiffon Trenches (p. 239). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It was obvious to me that Talley was not expecting to die so soon after publishing his book. Throughout the manuscript, he writes about the funerals of friends. Sometimes he was surprised to be invited to the more exclusive memorial services. More than once, he writes about how he envisioned his own death. But it’s clear that he thought he would live beyond 73 years of age. Frankly, given how obese he was, I’m surprised he lived that long.

Overall

I heartily recommend The Chiffon Trenches to anyone interested in reading about fashion, or just those who enjoy books about real people. Andre Leon Talley lived through the “golden age” of fashion. He refers to himself and some of his former colleagues as “dinosaurs”. But they worked in fashion in a bygone era. Talley seems sad about how the glory days of fashion are seemingly gone. People no longer have huge expense accounts and stay at The Ritz. The whole medium as changed, as fewer people buy print magazines. It’s all online now, and a famous YouTuber might be doing what skilled writers and editors like Talley used to do.

In spite of his occasional bitterness, Andre Leon Talley was a true giant in the fashion world. He was larger than life on many levels. Writing and editing were truly Talley’s vocations. It’s sad to me that his life ended with so much controversy and rancor among his friends. He deserved better. At least Anna Wintour went to his funeral.

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celebrities, fashion, royals, YouTube

Wallis Simpson versus Meghan Markle… cut from the same cloth!

Once again, I am teetering between wanting to write about the explosive current events happening right now, and something a little more “fun”, “funny”, or “harmless.” Since I’m in a fairly benign mood today, I think I’ll go for funny… and write about a YouTube video I saw yesterday, posted by River.

There are some uncanny similarities between Wallis Simpson and Meghan Markle…

For those who don’t know, River is a hilarious, androgynous, British YouTube personality who wears a crown and offers commentary on the British Royal Family. Yesterday, I happened to catch a video in which River talks about the uncanny similarities between two American women who famously married British Royals. Twice, River shows viewers outfits that Wallis Simpson and Meghan Markle wore. And given that Wallis Simpson was around many years ago, obviously Meghan’s style is copying hers.

My question is, does Meghan know that her now famous white dress and glove ensemble, so heavily photographed during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, is very similar to an outfit that Wallis wore decades ago? I mean… right down to the gloves, belt, and the collar! Meghan’s dress looks like it was made of different fabric, and the skirt is more A line. And Meghan wore a hat, while Wallis didn’t. Still… very similar!

And River also pointed out how similar Meghan’s “birdshit dress” is to another dress Wallis wore. I had to chuckle at the term “birdshit dress”– they were actually lotuses, but River says it looks like a bunch of birds flew over Meghan in a black dress getting bombed by their shit! I didn’t notice it when I first saw her in the dress, but now I can’t unsee it. River’s right. It does look kind of like birdshit.

A screenshot from River’s video. They do look awfully similar.

I also read that on her wedding day in May 2018, Meghan rode in the very same Rolls-Royce that carried Wallis Simpson to her husband, the Duke of Windsor’s, funeral in 1972. The link I just provided comes from a Fox News article, published May 29, 2018, not even two weeks after Meghan and Harry married on May 19th of that year. The reporter who wrote the story, Brittany Vonow of The Sun, noted:

Ms Simpson will forever be known as the woman who rocked the Royals and who plunged the monarchy into crisis.

Her marriage to King Edward III in 1937 meant that he became the first ever monarch to abdicate, changing the path of history – and eventually leading to Queen Elizabeth II ascending to the throne.

Edward had abdicated in December 1936 after being told he could not both be king and marry Wallis.

He made a BBC broadcast saying he could not do the job of the king “without the help and support of the woman I love”.

Hmmm… this sounds familiar, too, as Meghan and Harry have famously “stepped back” from royal duties, and are now living in California. While I don’t know how the British Royals actually feel about what has transpired, I can only guess that Harry’s defection from life as a public royal has “rocked” the family in a similar fashion. Granted, Harry has no realistic chance of ever being the King of England, so in that way, the situations aren’t comparable. King Edward III’s decision to marry an American divorcee had greater ramifications than Harry’s decision to marry an American divorcee has. But still, it’s like history is repeating itself in a very obvious way.

I didn’t go looking for the photos comparing Wallis and Meghan, and apparently neither did River; someone sent them to the channel, with the comment that the outfits are extremely similar. I would love to know whose idea it was for Meghan to wear that white outfit to the Platinum Jubilee, though. Even before I hadn’t seen Wallis Simpson’s incredibly similar version, I had mixed feelings about Meghan’s white dress. It does look like it fits her perfectly, for once, and the style is very classic. However, I couldn’t help but think of old fashioned nurses when I first saw it. Watching Meghan walk, a slight switch in her ass and a snooty smile on her face, reminded me of watching Whitney Thompson on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 10. Whitney had a similar walk and smug expression on her face.

Quite right, I’m afraid. That is a hat that inspired some hate.

River points out that Wallis Simpson was very fashionable. He seems to think Meghan is less so. But did she mean to channel Wallis Simpson with that dress? Because I don’t think there’s a doubt that sometimes, they look like they were almost cut from the same cloth. On the other hand, I’m not sure Wallis would have worn the poop emoji hat that Meghan famously wore… I look at it and can see why people are reminded of poop when they look at it. On the other hand, it also reminds me of chocolate, especially with the little “shaving” on the side. That’s probably a kinder way to look at it, anyway.

I highly recommend River’s channel, especially if you’re interested in the British Royal Family and don’t mind snark on Meghan Markle. I find it very entertaining, especially during my boring afternoons during the summer that feels like it will never end. River always dresses in style and loves little trinkets. Sometimes some stunning zingers come forth, too, making me laugh a lot! But then, I am famously easy to entertain. 😉

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fashion, royals, videos, YouTube

Time to check in with an “old friend”…

I got out of the habit of watching YouTube videos by The Body Language Guy, Jesus Enrique Rosas. Some readers may recall that I was kind of into his videos a few months ago, and he would regularly show up in my video suggestions. Somehow, I fell out of the loop, and after noticing that a lot of people were hitting my blog, having read my comments about some of his earlier videos. I’m sure the interest generated in my older posts about Jesus Enrique Rosas has come about because of the Platinum Jubilee, and the fact that Harry and Meghan have finally taken their children, Archie and Lilibet, to England to see Queen Elizabeth II.

Initially, I liked Meghan well enough. I thought she seemed dynamic, and I figured she might be a breath of fresh air for Britain’s Royal Family. But, I have since changed my mind about Meghan, not that it matters a whit to anyone. I think it’s a shame that Harry and William are not on the best terms, according to the press. Also, I’m sorry to say that she kind of makes my Cluster B warning alarm bells go off. However, I don’t know Harry and Meghan personally, so everything I think is based purely on speculation and conjecture. Of course, I wish their children well, too.

Yesterday, I navigated to Jesus Enrique Rosas’ YouTube channel and was not surprised to find the below video there, with many snarky references to the “Harkles”… I notice Jesus is wearing a really snazzy new suit, too. YouTube must be treating him well.

As usual, there’s snark aplenty! I get a kick out of Rosas’ wit.

I do wonder if things have turned out for Harry as he’d hoped. Is it all it’s cracked up to be, living in California? Does he feel “dissed” by the Royals? How did it feel to be “booed” by his countrymen? Harry used to be a very popular member of the Royal Family. Now, it seems that a lot of people have turned on him. I think he tried to have his cake and eat it too… and he wasn’t able to do that without significant consequences. I’ve always respected Harry, for many reasons. I think he had a very difficult childhood, though he clearly has a gift for military service. I don’t know what he sees in Meghan, but I’m sure he knows… and really, that’s all that matters.

As for Meghan’s dress… I liked the style well enough, although the white ensemble kind of made me think of an old fashioned style nurse. I’m sure it was no accident that she chose that color, which screams innocence and peacefulness. I liked the way the dress fit her, but I think I would have chosen a different color… because Lord knows, they aren’t innocent, and trying to look innocent is kind of disingenuous. If you listen to Mr. Rosas, you hear him talk about how how Harry and Meghan seemed to be trying to act like the past two years never happened. And whether or not anyone has the “right” to feel this way, I’m sure a lot of Brits feel betrayed by the “Harkles”. Yes, they expected Harry to come home and see his beloved Granny, but as he did so, there was, of course, going to be some shame involved.

River– another hilarious commentator on the Royal Family, also weighed in. River wasn’t a fan of Meghan’s outfit.

I enjoy River’s commentary about the British Royal Family. There’s always plenty of funny snark about the bizarre fashions some of the Royals wear at these events. I am not a fashionista myself, lacking the budget or the body type to wear really interesting (and probably uncomfortable) clothes. But I do enjoy seeing who wears what. Personally, I’m on team Catherine… I think Kate is fabulous, and William could not have possibly chosen a better woman to marry. She’s absolutely perfect for the job of Queen, should the British monarchy survive beyond King Charles. She’s the epitome of grace and class, has a beautiful figure, and seems like a very lovely person, too.

I have probably mentioned before that I attended the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. I was five years old at the time, and we lived in England. I have no memories of it, except for the memorabilia my parents had in our house when I was growing up. And, of course, on our trip to London in 2009, we found a memento of the event near the Tower Bridge.

We were around for this one.

I would like to visit London again at some point… maybe when things are a little more normal in terms of COVID-19. I always get a kick out of my my ancestral homeland. I fit right in on many levels. I don’t enjoy being around crowds, though, so I wouldn’t want to be at the Jubilee, even if there was no pandemic. I’m sure hotel rates are OBSCENE… or even more obscene than they usually are in London.

Anyway… I just wanted to post a lighthearted post today, given yesterday’s bitchery. I enjoy watching the Royals, even though I know a lot of people think they should go. I have tremendous respect for Her Majesty the Queen, though, and I know the past couple of years have been very difficult for her. Losing her dear husband, watching her beloved grandson move to America, being denied access to her great grandchildren… and getting older and more infirm, all as the whole world looks on. It’s tough, I know.

Hope you all have a nice Sunday. I think I shall retire to the living room and hang out with Bill for awhile.

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book reviews, business, fashion

Repost: Dana Thomas explores the “McDonaldization” of luxury goods… 

Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2010. I’m just preserving it for posterity purposes.

For many Americans, luxury is a word that conjures up a lot of pleasant images of high quality, exclusivity, and status. People buy luxury items not just for what they are, but for what they stand for. When you can afford to purchase an $800 pair of shorts or a $500 silk tie, you’re telling the world that you’ve made it. Trouble is, the vast majority of people worldwide can’t afford to buy luxury items, at least not without sacrifice or going into debt. Author Dana Thomas explores the world of luxury in her 2007 book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.

I picked up this book on Amazon.com, partly because I really enjoy non-fiction books about current events and partly because I can confess to wanting a part of the “luxury dream” Dana Thomas writes about. Apparently, I’m no different than a lot of middle class Americans who want to feel a little luxurious, but can’t afford to buy a products that cost hundreds of dollars. So instead of purchasing a $1000 Chanel handbag, I might instead purchase a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. Instead of buying a $2000 Christian Dior garment, I might spring for a $25 tube of Dior lipstick. Unlike a lot of consumers, I wouldn’t consider purchasing a “knock-off” luxury product, though Thomas writes that plenty of people would happily buy a bag that just looks a lot like a Prada.

According to Thomas, it’s because of the globalization of products that used to be exclusively for the very rich, luxury is not as lustrous as it used to be. In Deluxe, she explores the history of famous brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, and Chanel. She takes a close look at the darker side of high fashion, exploring how products that used to be tailor made in Europe are now mass produced in China. She offers a glimpse at the crafty street hustlers who sell fake luxury goods in Santee Alley, part of the Los Angeles fashion district.

Thomas did extensive research for this book, traveling far and wide, and talking to a diverse group of people in the fashion industry. Of course she quotes a number of fashion designers and the business people who run the companies that produce luxury products. She interviewed the craftsmen who make exquisite crocodile bags for Hermes, explaining how Hermes bags are made and why they are still so special. She spoke to the curator of Hermes’ museum, Menehould de Bazelaire, a former teacher who once taught Greek and Latin at New York’s Lycee Francaise and returned to Paris to become an archivist. De Bazelaire now runs Hermes’ museum, an operation that is open by appointment and documents the brand’s long and illustrious history.

Thomas discusses how luxury stores and outlets have sprung up worldwide and explains why Hong Kong has nine Prada stores while New York only has one. There’s a discussion as to how the Internet has changed the luxury business and made luxury goods even more accessible to the average person. Thomas mentions how 9/11 took a huge toll on the luxury business and offers insight as to why it suffered so much after the attacks.  She explains how the rap and hip hop culture unexpectedly and, in some people’s opinions, unfortunately, influenced the fashion world.  Thomas even spoke to a man who began his career as a police officer and later got into the business of busting people who sell luxury knock-offs. The end result of all Thomas’s hard work is a very comprehensive look at the world of luxury and high fashion.

My thoughts

I enjoyed reading Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster more than I thought I would. Thomas obviously has a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject and her investment in this project comes through loud and clear. That being said, even though I might buy a bottle of Bulgari perfume and, back in my horsebackriding days, I once dreamt of owning a genuine Hermes saddle, I can tell that I’m not as invested in the dream as some people are.

According to Thomas, there are secretaries in Hong Kong who save up their paychecks to buy just one special handbag. There are women in Brazil who eagerly await catalogs from luxury designers and take pictures in to local merchants, telling them which product they want to buy when it’s available locally. There are women in the United States who hold “purse parties”, making a killing selling counterfeit versions of luxury goods to housewives. The practice is illegal, but apparently it’s become so common that even church organizations have been known to sponsor them as a way to raise money.

Aside from exploring today’s luxury market, Thomas offers a fascinating history of how brands like Hermes, Chanel, Prada, and Gucci came to be. I really enjoyed reading about how, through twists of fate and circumstance, ordinary people became the names behind extraordinary products. I also found it interesting to read how world events like the two World Wars and 9/11 have affected the fashion world.  The only drawback I can come up with is that this book was published three years ago, so some of the information is dated.  For instance, Thomas quotes the late Alexander McQueen as if he were still alive.  He died in February of this year.  This is not a big deal, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

Overall

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of fashion, economics, history, or even just likes to read about current events. It’s very unlikely that I would ever spend $1000 on a handbag… unless I could be sure it would be the last handbag I’d ever buy! But it’s fun to read about those who would spend that kind of money and how luxury designers are making sure that their once exclusive products are becoming more accessible to the masses. I guess, for that reason alone, it makes little sense to buy into luxury products. When it’s no longer exclusive, it’s no longer all that special.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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fashion, Military

Repost: No curlers in the commissary! Or… true friends tell you the truth…

Here’s a repost of an article I wrote March 28, 2017. I’m sharing it again, because I think it’s an interesting topic, particularly if you have any experience with the United States military or fake friends.

I’m writing again today because I finally remembered a topic I wanted to write about last night.  All of this uproar about leggings, yoga pants, and camel toes made me remember a simpler time back in the day…  I’m talking about dress codes on military installations.

Actually, dress codes in the commissary are supposedly still a “thing”.  When you shop on a military installation, you’re supposed to look presentable.  That means no spandex, no hats indoors, and no curlers in your hair, although I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone wearing curlers in private, let alone at a military grocery store.  I used to wear them sometimes when I was a kid.  I’d sleep in them so I’d have curly hair the next day.  But my days of wearing curlers are long over now.

I never got in trouble for not dressing appropriately at the commissary.  In fact, I don’t think a lot of today’s servicemembers even know that the policy used to be strictly enforced.  I do remember maybe fifteen years ago having brunch at a Coast Guard station with my parents.  Next to the entrance of the dining room, there was a big sign outlining what was and wasn’t acceptable dress.  I distinctly remember seeing the word “curlers” as among the specifically forbidden attire. 

Some time later, when I lived at Fort Belvoir, I remember discussing the dress code with a fellow Army wife.  She scoffed at what she saw as the command’s overreach.  I remember the commander had outlawed spandex with the explanation that some people “didn’t need to be wearing it” in public.  While I agree that wearing spandex is ill advised for some people, what is and what isn’t appropriate can sort of be in the eye of the beholder.  There was a time, however, when women who shopped at the commissary were supposed to wear dresses.  They weren’t allowed to wear house coats, ratty pajama pants, or tank tops.  Men, likewise, were expected to look presentable and respectable.

Nowadays, a lot of people don’t like the idea of being expected to dress to impress.  They will say they dress for comfort and screw anyone who doesn’t like what they put on in the morning… or afternoon, as it were.  Hell, while I usually try to wear makeup if I’m going somewhere, if I’m sitting at home, I usually stay in my nightgown.  I like to be comfortable and rarely see anyone except the random people who ring my doorbell.  And I don’t care if they’re offended by my saggy, braless, boobs and bare face because #1., they were almost never invited to ring my bell and #2., my interaction with them is usually less than a minute.  You want me to look presentable when I answer the door?  Make an appointment.

In the article I linked above, there is a letter quoted by a man from Rhode Island who wanted yoga pants, leggings, and mini-skirts banned for people over age 20.  He wrote:

“Like the mini-skirt, yoga pants can be adorable on children and young women who have the benefit of nature’s blessing of youth. However, on mature, adult women there is something bizarre and disturbing about the appearance they make in public,” wrote Alan Sorrentino.

Well… I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that leggings, yoga pants, or mini-skirts are bizarre and disturbing on older women.  Some older women can pull them off just fine, just as some younger people look ridiculous in those styles.  Unfortunately, it comes down to self-awareness and honesty with oneself… or, barring that, being able to take truthful, constructive advice from friends and loved ones.  Really.  I think a true friend will tell you kindly, but honestly, if your outfit is in poor taste or doesn’t do a thing for you, as my mom would say. 

My ex best friend was famously rude about some things, but I distinctly remember her telling me she liked a hideous pair of pants I tried on when we were shopping.  I’m 99% certain she was lying to me and secretly relishing the idea that I’d look ridiculous wearing them in public.  She was brutally candid with her opinions when she didn’t need to be, but also a little too complimentary when she shouldn’t have been. 

At the time, I believed this ex bestie when she said the ugly knit pants “pulled my waist in” (bullshit!).  I wanted to believe her, of course.  At the time, I was obsessively worried about my weight and endlessly dieting to the point of stupidity.  I desperately wanted to believe that the smaller size I tried on actually fit and looked good, even if deep down, I probably knew the truth.  Yet she smiled at me and said I looked fine even as I continually pulled the pants out of my ass crack and squirmed as the inseams pulled irregularly at my thighs. 

I know she was loving the thought of me sporting a camel toe or a wedgie while engaged in the business of the day.  A true friend would have said something to prevent that from happening.  Yes, it would have stung if she had said I should get something else, but it would have been the right thing to do.  That would have been the action of a real friend. 

Years later, when my ex friend insulted my husband (saying he looked too old for me) while we were engaged, and then flirted outrageously with him at my wedding rehearsal (yes, the day before our wedding), I came to the very painful and obvious conclusion that she was never a true friend.  A true friend is not full of shit and won’t want to see you publicly humiliated or embarrassed.  A true friend isn’t abusive, cruel, or overly endowed with Schadenfreude.  A true friend has the other person’s best interests at heart, even if it means a few minutes of awkwardness or embarrassment.  I would rather be humiliated for a couple of minutes in front of my friend who loves and appreciates me than embarrassed forever in front of other people who don’t.

Anyway… I probably still look ridiculous most of the time.  I care less now than I did twenty years ago.  But at least I have given up spandex and curlers.

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