Wednesday 2 July 2008

Dressing Humpty Dumpty

Ok, so the time has come. I have rather dreaded it, but I've decided to be brave and face up to one of the more significant problems - I don't really do issues - about being 75 going on 40: clothes. Now, if you are female and in to noticing these things, you will have registered that for the last six years, five months and two days, at least fourteen 'seasons' that is, trousers have all been designed to end on the hip, at the top, that is. They still end at the foot at the bottom. So what, you may ask yourselves. Well, hipsters look lovely if you are slender and actually 40. I look like Humpty Dumpty. Picture it. No, don't, if it is a meal time, but, seriously, an egg in an egg-cup is not a good look for an elderly lady with aspirations, not even to elegance, suitability would do. But I have evolved a style, I think, which comes pretty close to satisfying the going on 40 bit without causing toes to curl in the young people in my life who believe I am entirely 75.

The problem is finding the clothes to do the job. Think no waist no ankles and upper arms that can be viewed only by those that are medically qualified. That means trousers which come up to the waist and shoes that are designed, basically, to be neither seen nor heard and forget cap, short or no sleeves. A young person of my acquaintance recently asked me what I missed most about being young. To my surprise, my inner voice - always the first on the you've-got-me-there scene - supplied "my figure". And I was surprised. I might have expected " dancing with a man". (It cropped up at my friend's wedding, see 21st Century Living, below) or even other things involving a man, like mending fuses, or bringing in the heavy cat litter and taking out the rubbish when you are too pregnant to do those things yourself, or even contributing to getting you pregnant in the first place.( I see you have just remembered, when I was young, before the re-balancing of the genders, men did those things for you even if you were neither pregnant nor lazy nor incompetent) But, no, my figure; I missed my figure. It was easier to dress it. Things fitted and hung well, and supremely important, looked good sideways.

Mind you, I was never much in to what everyone was wearing. I preferred to go for what you might call 'outre'; a nod in the direction of fashion but nothing that wouldn't do next year because it would be a)recognisable and therefore a bit of a bloomer and b) not good value for money. Anyway, as I was growing up there was a war on and clothes were not high on anyone's agenda. Nor was there a teen or young peoples' fashion market. We dressed as our Mothers did. Come to think of it, that look might do me nicely, now. Twinsets do have a habit of covering up the arms and I still search out wide-legged trousers. I know, I hear you groaning," wide-legged trousers that come up to the waist". Thats right; think Katherine Hepburn if you are old enough to have heard of her. But if you can picture Humpty Dumpty in narrow-legged trousers you may stop groaning and envisage an egg in an eggcup, with pipe- cleaner legs.

Yesterday, inspired by the thought that I may actually be going to a place with sun and warm -ish- water later in the year, I went looking for a new swimsuit. The last ones were bought about a stone ago, (14 pounds if you are in the USA, roughly 6 kilos if you are in continental Europe), and cant be got away with one swim more. First, I went to a specialist lingerie shop; lovely 'fitters', lovely try-on cubicles, air conditioning, perfect. Nothing; all for 14 -25 year-olds weighing 7 stone (you do the maths this time if you are in the USA or continental Europe.) I looked at the bikinis and grieved for the time when I would have looked quite the part in one. In fact, when they first became popular, I was a married lady who had had three children, but, catching sight of myself in the mirror in the bathroom one day in my bra and pants , I thought,"I could do that bikini thing. There's life in the old cat yet". And, Dear Reader, there was.

But back to yesterday: Finally, we all gave in and I was waved sadly out. I crossed the road to a large - very large - department shop that was having a Sale. I know, Iknow. Younger, stronger women have been known to stay away but Desperate was, by now, my middle name. How often can one woman take off her shoes, her top, her trousers and her bra and creep and heave herself in to an elasticised sausage prison? Forty three by the last count. But this time I was successful! Not 100%, but then little in life is 100%. There was an arrangement of mirrors so that one could see one's back and front and sideways, too and what a fright that gave me. So I took what I think is the bravest decision of my life: I bought a scarlet bathing costume on the basis that the colour would have such an impact that no-one would have the temerity - nor the incentive - to look at any of the lumps, bumps and bulges it was straining to contain. So there: I just hope none of you is going where I'm going and I urge you not to approach an elderly lady in a scarlet costume in case it isn't me.

Finally, for this time, should any of you know where I can find, routinely, clothes with high waists, wide legs, sleeves at least to the elbow and necklines not too decollete, with jackets not too nipped in at the waist - what waist? - in lovely lady-like fabrics, i.e. not too bright and not too patterned (and, here, I am quoting my Mother, can you believe it. What have I come to?) I would be for ever grateful to find names and addresses under the comments bit of the post. .Although, I should warn you, I have already managed inadvertently to delete a comment. The Good Lord knows how. Unless it was the Wizard of Cyberspace, of course. (Go on pressing older posts until they give in and stop, but only if you haven't been keeping up already of course).

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