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Today I finally found time to sit down and start perusing the Spring issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Well, let me clarify, I have had it sitting next to my place at the table to sneak a peek during each harried and hurried meal this week and, on page 213, have finally gotten through all of the ads featuring models who make me want to run over a gypsy grandmother just to feel her cold, dank breath upon me as she utters her last curse: “Thinner!”

I apologize for the digression. Fashion magazines tend to bring out the worst in me: a hideous combination of indignation at the media images that cause young girls all over the world to subsist on iceberg lettuce and a deep-seated desire to start sticking my finger down my throat. Suffice it to say, you needn’t worry; for one thing, I can’t stand to vomit, and secondly, I’m fairly addicted to food as a way of life.

So. The article. Cheap Thrills was written by Anne Monoky and I have to assume, although I can’t find any information on her in the contributing writers section, that she must get paid pretty damn well. The gist of the article is all about price-conscious clothing and how you can flesh out your wardrobe with “smart pieces at nice prices.” Um, Anne? That is my wardrobe.

Okay, let’s take a small step back and look at this author (as in me) during her 4-year stint working for the oh-so-chic trade art department at HarperCollins. Barely 23 years old and making no more than $15,000 a year, I managed to rack up more than $26,000 in store credit card debt while I skipped lunch every day to peruse the glamorous aisles of such boutiques as Courreges and Commes des Garçons. It was a rare day, indeed, that I didn’t have at least one lovely satin-handled bag perched upon my lap for the hour and 45-minute bus ride to my attic-room rental in the armpit of New Jersey. If you asked me now what I bought or what happened to all of those clothes? Not a clue.

In my mid-30s (before baby), I started gravitating toward hippie chic, slightly more affordable finds at JJill (now known as the frumpy stepsister to the preppy-casual Talbots). Then came 35 and baby. Since then, I’m feeling truly glorious if I can buy off-season at Kohl’s. Do you detect a soupçon of bitterness? Yes, I imagine you do—because when I read articles that list prices from “Just $65 to $350” I immediately think “$350? Gas bill!” When Jean Paul Gaultier (he of the Madonna cone-bra fame) is quoted as saying, “…supercliché example of the Chanel jacket with a T-shirt and jeans…” I know what a Chanel jacket costs (original retail is somewhere in the neighborhood of $4300) and I know dear Jean Paul isn’t referring to the T-shirt by Jockey for Her, picked up at Walmart while shopping for cat food in bulk or the pair of skinny jeans you splurged on for $29.95 at Old Navy. A Chanel jacket could pay my rent for four months!

So why do I continue to torture myself and read these infernal magazines? Because somewhere, deep down, I still consider myself a fashion whore. I still care about trends. I still, even though the little Nicole Ritchiesque-me from the late 80s is lurking under 70 lbs. of baby fat (and yes, I still blame it on my kid even though he’s 9 years old now), think that I can be a suburban mom and still be chic. Yet, I can’t quite cotton to the idea that DKNY or BCBG Max Azria should be paid full price for, even if dear Anne calls them “bang-for-the-bucks.” This, dear readers, is why we have TJ Maxx and Marshalls. It’s why we have vintage clothing stores, thrift shops, and castoffs from women who can’t be bothered to return items and send them to the consignment shop with the $895 price tag still hanging from the underarm of a whisper-thin tank top. These days I wander the Misses department at Target and finger the lovely offerings by the high-end designers who aim to bring middle-America out of our polyester blends and into something slightly akin to a walk down 5th Avenue: Zac Posen, Anna Sui, Tavi and Rodarte, Mizrahi, and yes, now even Gaultier. Sadly? I still pick up a piece that I know I’d love and sigh, “Yeah,” as I put it down gingerly and wander off to the boys department to buy yet another bag of socks that aren’t black from backyard dust or fraught with holes in the heels from fast-growing feet.

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