RIP What Not to Wear

Last night, I watched the finale episode of What Not to Wear via my DVR with tears streaming down my face.

It hit me hard that I’ll never get a chance to see the interaction between Stacy and Clinton again. Their partnership should go down in history as one of the best couplings ever by two people who are not actually a couple.

Although I haven’t always liked the public humiliation that is part of the concept of WNTW, for the most part, the “contributors” (victims) are happy that they were part of this ten-year phenomenon. And I have learned a lot from WNTW.

I had breakfast with some friends this morning and brought this up as a possible topic for my blog. It was interesting to hear that I’m not the only one who has learned something from Stacy and Clinton. Here are some examples:

  • Never wear mom jeans — especially those in a light wash. Our closets are full of dark wash jeans that fit our derriere.
  • One’s accessories do not have to match one’s clothing — my friend showed us the beautiful purple and black animal print infinity scarf she was wearing which looked smashing with her teal shirt.
  • Never go out in public in one’s gym clothes — and NEVER in white sneakers.
  • Don’t show both your “girls” and your legs — some mystery is sexier than none.
  • Don’t dress for the body you wish you had; dress for the body you have now.

I could go on and on, but if you’re a What Not to Wear watcher and you are in mourning right now, you understand my pain.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go put on my completer piece before leaving the house. Love you, Stacy and Clinton.

Retirement 365

People ask me what I’m going to do now that I’m retiring from teaching public school. I’ll start with Retirement 365, which is my blogging chronicle of my first year of retirement. It will debut on June 9, my first day of freedom from the demands of middle school children and their parents. Am I ready for retirement from teaching? Absolutely. Am I ready to replace it with something equally important and meaningful? Yes, again.

Right up there with blogging more will be watching more television. I’m eagerly awaiting the new What Not to Wear season — you know how much I love Clinton and Stacey (really, I do) — and it killed me to erase a bunch of unwatched programs off of my DVR so that there was room for Stacey and Clinton tonight. Of course, my erasures included Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy, both of which I intend to watch this summer in their season’s entirety, and American Idol where Jessica Sanchez was robbed.

So maybe not everything I do in retirement will be totally important and meaningful, but a girl’s gotta have her vices even at her doddering old retirement age. Stay tuned… I’ve got a lot of grading and cleaning and teaching still to accomplish in the next eight days.

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The Tyranny of the Jean

There’s a reason why old ladies wear polyester pants with elastic waists. It’s not because they are old. It’s because they are wise. They figured out that the long-term fad of wearing denim trousers is a crock of you-know-what.

How did we get here? Jeans were originally used for heavy-duty work such as swabbing decks and cleaning out horse barns. They became required uniforms for prison inmates and factory workers. Their closely woven fabric protects the wearer and is practical. I get it.

Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke

My father-in-law, a farm child during the Depression, was adamant about not wearing jeans himself and he wasn’t particularly supportive of his wife wearing jeans either. He felt that wearing denim trousers belonged to his impoverished past, a past that he wasn’t eager to revisit. He never told me this personally — he was too polite to ever criticize what I was wearing — but mother-in-law Esther shared the story with us. After that, I tried to honor him by avoiding wearing jeans when I was with him.

What I don’t get is why we have adopted this particular clothing item as the American casual wear uniform. The jean really began its ascendancy during the 1950s as a symbol of rebellion against authority — think James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Throughout the sixties, the blue jean represented continuing changes in societal norms, bringing down the formal dress rules of previous generations. It wasn’t a negative social shift; it was time for the world to be less restrictive about dress codes. I get that too. I was part of it. I just don’t see that we have improved on our world by now making the blue jean the new norm.

Let’s count the ways that jeans are annoying.

  • Jeans are a bear to dry; we have to hang them because they take forever and they shrink in the dryer.
  • Jeans have to be bought in a size or more smaller because over time, they stretch during wearing. There is nothing worse than wearing a pair of jeans with the rise falling down to your knees and the rear dragging on your thighs.
  • It can take days or weeks to find the brand and style of jean that fits correctly, and then once you’ve found it, the manufacturers change the dimensions and you can’t replace the perfect jean.
  • Even with spandex or other stretchy material woven into them, jeans are just plain uncomfortable after a while. The waistband is restrictive and the thick seams can rub against tender skin causing chafing and sore spots.
  • You have to have jeans in several lengths to fit your shoes. In fact, the average American woman has seven pairs of jeans in her closet.

Every time I hear Stacey and Clinton on What Not to Wear tell a client that she must buy a dark wash jean for her wardrobe (and then pay money to have it tailored to fit perfectly), it annoys me. I know that I am swayed by what they say, and I’m not the only one spending valuable time in my life searching for the right pair of jeans and then paying LOTS of money to purchase it. As much as I think they are on the right track with most of their ideas, their superciliousness about “mom jeans” bugs me. Frankly, I don’t think the loose- fit jeans are particularly flattering and they could be replaced with other sorts of trousers, and that leads us back to polyester pants.

I feel like we’ve created an environment that feels like Animal Farm.  Jeans good: Pants bad. People comment that you are overdressed if you show up to a casual party in simple black trousers and not jeans. The sea of expensive blue jeans worn in the middle school where I teach is testament to the peer pressure related to blue jeans. I have actually seen 14-year-olds wearing 7 for All Mankind jeans to school, and one of my students had a pair of $150 jeans stolen from the gym locker room. There is a thriving resale market for used jeans, and jeans were a black market staple in several communist countries. REALLY? We’re stealing jeans?  How did we come to this?

As for me, I’m going to happily purchase a new pair of casual trousers to wear on my vacation. They will be made of a modern synthetic and “might” have a bit of elastic in the waist. I will be able to wash them in the sink and hang them to dry overnight. They will be exactly the same size in the evening as they were in the morning when I put them on. The seat won’t drag and the knees won’t bag.

The ladies at my mom’s nursing home know a thing or two about practicality and I’m ready to learn the lesson from them. How about you?

An Ode to the Camisole

I have discovered the beauty of the camisole. Perhaps to some of you, that’s old news, but I am a latecomer to this particular fashion trend. It’s probably on its way out now; that’s usually the case when I finally latch onto something even remotely trendy.

I’m a teacher. I must not display the contents of my shelf in public, especially as the aforementioned shelf is beginning to get that old-lady, finely wrinkled skin look. Yuck. Yet many of the cute shirts I buy have a “deep V” to elongate my short torso, per my instructions from Clinton and Stacey. Deep V equals cleavage display. It was a conundrum until my breakthrough discovery.

The longer camisoles that are currently popular allowed the miracle of the camisole to continue in another way. Not only does this handy little stretch garment cover up inappropriate display of the girls, it also manages to bridge the gap between my shirts and that awkward bump of fat that I still have twenty-five years after my second Cesarean section. Even in a relatively slim trouser or jean, the camisole helps to hide that nasty line of demarcation. I could kick myself for spending hours and hours searching for the right-fitting trousers when all I needed was a six-dollar camisole on sale at Lane Bryant.

Photo via

So, my friends, if you haven’t gotten on this particular bandwagon, run to the store to buy some of these fashion lifesavers. The horizontal lace-trimmed ones provide more girl-coverage, but the V-neck lace camisoles are pretty nice, too. Surprisingly, for a person who is on the flip side of youth and sometimes gets those awkward flashes of heat, the added layer of the camisole doesn’t seem to make me hotter.

Or maybe knowing that I have that little sexy thang on under my staid teacher shirt makes me hot after all. Either way, it’s still a miracle.

P.S. Thanks for hanging in there with me. It’s been a dry spot for writing, but I’ve returned from my spring vacation full of new ideas that hopefully will transfer into something worth reading!

P.P.S. Don’t tell anyone that I bought eight new camisoles. It seems a little obsessive, but I couldn’t resist all those pretty colors.

Losing It: Is it week 6 already?

I didn’t lose it. I’m going up and down around the same number. I should have lost 12 pounds by now and I haven’t.

Yet, I’m encouraged. I haven’t been really this aware of what I’m eating (and drinking) for a long, long time. And I know I have been moderating my choices. I’ve started exercising more. I’ve also gone through my wardrobe and have started shortening all of my too-long granny fat dresses and skirts. Stacy and Clinton are right about showing some leg, even at my “advanced” age.

I watched What Not to Wear on Friday and kind of sympathized with that girl. I don’t wear crazy goth clothes, but I do wear sparkly ones. I sometimes marvel at how Stacy and Clinton can throw out a whole lifetime of clothing connections for people and not expect them to get emotional over their loss. And then, they sometimes replace the discards with new clothes that are amazingly similar. For example, I thought that the girl’s black dresses could have been altered to fit her new body, since they then let her buy new black dresses. That being said, I do think that What Not to Wear is a must watch for anyone with body image issues. Really, there are clothes out there for all of us and Stacey and Clinton show that to us every week.

Back to losing it. I have renewed energy and a new Easter spirit. See you next week.

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