Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forty-something and Fashionable or Can This Closet Be Saved?!

Fashion for women in their forties. Or more specifically, for moms in their forties trying to find their style that bridges the gap between their professional, dressed-up lives of long ago and their current LuLu Lemon lives of grocery shopping, errands, school playground drop-offs and pick-ups, classroom volunteerism, taxi driver to all playdates, enrichment classes and team practices, cheerleader at all sporting events and personal workout sessions when and if it can ever be worked in...

Now this may seem like a simple enough endeavor, but if you're like me, you don't always want to do all of the above in your black yoga pants and sneakers. In fact, call me a Lulu Lemon snob if you will, but I really only like wearing workout wear if I'm actually going to work out. At all other times, I want to be one of those "hip" forty-something Hollywood moms splattered across the pages of People magazine. You know the ones I mean, they're always pushing a stroller with one hand and carrying a baby and  latte in the other, wearing those great designer jeans, tops, glamorous high heels and sunglasses.

Unfortunately, since the only drama I act in is pro bono and stars my 6-year old daughter, it's harder for me to justify buying $300 Dirty Laundry jeans and $75 Gap tops just to spend the day doing my own dirty laundry! Besides, I hate shopping! Remember how overwhelmed I get when I go to Costco? Trying to find new clothes when you don't even know your style is even worse for me... Walking into Abercrombie makes me feel like a grandma longing for her big girdle, my bottom does not need any extra attention drawn to it with any brand sprawled across its expanse, sorry but I am not nor will never again be Forever 21 in age or hemline and department stores make me dizzy; I never know what section of the endless sea of women's clothing I should be in. Am I Marc Jacobs chic, Burberry plaid or Brass Plum denial? Really, they should just have a section called "Where the Hell Do I Fit In?" for all of us lost in 40-something fashion confusion...

Okay, but I'm determined to find my style, so to get myself out of my fashion rut without spending a lot of money, I started shopping at thrift stores for "fun", inexpensive designer items that I get for a steal so I could push my envelope a bit without breaking the bank. But after wearing that beautiful, cream white Banana Republic sweater I got for $8 and sweating and itching all day, I realized there's a reason why someone donated this stuff other than weight gain and that I had been robbed! Who walks around in rabbit hair anyway? And those designer jeans? Sure, I got some great, high-end, low-rider jeans for about $10. But now until I have another $10,000 for that tummy tuck that's been on my list, I still need to unbotton them when I work at my desk for long stretches to make room for the annoying muffin top I've acquired free of charge. What's a "hippy" mom to do?

Okay, still determined, I looked into a closet consultant. These are women that will come to your home to spend the day dishing out tough love and telling you to finally give away that wool sweater you shrunk but never had the heart to throw away because your grandma gave it to you, in the effort of reorganizing your clothes to help you redefine your style. I'll admit I thought this was a great idea until I was quoted her fee. Now why would I pay someone $150 an hour to tell me that something doesn't look good on me anymore when my daughter tells me that most mornings for free? 

But I wasn't going to give up in my quest for "hip mom-hood". So I decided to do my own consultation based on my bedside copy of "Lucky" magazine's "How to Dress guide" for all of us fashion-challenged women who aren't lucky enough to live or shop in New York. Telling myself this would be like a shopping spree, one morning, I took all my main pieces out of my closet and laid them on the bed. Then I tried making all sorts of new combinations that I dutifully took on and off in true fitting room frenzy, adding 20-year old scarves and 10-year old jewelry in creative fervor. Then, just like the book told me to do, I even took digital pictures so I could remember them. Well, after about 45 minutes and the 5th outfit, I was so exhausted, I threw on my Lulu Lemons and took a nap, realizing with dismay when I awoke that I now had to put all my same old clothes away again! Not a very satisfying spree, indeed...

Finally, like so many things, I realized that it wasn't my closet that needed work, it was my attitude towards my closet. So I decided to take yet another life lesson from my daughter, Nikki. Now being a fairly picky dresser herself, she only has about half a dozen pieces that she will wear to school. Yet each morning, after thinking about it as she falls asleep the night before, Nikki wakes up excited to get dressed. Bouncing around and singing in her closet in true Diva form, her knack for putting together colorful ensembles of skirts, leggings, t-shirts and sweaters with just the right shoes or boots for a style all her own is truly inspiring and fun to watch.

So I thought I'd give my style one more shot. I've moved some of my old, dressier clothes and shoes that continued to patiently wait yet never seemed to get their turn in my outfit rotation over from what had sadly become my "never-a-day" to my newly-inspired "everyday wear" section. And now, instead of going to my closet each day with the dreaded boredom of looking at the same ten things I've worn for five years, I draw from my daughter's fashion enthusiasm as I get dressed. And having finally decided that for now, I'll stay away from shopping at stores that require too much self-analysis, I simply bought some long t-shirts to wear under my shrunken, itchy sweaters and over my unbuttoned, low-rise jeans. Hey, what do you know, maybe I've bridged my "hip" mom gap after all!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"I'm No Martha Stewart!"

Now that I've survived the manic, sugar-induced energy and frantic, last minute costume changes of Halloween, it's been such a blessing to enjoy these last beautiful and warm Fall days that we've had this week. Hopefully, it will be enough to fortify all of us against what we know is coming soon, when this same manic energy of our children can barely be contained within four walls and we desperately search for game and craft ideas on the Internet or our own memories that will distract them from tearing the couches or each other apart! 

And speaking of memories and craft ideas, a couple of moms and I were talking on the playground the other day about one of my favorite topics: what do you do with all the “stuff” (you know what I really want to say here, don’t you?!) that comes home everyday with your kids, adding to the already growing piles of “stuff” that interested them one day last week, created with Legos, meticulously drawn and colored, borrowed from a friend, borrowed from the library, worn yesterday, brought home in their socks from the soccer field, collected from the trees or sidewalks, or basically just dropped anywhere and at whatever point they stopped playing with it. 

And in my house, to add insult to injury, I have further stacks made from boxes of tiles, boxes of hardwood flooring, plain old cardboard boxes not yet broken down, tools, a window that hasn’t been installed yet, a tile saw and my husband’s shoes, wherever he happened to take them off! (And if any of you have a good solution for getting shoes in one place, call me!)

Now I know it’s not just me, since I‘ve been to the home of one of these moms, and I‘ve seen the entire spare bedroom she has dedicated, like a Danish Master Builder shrine, to her son‘s Lego creations. Because, after all, once they have spent so much time creating them, they can‘t bear to take them apart! And so they line every part of this room, ready to delight any houseguest who hasn‘t yet been to LegoLand! And it is this same mom with good intentions who saves every plastic food container, with its lid, for that rainy craft day when her kids can slit a hole in the top to make a piggy bank! So the clutter doesn’t fall very far from the “stuff” tree here, does it?! 

The other mom then proudly stated that she found a great way to get rid of all those packing peanuts that invade our house throughout the year. Ever eco-conscious, we stress over what to do with them. I usually can’t wait to put together a gift package so I can mail my supply to someone else so they can worry about getting rid of them! But in the spirit of Halloween, reuse and recycle, she made spider arms and stuffed them full of her supply for her costume. “And so what are you going to do with the costume when you‘re done?” I asked with a smile, knowing, of course, that she simply transformed her “stuff” from one physical state to another! “Oh, this costume is a keeper!” she smiled back in reply. And we laughed as I reminded her that I’m sure her sons will agree when they clean out mom’s attic one day, wondering why she ever kept the moth-ridden spider costume with packing peanuts still intact that still need an eco-friendly purge! 

Now I’ve written about this topic before, but as my kids get older, it seems to be getting worse and I have yet to come up with a good solution to organize and purge all my “stuff”! It’s gotten so bad that although I used to enjoy it, I now get stressed out when my generous neighbor gives me her stack of women’s fashion magazines because I know that if I don’t read them fast enough they become one more project pile I can’t seem to get to! 

So the other day, we were driving home, and Nikki, having seen a commercial about her show, asked me who Martha Stewart was and what she did. “Oh, she is this woman who can make neat crafts out of scraps, cook yummy recipes and decorate her house with cool things and without hesitation, Nikki replied, “Maybe she should come over to our house!” And that, my friends, about sums up the state of my “stuff”!