clothing angst

I've been feeling kind of middle-aged lately. It's not about my hormonal suffering, or the lines in my face, or the changes in my physique -- which are all irritating from time to time, but don't really impact me very much. No, it's something even more shallow. It's all about my clothes.

I'm feeling in need of wardrobe revitalization -- which I can't do very much of, because I'm on the financial austerity plan. Over the past few years, I've radically cut down on clothing and shoe purchases, since those are all optional expenses. And my lifestyle really doesn't require much in the way of glam or fun clothing: I mostly need basic professional stuff to teach in (pants, jackets, shirts) and casual stuff for the weekend (jeans, t-shirts). I used to care a lot more about how I looked (back in the 80s when fashion was fun and I was young) -- these days I care more about whether my shoes are comfortable and if my clothes have pockets & are machine washable. (Sign #1 of middle age.)

Half of the jackets I teach in I've had for more than five years. At least one I've had for maybe 8 or 9 years. So they're showing some wear. And probably looking kind of outdated (however timeless I think my overall look might be) (Sign #2 of middle age).

Upcoming fashion demands: In the fall, I'm taking on a half-time administrative post which will require my being at the office more days per week, and hence more professional clothes. Plus more meetings with people in other depts etc, where I have to dress a bit better than I do in my own department. In June, I'm going to be teaching summer school -- and I *hate* summer clothes. I'm fine if I'm slouching around the house. But trying to look professional, and crisp, and put together is kind of tough for me if I can't wear a lot of layers.

Before I moved to this city, I used to shop with my friends for fun -- not necessarily to buy anything, but as a way of spending time together. I had one friend in particular who had a significant income and liked to spend it -- it was always fun to accompany her. I'm a great shopping assistant, and it's actually a relief to shop for someone else's size and wallet rather than my own. I don't have any girly friends in this city to shop with. So any shopping I do is either therapy or necessity. And, since I've cut out the therapy shopping (I need less of it these days and it's not in the budget) I only go to the store when I'm really looking for something. Which may be practical, but it means that I'm less in touch with what's in style. So there's a jarring sense of dislocation or confusion (why are there fabric flowers pinned on every jacket? what's up with the jeweled hippie tunics?) each time I shop (Sign of Middle Age #3).

I am not preppy. I am not classic. I am not that frumpy either.

but I am also not going to wear shirts unbuttoned to my ribs (why are the top two buttons missing from 95% of button/collar type shirts for women these days???). I am not going to wear a thing that looks like half of what my mother used to call "a slip" and call it a shirt. I am not going to fold up my pants floodwater style. (Ranting about current trends=Sign of Middle Age #4.)

And I don't know where to shop any more. The last time I was in Old Navy, which has been my main standby for years, I felt too old for most of the clothes. But I'm not WASPy enough for the Gap or Banana Republic -- I'm too short, my rear's too large, and I'm not blond, so the colors look sad. I don't want to shop at "department stores" where middle-aged people shop. I'm not going to start wearing Liz Claiborne or something like that, for goodness sakes.

Ack. So I get frustrated, and leave the store, and keep on wearing the same old clothes, which just confirms my middle-agedness.

and it's only going to get worse as I get older, right? sigh.