Am I Aging Out Of Shopping?

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After a recent  haircut, I wandered across the street for a coffee and sandwich. On my way back to the car, I noticed a new clothing store. The store gives part of its proceeds back to charity. I loved the idea and the clothing – reasonably priced, nothing too revealing. I grabbed a few tops and went into the dressing room. After trying them all on, I felt defeated. I realized I am not the target audience. More like the mother with the credit card of the target audience. How could I have misjudged the scenario?

I rarely focus on the fact that I am getting older, until I am reminded that I am. Clothing stores do a pretty good job of keeping me grounded in the aging game.

I have always loved fashion. When I was 12 years old, I worked in the back of a small boutique in Houston opening boxes and steaming clothes. Just to be around fabric made me happy. I spent my high school years employed at a high end department store. In college, I poured over WWD and Vogue and Glamour and every other fashion rag. My first career working for Conde Nast Publications as a writer was born out of my love for glam.  Like a kid in a candy store, I watched models and designers (even Anna Wintour herself) prance in and out of the building every day. I was even asked to be a Glamour “don’t”.  For women of a certain age (who grew up without Internet) these magazines dictated style.

Thirty years later, I find myself stuck in the Neverland of fashion. I am too old to wear the tight-fitting dresses that looked good on me in my 30s. My bunion feet, cranky knee and tweaked back prohibit me from wearing the sexy high heels that I lived in for decades. And forget about jeans; what once was my daily staple now rests on a closet shelf because I hate anything tight around my middle.

Yesterday I passed by an Eileen Fisher store. The woman inside smiled at me in her oversized sweater because she knew I should be in there buying the designer’s gorgeous yet shapeless attire. She looked at me and could tell I was kidding myself in my booties (which cut into my bunion), very trendy Camo pants and leather jacket. You are not fooling anyone, her eyes said. You belong in here.

There have been times when my love for fashion has morphed into the need to fill a hole in my life. The fact that I allowed myself to take something I love and turn it into a crutch fills me with regret.  I never meant to muddle my passion, but then again life/shit happens.

When my father died unexpectedly, I bought four pairs of expensive shoes without trying them on. I took them all back a few weeks later but the damage was done. I sullied something that brought me great joy. The fear that I would never be able to separate fashion from sadness again stayed with me longer than I would like to admit.

Shopping sparked joy for me once again when my girls became teenagers. Sitting in the dressing room with my girls, listening to the sound of their voices, sharing a common bond and then a meal at the food court after – created quality time I will cherish forever. I can’t remember a thing they bought, but I can still see their smiling faces and hear their voices chock-full of love. To this day, I still offer to take them shopping. After all, most of the clothes are made for their beautiful bodies – not my aging one anymore.

As I prepared my mother’s eulogy one year ago, I tried to focus on some of the good. With a broken family, the happy memories took a lot of heavy lifting to find. Interestingly enough, I chose one about fashion. “When I begged for Guess acid wash jeans, she took me shopping, going back and forth from the dressing room so that I wouldn’t have to.”  Maybe it was her one way of connecting to me.

Bodies change with age. I can see and feel the transition. Things shift, waists expand and the our forms adapt to a new decade. I workout as hard as I can, but nothing can stop the clock or genetics from doing their thing.

So I may be wearing more black stretchy pants and low-heeled shoes these days, but I vow to look put together, appropriate and still fashionable in my second act. I am not giving up. However, I will save the marathon shopping trips for my daughters. And I won’t be throwing my credit card down at Eileen Fisher anytime soon.

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