An Open Letter
I did not write "sir or madam" because I am absolutely certain that no woman on this planet (or probably any other) would have had anything to do with some of the issues I would like to bring to your attention. Let's start with the obvious.
I am 41 years old. I am not 15, and I am not 97, blind, and taste-challenged (for the record, aging does not rob women of their taste in clothing. All of us would prefer not to look as though we were caught in an explosion in a polyester factory, no matter how old we happen to be.) I think that it should not be difficult to find something to wear that falls somewhere between "emaciated prostitute" and "my grandmother in her later years when her sleeves were perpetually stuffed with kleenex" (some women stuff their bras, my grandmother stuffed her sleeves. No doubt she had the shapliest elbows in town). And yet, I find myself repeatedly thwarted.
Last night my husband and I were patronizing a local shopping area. One of the clothing stores featured nothing but black and white clothing. Some of it was actually sort of attractive, although it was all carefully displayed on mannequins that could wear a size one only if they binged on m&m's the night before. Otherwise, it's triple 0 all the way. But you know, there wasn't a thing in that store that wasn't black and/or white and, like many women I know, I am not planning a back-up career as a mime. Color. I would like some color.
We also passed a store that caters primarily to a younger crowd, and I can respect that. I didn't expect to find anything for me in that store. But I could see inside it, and I was riveted by a giant poster of a young man in an open shirt and open jeans. The shirt was completely unbuttoned to reveal a smooth, hairless chest--which was explained by the open jeans, and the fact that there was enough curly hair hanging out of there to make me think he might be trying to smuggle a midget with an afro into the movies (I'm thinking all his body hair must have migrated crotchward for the winter). Seriously--if that guy sneezed we would have all gotten to meet his little friend, willy, right up close and personal. Does that really sell clothes? I mean, I was so concerned about the possible appearance of his personal trouser mouse, that I couldn't tell you anything about the clothes he was wearing. Maybe young people are more blase about these things....but I just don't see how a semi-naked man sells clothes. Unless people feel sorry for him and buy clothes to send to him and keep him warm. It's like those bathing suit advertisements that show a nearly naked woman posing strategically, wearing nothing but a necklace or a coconut, and there's a scrap of string too small to knit a swatch with draped over a nearby tree branch, and the caption says "swimwear by Snooty McNaked Beach Attire, $350 each piece". You're kidding, right? I can't even SEE the so-called swimwear. I could knit myself one out of cashmere that would have 10 times the coverage and it STILL wouldn't cost me $700. C'mon guys. Have a heart here.
Jeans. Now, jeans are a big problem. They seem to come in two styles: unflattering, tapered, and so high-waisted that the wearer can tuck the waistband into her bra if she can't find a belt; or tight, embellished, and so low-waisted that they should come with a coupon for a free bikini wax. For your edification: jeans are not carnival prize boards. They do not need seven pounds of studs, glitter, flowers, etc. Neither do they need to be pre-torn and ripped. Seriously, I'm clumsy enough. If I own them for a few months, they'll tear all by themselves. And as for that whole "distressed" thing....the only thing I've noticed about those is that I'm more distressed when I look at the price tag than a pair of pants will EVER be. I'm not asking for the moon here. I want simple, dignified jeans. I want them to be blue, straight but not tapered, and I want to neither lose them under my boobs nor lend a whole new meaning to "Vulvar Awareness Week" when I wear them (there really is a "vulvar awareness week", but I'm pretty sure it means being aware of your own rather than making everyone else painfully aware of it). I'd like to be able to get through a metal detector when I wear them, and I'd like to have the opportunity to rip them myself--or better yet, not rip them at all.
Speaking of jeans, since they are clearly not going to have even a nodding acquaintance with anything above my pubic line in my fashion lifetime, could you at least throw me a bone and make shirts slightly longer than an underdeveloped dishcloth? A thermometer would look slightly chubby in that sort of privates-grazing-jeans-and-dishcloth-shirt look. Look around you (unless you're in your local Barbie aisle, which is wear I strongly suspect you get much of your inspiration). Women have soft curves. We're supposed to. Honest. And we don't all want to walk around looking as though we've just been prepped for abdominal surgery.
Oh, and that line of clothing labelled "ethnic". First of all, how many ethnic groups do you think there are in the world? It's okay, don't sprain a brain cell. There are a huge number of ethnic groups in the world, wearing all sorts of clothes. And yet, "ethnic" in the fashion industry seems to refer only to an assortment of gauzy clothes made of cheap cotton that will shrink in 30% humidity, and that are studded with 500 beads and/or sequins that are guaranteed to fall off the first time the garment is washed. Oh, and tiered, wrinkly skirts that I believe are called broomstick skirts, because no one larger or curvier than a broomstick can actually wear them. No wonder you simply call them "ethnic". What real ethnic group would claim this stuff?
Look, I know I sound demanding. I want simple, flattering, stylish clothes that don't make me look like a stripper or like I'm waiting for someone to knit me a lap robe. I'm middle-aged, I have money, and I shop. Don't make me get cranky.
Ms. F. Knitingale