The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Saturday, March 17, 2007

An Open Letter

To all the designers, manufacturers, and marketers of women's clothing.

Dear Sirs:

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


  • At 9:05 PM, Anonymous said…

    Say it Sistah Knightingale...Imagine, clothing that flatters the forty- something woman! If I need something like this, I usually end up sewing it for myself. If anyone out there can recommend a clothing line that fits slightly less than perfect bodies in a manner that befits mention, please speak up!

    Chris in AZ

  • At 1:04 AM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Oh boy hit the spot there girl ! I really need some new clothes .I hate jeans so they don't matter ( unless worn in for two years by a plump friend). Yet all other trousers come with the danger I'll have "Builder's bum" . "Jigsaw" is Holly's favourite ( but only in sales) so when they reduced to 70% off I got hopeful except no-one is allowed past a size 16 so no hope there. All other clothes have been influenced by Ethel Kennedy circa 1968 ( Courreges..God help us) or in fact the film about Warhol's girls . I don't want to look like an optical nightmare either.
    Last night Hols and I watched "Emma" and Jane Austen brings out the devil in us ...Mr Knightly kept making my eyes water ( those trousers were not for the shy type ). I , being a good mum didn't mention it , Holly suddenly chirped up "for goodness sake buy a jockstrap or something ". The lads in town are in serious danger of showing us their all and we really don't want to see it. I think all clothes are made for the star of "Emma" , Gwyneth Paltrow .I've seen more meat on a chicken wing and even Holly has meat on her bones even though I'd say she's about right. She does have her Dad's family thighs though. As for "ethnic" how right you are , no distinction is made between say , Asia and Africa , Eastern Europe etc. I am a sucker for schmutter with beads and sequins but have learnt to sew them on with better thread when I get them home. I have a small pile of beads from Holly's dresses despite my best efforts. I think I might have to sew again soon or paint very Warhol !

  • At 5:12 AM, Blogger Holly Bernice Cox said…

    Mum told me it was good but this was magnificent!

  • At 5:47 AM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    Ms. K, I love this! Especially the poster bit. ::kofchokegigglehysterically:: (Sounds like he escaped from my new calendar...)

    I was just thinking of something similar, looking through the latest catalogs for larger-sized women. A rant about stupid clothing styles (especially for us fluffy types, although much of it relates to any size of us) was one of my earliest posts on my blog. Shirts with big pockets over our tits, for instance. Now, just think about that and how it looks when you put anything in 'em. Especially if the item(s) aren't flat. Oh yeah. Then there was one about so-called 'fashion colors'. Oy.

    I was thinking I needed to do an update, but I dunno; you may have done it for me. GMTA! [vbg]

  • At 8:54 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    I have fallen out of the chair, smuggling the midget with an afro? I'm in tears.....
    How funny! How true! This is the reason I don't go shopping for clothes. at all.
    DIL and her Mom go to Chico's (I think that's the name), personally not so much my style, but then I'm the oldearthmamahippiechicktype.
    Or I'll wear things that are terribly outdated but no mom jeans, I don't go there. levis. button up.
    I'd like to see fashions from the 30s and 40s come back, those were pretty clothes!

  • At 12:18 PM, Blogger Jo said…

    Yeah it was greeeeeat! specially the poster boy!
    I just hate shopping!Unless its for yarn or fibery bits!


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