Tag: fashion over 40 (page 1 of 2)

A touch of grey…or possibly purple: The great midlife hair-colour decision

Dear Wendy,

I got roped into accompanying Rachel and her friend Peter to the beauty salon on the weekend. I wasn’t going as a customer, mind you—my role was to provide moral support (in Peter’s case) and financial aid (in Rachel’s). Oh, and to buy us all lunch at a local trendy bistro. I mean, really—what else are mothers for?

Anyway. As you know, I had my hair coloured back in March. And when I write “coloured,” I don’t mean “highlighted” or “lowlighted” or any other kind of lighted: I mean coloured. As in all over.

To tell you the truth, I was a bit conflicted about this.

It’s been a matter of principle for me: a long time ago, when I first noticed grey hairs starting to thread their way among the brown, I decided that I’d avoid tampering with my hair colour. Let Nature take her course, have her way, do her thing…and if that meant I was fully grey by the age of 55 or 60, well, so be it.

I’ve never been a high-maintenance type, and I’ve never been worried about going grey; in fact, I kind of liked the way it was coming in, framing my face with silvery bits. Everything was going swimmingly, until I went to see Craig for my usual every-six-week cut a couple of months back. It was late winter, that season when everything has turned to slush, squashed flat hat-hair is endemic, everyone’s skin is kind of pasty and longing for the sun.

I was ready for spring, ready for change, ready to have some fun, dammit!

Craig understands my hair, which is a rather large plus, since he’s my hairdresser; but more important than that, he gets me. So when I sat down that fateful day in early March, sighed, and said, “I don’t really know what to do with my hair. I’m just kind of…bored with it,” Craig got that gleam in his eye that hairdressers get when they see a golden opportunity.

“What about some colour?” he asked. Actually, he didn’t so much ask as inform: I was bored with my hair, bored with its shape, its texture, its general overall blah-ness. I needed colour. And lots of it. It would be great. It wouldn’t make me look like an old lady who dyes her hair because she can’t face aging and needs to cling to some weird ideal of youth; it would make me look…more like me. It would be gorgeous. I would be gorgeous.

Somewhere along the way, I got swept up in his enthusiasm, and when I left the salon that day, I was a redhead. Flaming red, in fact, with a large swath of platinum blonde at the front, where a lot of my grey used to reside.


It started out this colour, but because it’s a demi-tint, it faded over several weeks…


On a train. With a beaver. Note small amount of snow in background. Apparently this qualified as the “storm of the century.”

I loved it, and I loved the reason for it: I realized that I colour my hair not because I’m trying to run away from reality, but because I’m running toward something better: hair that reflects who I am. Someone who’s the opposite of “staid and dignified,” who likes to play around, probably swears too much and takes pictures of beavers doing strange things on trains. That kind of person.

And that brings me to Saturday’s visit. Same salon (because Craig also cuts Rachel’s hair). And since I had a longish time to kill, and I can only knit or play Words with Friends for so long (true story!), I started poking around the shelves of “product” they keep at the front of the shop.

That’s when I discovered something I’d never really noticed before: it’s called “Color.Bug,” and it’s made by Kevin Murphy (and I should note here that I’m not getting a penny to write this, just in case you’re wondering). I can best describe it as a kind of chalky substance that you can use to colour strands of hair—a bit like eye shadow, with a powdery consistency, that delivers a blast of colour when and where you want it.


It’s little. It’s purple. It’s cute as a bug. It’s…Color.Bug!

Because, you know, who doesn’t want purple hair?

On a whim, I dabbed a bit of this magic powder on some of the aforementioned platinum blonde bits around my face…and then a few further back…and now I have (temporary) purple streaks.


Prickly Possum Pink–It’s totally YOU!

Whee! This is some serious fun, Wendy. It comes in several colours, including lime green, pink, salmon, white, and bronze, and I can see how it could become habit-forming.

(Hint: don’t let this stuff get on your face. We’re talking heavy-duty, high-intensity colour here. It won’t hurt you, but unless you like large blotches of purple or green or whatever on your forehead or cheek, you won’t be thrilled. Do not ask me how I know this.)

It does wash out, but I should mention that when I washed my hair this morning, the front bits retained quite a bit of pinkish hue (as opposed to yesterday’s full-tilt boogie purple). I suspect Color.Bug has more “cling” on bleached hair, but I’m confident it’ll disappear completely with a couple more washes.


Not quite so purple. But still quite groovy.

And hey, if it doesn’t, I’m not bothered. Because that’s the kind of crazy kid I am.



Fat oppression is alive and well

Dear Wendy,

I know you’ve been off-line for the past few days, so you probably haven’t heard about the giant Internet kerfuffle surrounding certain odious statements from Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries.


Basically, he made explicit what a lot of people had already figured out for themselves: that A&F caters to thin people only, that they want to sell to a self-defined “cool” demographic, and that this is not just okay, but desirable.

Ho hum.

For anyone larger than a size 10, this is old, old news. Not that Jeffries is a walking, talking turd—but that his stores, and in fact most of the “cool” stores, cater only to people who fit within very narrowly defined size parameters.

Blogger Giovanni Hashimoto posted this chart on Friday:

BrandLargest Top SizeLargest Bottom Size
Lily Lotus1032′
Urban Outfitters10-1231′
Victoria’s Secret Pink1432′
American Apparel12-1431-32′
Banana Republic1634.5′
Ralph Lauren (Blue Label)1432′

*Estimated based on Abercrombie’s sizing chart.

It makes an excellent point: A&F is far from the only place that caters exclusively to the thin. Weight bias isn’t limited to one fashion chain. It’s endemic.

For many years now, I’ve been quite accustomed to the idea that my body size makes me unwelcome in the vast majority of stores that cater to the hip, happening, and cool among us. Fortunately for me, my personal definition of “hip, happening, and cool” no longer coincides with the mainstream fashion industry’s…but when it did, it hurt to know that 99% of the clothing out there was off-limits to me.

At this stage in my life, I just shrug and walk past the stores where I can’t shop. I have a different aesthetic now, and not much about A&F’s offerings tempts me.

But back when I actually cared about such things, I yearned to wear clothes like everyone else’s. Back then, I had to content myself with standing outside the “cool stores,” metaphorical nose pressed up against the metaphorical glass, watching while my friends waltzed in, tried on jeans (that actually pulled up over their thighs and zipped and buttoned and looked good) or held up tops that I couldn’t have fit over my head, let alone past my shoulders.

And I got to make myself smile as they waltzed back out, laden with new clothes to stock their fashionable closets.

I could ooh! and aah! and compliment them on their good taste…and silently berate myself for not being thin, for not fitting in, for “letting myself go” and being the author of my own misfortune. Back then, I thought that becoming thin was all about self-control and self-denial, and so instead of being angry at the stores that failed to give me anything decent to wear, I turned my anger inward.

It was a bad place to be, and when I read about Jeffries’ sensitive, caring attitude (“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids…Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.“) I was very briefly carried back there.

And then I thought about all the girls and young women who hate themselves for their size, and are hated for their size, and I felt a sudden urge to punch someone in the nose. (Don’t worry. I won’t. This time.) I’ve talked before about being one of those not-so-cool kids, about the bullying that went along with it, and about how it affected me, so I won’t go into it again.

But I’d just like to point out that while stores have the absolute right to sell their cheap, skinny merchandise to whomever they wish, the buying public also has choices. We can choose to go along with the fat oppression and the bullying and the mean-spiritedness…or we can simply decide to put our purchasing power elsewhere. Dollars speak louder than blog posts.


And maybe on some level we should be thanking Jeffries for having come out and articulated what we fat girls have known most of our lives: that the fashion industry is not our friend.



My closet teaches Facebook a thing or two

Dear Karen,

Nearing my one-year anniversary in a new city, I realise that some of my very strong friendships have become innocent and unintended victims of our move.  Continue reading

Oh, Suzannah!

Dear Karen,

About 7 months ago, we received an invitation to Ascot Ladies Day.  To attend Ladies Day, one must obey certain dress rules. We were required to follow this code of conduct:


  • A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times
    Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted
  • Trousers must be full length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above (i.e. strapless or sheer strap tops are not permitted)
  • Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Grandstand Admission dress code
  • Midriffs must be covered
  • Shorts are not permitted.


  • Are required to wear a suit with a shirt and tie.

That’s it?  All he had to do was put on his work clothes and he was set.  As for me, I wasn’t allowed to wear my short shorts, halter top and disco bunny ears, which was a little distressing.

I needed help, clothes that I could wear that were hopefully comfortable, perhaps attractive, but mostly, that wouldn’t get me kicked out on my behind at the entry gates. I put off doing anything about this quandary I found myself in, until a week before the actual day. I had no idea what I was going to do, but fortuitously (another word I use here a lot: “I was served a very dry martini by the barman last night; fortuitously, he made it a double”) I happened to read a tweet by Liberty London Girl, who raved about getting her hat at a certain Maida Vale establishment.

I had two thoughts:

  1. Hat—I must have one
  2. Maida Vale—where is that?

I made a phone call, booked a time for the next day, and walked the 20 minutes it took to get to the shop that was going to save my life: Suzannah Boutique.

Shop Interior. Friendly, intimate and quiet…the perfect boutique atmosphere.

Since walking in that first day, I never felt like a customer, more like a good friend who’s come by for an hour of dressing-up.  Suzannah Crabb, the owner, is a highly skilled designer, very talented at matching the right outfit with the right woman.  Her shop is welcoming and intimate, and I instantly felt at home and at ease.

We discussed the event I was attending and within seconds, she knew what would suit me.

Me, wearing Suzannah dress and hat from her shop. Never having worn a hat like this before, I was very pleased at its comfort and stay-in-one-placeability.

Originally, I just wanted a hat, but I walked out with hat and dress, both of which have been used this past summer on numerous occasions:  Ascot, two weddings, and a holiday in France.  That’s a lot of usage for a woman who usually wears jeans!

At a summer wedding in Germany, here I am wearing my dress again.

Each time I have what I consider a “clothing crisis”, I contact Suzannah and she sorts me out with a calm smile, encouraging manner and the ability to find the perfect dress for me.

I bought some of her stunning tea dresses, the styles of which are inspired by 1930s women’s fashion. Suzannah sees a style she particularly likes and adapts it to fit and suit women of the 21st century, using fabric she develops and sources in Italy. Most of the pieces in her collection are made in England; I love the idea that my dress is organic and locally made.

Here we are, celebrating Lars’s 40th anniversary with his company, at a lovely restaurant in our neighbourhood. Dress? Suzannah, natch.

This year was a big year, with our move in spring and Kirsten’s wedding in autumn. I wanted a dress for the church, something that didn’t make me look fusty and matronly; every Mother of the Bride outfit seems to expect us to want suits in pastel colours.  Before despairing, I looked at her online boutique, chose a few outfits, and asked her to please hold them for me so I could try them on.  Suzannah put a few more aside for me, and when I went in for my appointment,  they were waiting for me to try on.

Sadly, I don’t have a professional photo of my outfit, but this is the beautiful Kaleidoscope dress, which has pockets (pockets!) sewn in along the seam in the bell of the skirt.  It has a 50s vibe which I like.  It was comfortable, beautiful and you know what else?  I wasn’t living in fear that another woman was wearing the exact same dress.


It really was a beautiful event…and you looked utterly smashing!

No photo of me in this, sadly, but I wore this into the church, over the Kaleidoscope dress. Suzannah altered the collar to suit. It comes with a belt and can be worn as either a coat or a dress. I’ll be wearing this a LOT.

I arrived in London with no hats.  Now I own two*.  I arrived without a dress that I could wear in the day, night, summer or winter.  Now I have, well, rather a lot of them.  These outfits are for women of all ages and tastes, as you can see from Gilly snitching mine (below) to wear at her sister’s bridal shower in the summer.  I was fine though, because I brought an extra Suzannah dress, just in case.  How wonderful to wear something light, breezy, feminine, and unique.

Gillian rocking my 30s Tea Dress this summer.

At the bridal shower, in my dress.

By the way, just because her shop is in England, don’t think that means you’re can’t buy. I didn’t write all this just to brag (well maybe just a little) but to educate. Suzannah ships internationally, which is exciting news for those not fortunate enough to be a 20-minute walk away from the boutique.

She is also branching out, having her collection sold in Harvey Nichols and Matches, among others.  I have a very warm feeling that we’re going to be seeing more and more of this talented designer.

Edit:  Suzannah has moved shop to 3 New Quebec Street, Marylebone, W1.  Since I wrote this almost a year ago, her business has grown in leaps and bounds – it’s easy to find her beautiful designs on, most famously, Pippa Middleton, sister of the Duchess of Cambridge.  Pippa wore the Trapeze coat, in cream for her nephew, the future king of England’s, christening. 

*hats by “Emily”, sold in the boutique

The Suzannah Boutique London




I have done this review with no thought for compensation or gratuity; nor have I been offered any, dammit all.

Baby Boomer Style: Seeing through different lenses (AftertheKidsLeave.com)

Baby Boomer Beauty: In search of our perfect look (AftertheKidsLeave.com)


Baby Boomer Style: Seeing through different lenses

Dear Wendy,

I loved reading your reminiscences about our family car trips, even though I saw them through completely different eyes—for one thing, as you mentioned, I was usually busy attempting to keep from throwing up. This tends to put a damper on the good times, if you know what I mean.

Speaking of seeing through different eyes, I’ve been reading a lot lately about how women our age—yes, baby boomers—start to feel invisible once we pass the age of 50. I started to notice some visibility slippage in my mid-forties, and by the time I hit the early fifties, I could move easily among people 30, 20, even 10 years my junior, and never be seen by anyone.

Blogger Donna Highfill has written very eloquently about this very phenomenon in her HuffPost/50 article, Using My New Super-Power of Invisibility, so I won’t belabour it here. Except to say that if some dude on an airplane had whacked me on the head with my own suitcase, he would not be in any condition to make googly-eyes at the busty young woman in the next aisle. But I digress.

Here’s the thing: I think I might have found an antidote to Post-Menopausal Invisibility Syndrome. Want to know what it is? Never mind, I’ll tell you anyway. Wear the most over-the-top ridiculous glasses you can find.

Don’t believe me? I want you to think for just one second about Sally Jesse Raphael. Just for one second, I want you to picture her. Okay, now stop. No, seriously. Can you describe her face? Her hair-style? The colour of lipstick she wears? What image remains behind when you focus away from her?

Correct. It’s those ginormous red glasses, right?

I’ve been wearing the same pair of glasses for nearly five years (even though I probably should have had the prescription renewed at least twice by now). Why have I kept them so long? I think that, like Sally, I’ve found my “signature piece,” and there’s no way I want to let go of it.

I fell head over heels in love with the glasses in a tiny boutique on Bank Street, and when I bought them, the optician assured me that they were the only pair in Ottawa. They’re from France, I believe, and Boz Eyewear Design, the company that made them, does small runs of really interesting frames.

I put them on and sauntered out of that establishment, feeling like I owned the world.


Yes. They have turquoise butterflies on them. And no, you can’t have them.

Some people did do double takes as I walked back to the office. But I was so relieved to no longer be invisible, I actually liked it. In fact, I smiled back graciously, because I knew I was wearing the Coolest Glasses in Ottawa. If I could have waved a white-gloved hand in acknowledgment, I would have. If I owned white gloves, that is.

Granted, the first thing Rachel said when she saw the new eyewear was, “Hahahah! That’s great, Mum. Now where are your real glasses?”

Huh. That was a little deflating, but what do teenagers know about the true funky grooviness that is moi? I pressed on.

And in fact, over time it would seem that I’ve been vindicated. Of course, when I’m out grocery shopping or walking through the mall where the sweet young things congregate, I still might as well be wearing the Cloak of Invisibility. But whenever I interact with someone up close—cashiers, Starbucks servers, denizens of the coffee shop—I can see them looking sidelong at me, trying not to stare. Nine times out of ten, they’ll get up the gumption to say, “Wow, I love your glasses!”

In fact, in the years since I started wearing them, I can’t recall a day when at least one person hasn’t complimented me on the glasses. They’re amazing conversation openers, and I think they say something about me.


Glasses. The window to the soul?

These are glasses that say, “Hey, world! There’s a line between daring fashion statement and absolute lunacy, and I am standing on it!” They say, “I’m not afraid to look a little bit hipster, a little bit wacky old lady. In fact, scratch that. I’m just plain not afraid.”

So maybe this is the true secret to thwarting that whole middle-aged invisibility thing. Whether it’s a totally rockin’ new pair of glasses, the perfect haircut, or that shirt that makes you feel like a million bucks every time you put it on, there will be at least one thing that makes you feel like you stand out. One thing that tells the world you’re not afraid, that you’re confident in yourself and your own choices and tastes. One thing that makes your teen sit up and say, “My God, mother, don’t wear that! People will think you’re a nutter!”

Okay, maybe not that last bit.

But you catch my drift, right?

Over and out. I’m off to get a shower, put on my glasses (and possibly some clothing) and hit the grocery store. Look out world!



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