sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

January 24, 2012

Style and Fashion Pick-Me-Up: The Great Hemline Recession

Filed under: fashion, taste, tv — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:15 pm

As you might have guessed, I’m trying to avoid the subject of primaries.

We went to Vegas in early January.  We’ve been going every year for DH’s Birthday, and each year Sin City seems increasingly more depressing.  On my first trip I was dazzled by lights and sounds, and all the splendid cheesiness.  Now I only notice stains on the carpet, and the typical twenty-year-old casino has plenty of those.

I don’t think Vegas unions are doing any favors to the cocktail waitresses many of whom look shabbier than the carpets they walk.  Vegas is teeming with waitresses verging on retirement age, and the hot arid climate and frequent night shifts obviously didn’t do them any favors.  Yet casinos that can’t fire a woman because she’s too old have them squeezing their butts into uniforms that are one step from a burlesque show.

One would think nobody wants to look at them, but evidently some visitors find the aging wait-stuff inspirational.  I spotted a septuagenarian clad in a sequin micromini dragging her stiletto mules over the Strip’s cobblestones.  That lady might’ve not aged badly, but the get up obviously intended for somebody who still gets carded, drew attention to every wrinkle.

I’m glad soon-to-be-twice-divorced Heidi Klum is not hosting Project Runway All Stars.  To be sure, she is a better host than that other model, given how Ms. Klum is an authentic airhead.  Yet she makes horrible as a judge because the word got out that she likes to show her legs, and the competing designers construct their clothes to placate her.  Anywho, it’s my conspiracy theory.  She does have a nice figure, but perhaps a forty-year-old mother of four can try a different aesthetic.

Two weeks ago the episode’s theme was a night at the opera, and the winner Austin Scarlett described his gown as modest.  The judge Isaac Mizrahi (a far better designer than the regular Michael Kors) agreed with the description.  In absolute terms there is nothing modest about a bare-back gold dress, but perhaps what Scarlett and Mizrahi meant to say is that the design is seductive rather than slutty.  A very good development, I think.

Project Runway

Austin's opera gown. I'm not loving the black tulle. Does the gown need more of it, should it be heavier weight, a little less translucent or am I just not getting the concept? What attracts me to the gown is the black and white cinema vibe

I liked the runner up Michael Costello who, I thought, was on the trend and elegant.  Like everything high fashion both designs lack practicality.  If I’m going to the opera, I’m assuming the hall will be cold, so I’ll need a coat.

Opera gown

The runner up: Michael Costello's gown

Aside from the full length opera gowns, Project Runway is still turning out skirts so short, we’d have to wear pants underneath.  The entire garment industry seems to be stuck on pants and impossibly short skirts.  A year or so ago we were promised falling hemlines which were supposed to signal another year of recession because allegedly there is some sort of a relationship between the state of the economy and the length of skirts.

Spring 2011

One of the looks from the Spring 2011 Zac Posen collection when the falling hemline was forcasted. Am I expected to believe someone finds it attractive?

I lived through the 90s economic boom in the Bay Area.  I thought the variety of styles was opulent.  Virtually every collection featured a mini, a long skirt, a knee length skirt or — if none of that worked — a pant.  And, mind you, an average mini hanging in the stores in the “irrational exuberant” 90s offered more coverage than today’s Heidi.

Although I always gravitated to more feminine styles, I started to wear pants when I had to take babies to the park.  For a few years I held on to my maternity skirts.  Last year I finally decided to ditch my postpartum gear and buy a nice practical skirt.  Easier said than done.  The skirts were either so long that I’d have to hold them up with both my hands or, in most cases, so short there was no way I could bend over.  The Great Hemline Recession look.

In the last quarter the economy might have picked up a little, but the hemlines fell — at least on some catwalks.  I can now buy a pencil skirt, for which I credit Duchess Catherine who made a statement of elegant mid-length dresses, and not Barack Obama or the invisible hand.  Hopefully the trend sticks.

The classic cinema looks has been spotted on runways.

Spring 2012 Anna Sui

Spring 2012 Anna Sui

Spring 2012

Spring 2012 Banana Republic

Similarly, a structured mid-length pencil skirt was featured in Vogue’s most wanted:

vogue online

Anna Wintour approves

While young people have more disposable income, I’m surprised that there isn’t a bigger clothing market for middle-age women.  One would think that the success of the fabulously overpriced Anthropologie where, at least according to their product reviews, women of all ages like to shop, shows that quite a few of us in the 30+ demographic like something chic and feminine.  An American Housewife Formerly in London had similar thoughts on interior design.

When I was growing up we all had young beautiful mothers, and we were very proud of them.  While I obviously can’t turn back the clock, I would like to show my kids that a middle age woman can take care of her appearance.  What I don’t want to do is to wear skirts so short, I’d pass them when I was in my 20s.



  1. Although I’m not a middle aged women I rarely see them trying to look good. Either they gave up on themselves or their husbands gave up on them. Either way, only the “young” seem to care about fashion.

    Comment by Harrison — January 24, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

    • I use “middle age” in traditional sense. I’m 38. Some women my age think that they are young, but we are not. Honestly, I didn’t like being young that much; I think youth is overrated.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — January 25, 2012 @ 7:57 am

      • I am 38 as well. When I think “middle age” I think like 46. San Francisco women do make more of an effort to dress nicely than most (I’m not talking business people, etc…) but whenever I go outside the city it looks to me like Dress Barn or something. It’s like they just gave up (the men too).

        Youth might be overrated but old age causes death.

        Comment by Harrison — January 25, 2012 @ 10:19 am

        • Ha-ha!
          You thinking that middle age is 46 probably has something to do with not having a family. I was completely comfortable with calling myself a “girl” and didn’t think of myself as middle age in my early 30s, even though I was. People used to start families in their 20s, so I’m sure if you talk to your parents and grandparents, they have a different definition of youth.
          Beyond social conventions, when I was pregnant with my son, I was considered advanced maternal age. I was given an extra test, and although it came back negative offered another. I saw some not so happy people in the waiting room of Genetics Department. In other words, doctors were telling me that I’m no longer young. Amazingly, some women fight the advanced maternal age classification. They say that there is nothing wrong with their pregnancy. There is probably nothing wrong, but the risks are higher.
          Women in SF dress nicer, but how many of them have kids?

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — January 25, 2012 @ 11:55 am

          • Biologically speaking, I’d say 38 is, for most people, “middle age” in that you’ll make it to 76. Older generations had families in their teens… there wasn’t the time or the luxury of spending your 20s “finding yourself.” But technology and higher standards of living have given us more leisure time. When was the last time someone actually used a clothes line?

            S.F. isn’t friendly for families, that’s for sure. And if you have kids there are bigger fish to fry than seeing what’s the latest in Milan but it’s not necessarily following fashion trends as much as the wearing of sweatpants and ponytails that says: “I’ve given up.”

            My fiancee got into this habit of wearing cargo pants until I told her they made her look like this shapeless thing that had given up on life. That’s not the result of having kids more of being in a relationship. But “giving up” is the first stage of middle age I’m convinced.

            I suppose I will feel middle age when I look at myself in the mirror and say: “What in the hell happened?”

            Comment by Harrison — January 25, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

          • I don’t know your fiance or her tastes, but it’s nearly impossible to buy a nice skirt in this recession.

            Comment by edge of the sandbox — January 25, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

  2. Californians, come to Texas. You can find pencil skirts. And our middle aged women have not given up. (The opposite in fact, some are so worried about appearance that they forget everything else but kids. I’m stunned at prevalence of plastic surgery.)
    BTW, I didn’t like being young much, either. It was lonely.

    Comment by AHLondon (@AHLondon_Tex) — January 25, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

    • Unfortunately, I’m stuck in the Bay Area.
      In our age demographic the only women with plastic surgery around here are pole dancers.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — January 26, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

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