Dress Up Or Dress Down?

easter finery“Innnn your Ea-ea-easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…” Remember that song from a million years ago? Remember when we all dressed up smartly come spring, the little boys in  blazers and the little girls in sherbet-colored dresses with matching ankle socks and hats? Oh and we wore little Mary Janes too!  My sister and I would bring our new Mary Janes to our grandfather reading in the wingchair of his bedroom and he would take out his pocket knife and scratch up the soles a bit, making it harder for us to slip and go down in all our ruffled finery.

I’ll admit I miss those days, living as we do in an era air when people saunter onto airplanes wearing their pajama bottoms and clutching their bed pillows. I miss the days when we sat up straight while traveling on public conveyances. I miss the time when gloves covered the hands of many ladies, sometimes even the hands of the flight attendant. I know I wore white gloves to a job interview at age 19, just because it was spring and the dress I wore seemed to cry out for those them.

Now of course all has changed and women rarely even wear dresses – well, besides the poor young meteorologists who are made to stand in profile in skin-tight sheaths against the weather systems they’re gesturing at on the swirling screens behind them.

For the last 30 I’ve been walking around in workout wear much of the time. Get up, pull on the gym clothes and get at that workout: that was the idea. Nike built a whole logo around it.

But then, just today on Facebook, I saw a picture of a high school friend’s wife. She is slim. She is attractive. But when I clicked on the photo to make it bigger and saw the look of those under-carriage-clinging yoga pants I had my own Road to Damascus moment. I came to realize something and that something is this: The only person who go every got away with wearing such tight pants was Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie in the old Dick Van Dyke show.

Something for me to keep in mind as I sally forth in the months and years ahead.

So yesterday was Easter and for Easter I wore a crisp silk shirt, a long swingy skirt, a favorite pair of outback-looking boots and a kind of Indiana Jones fedora. I felt pretty good setting our for our relatives’ house. I felt I had risen to the occasion.

Of course it was hot yesterday.

Way hot. So hot the cheeses all puddled – AND we were out in the bright hot sun for most of the day.

Almost immediately, I tossed the hat under a table lost the boots 30 minutes later and 30 minutes after that slithered out of the pantyhose by ducking behind a tree and working fast. THEN I could really enjoy the day!

Let’s watch these two stars showing off their finery while singing that old chestnut of a song. ‘He’, Fred,  has always been an icon of male elegance and I think we can all agree that ‘her’ hat is fabulous. It’s true that when I first saw her arms I thought I’d wandered into a commercial for eczema cream, or maybe a relief-from-psoriasis one, but no. That’s no skin affliction but a pair of long pink gloves.  My expectations are that altered in the distinctly less formal world we inhabit these days. Over to you now, Judy and Fred!

Vanity Vanity


You can’t obsess about what you’re going to wear to a particular event because Fate will punish you.

She will punish you for your foolishness and your vanity.

I took these pictures of myself so I could really examine how I looked in the navy dress I thought I might wear, something not seen in 20 years and found in the back of a third-floor closet. 

How I fretted over just the right thing to show up in for that evening wedding in Manhattan! 

I was trying to test it from every angle….

Close up and far away …


I did know that if I wore it I’d have to shorten it on account of the website I came upon of fashion Do’s and Don’ts for people my age. It said you definitely couldn’t show up at an event in an ankle-length dress from the 80s and the kind of  chunky white sandals that only Florence Henderson and I would think were just dandy. A dress like this say;IMG_5097

Do you still have this dress? I still have this dress!

But that website schooled me soo I had my pal Bob at Esquire Tailoring lop a foot off of it. 

And yes, the short sleeves made me look like I have upper arms like curtain swags but hey I actually DO have those arms so come on. For them I bought a white satin tuxedo-jacket kind of a thing at Nordstrom’s The Rack. It cost $125 – high for an accessory –  but it was marked down from $400 so I thought hey, I’ll wear it in my casket .

Anyway … the hour came to leave for the wedding , and I donned this get-up and stepped outside our hotel ….into a downpour such as you would expect to find only in the tropics. Even walking 15 feet to the waiting taxi drenched me. And when I slid onto the vinyl seat, slick with rain from the last passenger and his umbrella, the disaster was complete: both the white satin jack AND that navy silk dress puckered like the lips of Betty Boop., sprouted suckers like you see on an octopus’s arms, The last time I looked this bad was that time at Camp Fernwood wet my pants up onstage during the big Parents Weekend play King Hale of Health Land in which I played Our Friend the Beet, in a costume of purple crepe paper.

My togs looked like that crepe paper but you know what, do you know what? It didn’t matter a bit because it’s pretty much true that nobody’s looking at YOU Mom as my fifth grade son once told me. The wedding was truly memorable with a moving ceremony under the huppa, an open bar and platters of passed appetizers, mounds of cheeses and raw veggies, blintzes and I don’t know what-all else – oh I wait do know – a station where they serving the best hot roast beef and roast turkey I have ever eaten. And all this BEFORE we went upstairs for the real meal to enjoy a thousand vodka shots and many funny toasts.

The dress and jacket came back like new from the cleaners.


I’m still pretty partial to it so maybe I’ll l wear it to the bridal shower I’m attending this weekend. It’s so kind of Jackie O. in her Maurice Tempelsman phase don’t you know, bowed a bit by age but still …. still lovely and still sort of respecting any given day and dressing nicely for it.

(God Bless Jacquie gone too soon ! What a lady she was!)


Forget the Resort Wear

photoFour things I learned on my vacation:

Number One, if you’re not going with another woman, don’t bother bringing a whole lot of clothes. I brought five pairs of pants, seven tops, one of the new floaty cover-ups, two bathing suits, and a pair of shorts. I wore only the bathing suits, the shorts and the cover up, the last of which made me look like Mamma Cass.

I never wore the slacks. What was I thinking, five pairs of slacks in the Caribbean? I did once wear the pair I had travelled in, just that one night when we went to the real restaurant rather than the poolside one.

No, you should only bother about the nice clothes if you’re with your women friends who will appreciate every last stitch and bangle. 

You should totally NOT bother wearing them for your man, who is never going to notice what clothes you have on, but will look at you twice only when the clothes come off.

A bald assertion but a true one. In my experience. Ahem. 

Number Twohotels have all the white-noise action you need. You really CAN travel without your tiny fan and your whirring white-noise machine. You really can. Terry. 

Number Three, if you’re at a hotel high in the hills where you take your life in your hands to travel  by taxi on narrow cliffside roads, you’d better have brought  your book. Or, as my daughter said upon hearing about the place we just stayed at, you’d better really LIKE your book – because your book will be about it unless you are one who can sit in the ocean for hours at a time, letting the surf bat you softly about like a sea anemone.  

Number Four, Yes you can have fun finishing three books and the last six issues of The New Yorker, and yes it’s always satisfying to catch up on a million work-oriented emails while also keeping abreast of events in the whole known world; but if you want your head to really clear, next time, NEXT TIME, sit more in the surf, until  you feel yourself floating like all that nice aquatic plant life.



stevie nicksI was at the mall yesterday at my new favorite store there, which specializes in so many types of diaphanous raiment you’d think it was another era entirely; for here seems to be gathered every lacy top and angel-sleeved dress ever worn by the Mamas and the Papa’s Michelle Phillips or Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

So absorbed was I admiring in  this little cream-colored lace number, which the sales people had paired with a kind of soft wool cape woven in tones of peach and ivory, just the exact shades of a Creamsicle, that I didn’t even notice the beefy guy hanging by the counter clutching a cup of iced coffee as big as a half-gallon jug of milk.

“Hmmm”, I thought, “you wouldn’t take this guy for your usual Free People shopper”,  but then neither am I that, I suppose. I suppose I belong up the way at the Women’s department at Macy’s, pawing my way through tidy double-knit suits, but what can I say? I can’t forget that decade I was a young and not yet a mother when all us girls went about, even to the office, dressed in after-bath fashion, like Michelle here:

Michelle phillps

This guy though: this guy finally broke his silence.

“Hey so can I leave my coffee here?”

The two young women who, come to think of it looked a lot LIKE Michelle Phillips and Steve Nicks, regarded him saucer-eyed.

“Excuse me?” they said together.

He didn’t like that. “I’m tryna walk the mall ,SEE. And I don’t want to carry my iced coffee, SEE. So I’m asking you: Can I park it here and come back and get it after, or not?”

They were both young enough to know only a world where you get asked again and again at the airport if a stranger has given you anything to take on the plane ; where you get asked again and again if you packed your bag yourself, so of course they were stunned by the suggestion. Anyone would be, in this day and age.

They said no they were afraid they could not keep his iced coffee, whereupon he uttered a series of nasty phrases and stomped off.

He was in the wrong church AND the wrong pew, poor dope – maybe a little like Yours Truly who left the store with the ivory dress, AND the peaches-and-cream serape AND a crisply white flowing long-sleeved top.

HE didn’t get away with his caper. I guess it remains to be seen whether or not I,  who was born just a few years after Stevie Nicks, will get away with mine, haha. Fie on the age-appropriate!



Pointer Sisters ;-)

pointy brasAmen Amen I say unto you, buyer beware. You handmaidens out there especially!

Verily I say unto you, seek not the bras that promise to flatten for a more youthful look, for they will not hold your headset, your hair elastic, your quarter for the parking meter anywhere near as well as the regularly shaped pointy bras that Nature  has suggested you wear.

Your humble servant – this handmaiden herself – has been carrying her credit card in her bra for full many a year .

Then yesterday while wearing her new silhouette-reducing bra, her bright green Am Ex worked itself free in the parking lot just outside Market Basket and was gone a full 24 hours before your humble servant missed it, panicked, contacted American Express and finally called the store itself  to see if someone had perhaps turned it in.

Someone indeed had  and all is right with the world again but tell you what,  tell you what:

THIS handmaiden is back now for good in her trusty old Bali with the bow in front and the twin embroidery hoops under each cup.

Guard the goods! Live and learn!

money lost



Everyone But Me

laundromatPeople are crazy. I’m always asking myself: why can’t they be normal like I am? Why don’t they do things the way I do them, the right way, in other words?

And I know what I’m talking about. I get around. I go to laundromats for example. I watch the way people stuff their clothes into those washing machines. Crazy! 

SOME people – people in my own family, in fact – crowd up a washing machine like you wouldn’t believe. In go queen-size sheets, a few bath towels, a mattress pad, all in one load, and how is it going to get pounded clean THAT way?  I’d rather make a dress out of newsprint and wear that around than put on some of the clothes I’ve seen washed like that.

 Also, you hate to say it but a lot of people are crazy and nervy both. Young people, I’m thinking in this case.

 Young female people.

Who are my children. 

They won’t wear stockings, even in winters as frigid as this one just past. 

Their legs are purple. But will they listen if you mention this fact to them? 

They will NOT. And they then have the nerve to frame ME as some kind of throwback.  They even mock me, for the nice Queen Size Suntan pantyhose I happen to be sporting. 

Which, by the way, are wonderfully warm. 

AND make my legs look great. 

“Sausage casings!” they hoot. “You’re wearing sausage casings!” 

And speaking of nervy, Get this: I’m at the leotard-and-dance-shoe store stocking up on Zumba essentials this one day and I ask the clerk if she can point me in the direction of the tights.

“I’ll fetch them for you,” she says. 

“How tall are you?” she then asks, and I give her the same answer I gave at age 16 to the Registry cop who was filling out the paperwork after my road test.

“Five-seven,“ I said to him at the time, thinking, ‘Why not round it upwards, Terry? You’ll grow more …’

So, “Five-seven ” I say to the clerk. 

“Five-SEVEN?!” pipes up this perfect stranger beside me at the counter. 

“I’M five-seven and you’re totally shorter than me. Plus, look. I’m in ballet shoes and you’re wearing a boot with a heel. You’re no five foot seven!” 

I handed over my money and hurried away from that dame fast.

Damn fast, I can tell you.

So see what I mean about people? Nervy and crazy both.

Because isn’t a girl free to say what height she is?

I’m five-foot-seven! A cop said I am. He wrote it down. And his word lives on, right here on my license.  🙂

ottodrivers license



Um, Those Are Your Underpants

t ivy day ;70On a lighter note today, my pal Mary just sent me this video, made eons before MTV, of Nancy Sinatra and her own 60s-era fly girls, dancing to These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.

Did women really dress like this?

They sure did. My mom was 63 years old the summer my sister Nan and I got married and wore two mother-of the-bride dresses so comically brief above the knee they looked like paper doll outfits.

And as for the hemlines on the really young women?

Well here was our rule: if your fingertips didn’t brush skin when you let your hands drop down by your sides, your skirt was too long.

Nan and I would come downstairs set to go out for the evening and our mother would rattle her teacup in its saucer and tremble so hard her cigarette ashed all down onto her clothes. We both remember the time she yelled “Oh the bust! Oh the hem!” (Luckily we married at 21 and 23, young enough so there were no consequences to be paid for going about all tarted up like that.)


Anyway this is me before the Ivy Day Parade at Smith College.

I dressed this way for a ceremony! On Commencement weekend!  

We even dressed our babies with leg showing it seems.

This is from the Christmas of ’78. The shy one looking down is my firstborn Carrie. The leggy lass beside her is Nan’s one-an-only Gracie, as we called her then whose marriage I told about here.

70s babies xmas of '78

But on to the video, seven women in their underpants doing the pony and the swim and sort of a timid shimmy. Mary’s one wry sentence appended to the message she sent it with: “I still dance like this!” Haha, she does not (but boy did I laugh…)


It’s the Dress

barbara bush gownI’ve been watching the Inaugural Day festivities every year since Camelot. Sometimes I was rooting for the man of the hour, sometimes just hoping things would go well under him. Reagan seemed so jaunty and familiar; it made me believe all would be well in his term of office. (Pity the air traffic controllers who he soon fired! Pity those early victims of AIDS! Little did they sense what was coming – or in the second case wasn’t coming. (Attention. Help. Federal dollars.)

I felt the same with George Bush the younger, though I did wonder why Dick Cheney wouldn’t sing along to the national anthem. ‘What’s the deal with this guy?’ I remember wondering, long before the man’s ways and beliefs became familiar to us all.

I do enjoy watching it all. And like millions of us, I just love seeing the gowns.

The gown of Barbara Bush’s alone, worn by Bush Senior’s first lady, a lavish velvet edifice that is so ’80s’ you expect Molly Ringwald to open a little door  in the skirt area and step out of it!  That’s it up top. And how about Mary Todd Lincoln’s, immediately below? What I wouldn’t give to have that in our attic closet with 30 years of clothing and dress-up accessories!

mary todd lincoln gown

These deep rich blues seem like a popular color for January when the world is gone to shades of white and pigeon-grey. Hillary never looked lovelier in hers, from ’93.

hillary gown 1993But how gorgeous are the pales ones too. Like Lady Bird Johnson’s

lady bird gownAnd  Rosalynn Carter’s, speaking of Camelot. I had a bathrobe in the ’70s that looked just like this – or wait, maybe it was my wedding gown – but how cool is it that this was the SECOND time she wore this dress. Those Carters! Way ahead of the rest of us!

rosalyn carter gownOf course our current First Lady had one a real stunner four years ago, a dress that only a woman so obviously lean and toned could get away with wearing :

Michelle ObamaI can’t wait to see what she has on tonight!

And now for some Inauguration Day trivia, who is this First Lady, who wore birthday-cake pink for her gown? Way to go with that hunky date too!

she should never have gone to bangs

WHAT are we thinking?

from liz to angelinaI was looking at this ad here for People Magazine and all I could think was WHAT has happened to our standards of female beauty?

Look at Liz with those creamy shoulders and collarbones that just barely show under that satiny drape of flesh.

Then look at Angelina whose whole rotator cuff is on display, never mind just her clavicles.

Look at the difference in their upper arms!

I don’t know about you but I’ll be happy when the pendulum swings the OTHER way a bit.

Here is Angelina in evening wear. You could slice cheese with the blade of that humerus – right through her skin!

skinny arms on angelinaAnd here is Liz dressed the same way. Who looks better to you, hmmm? And who would you rather get a hug from?

liz taylor zaftig


And a Voice emerged from the crowd saying to the Prophet, “Speak to us of Speedos, Master!” And the Prophet answered saying,

“The person brought for the first time into the presence of the Speedo  at first startleth and turneth away, surprised at what a complicated structure hath been devised, not by the folks at Thpeedo, but by Nature herthelf. (Ack! Cough! There. That’s better.)

“Nature, Who causeth the mountains to shout to another over the plain and sometimes even throw rocks.

“Nature, Who maketh the trees to toss their long branches like unto crazed young girls at rock concerts, thus frightening the birds for hectares in all directions.

“Lo, even Nature,  Who hath devised the means for  the fat little birds to cling to their tree  branches, even while sleeping; which hath devised the means for The Great Large Birds With Funny Eyes to snatch The Rabbit from her clover dinner quicker than thou canst say ‘Holy Crap what was that?’

“On the body of Woman, the organs of increase are largely out of sight and yes, thanks very much the Prophet knoweth very well that he borroweth from Shakespeare when he uses that phrase. He also enjoys referring to himself in the third person and tough luck if thou dost not approve. (How many books hast thou sold? Serf?!)

“I tell you, Nature hath hidden The Woman’s complicated workings behind a magic curtain such as can be seen in the puppet shows on old Mister Rogers Neighborhood episodes. “But on THE MAN’S body it is a whole other thing:

On the body of MAN, it is All Right Out There In The Shop Window so to speak, and that being the case, this piece of men’s gear is just TRUTH IN ADVERTISING.

All these things have I said to you this day. Now please someone fetch me a beach towel. I believe I’ll Speedo up too and strut along the strand a bit myself.