A Middle Aged Woman Laughs (and Grimaces!) at Fall Fashions
By: Mary Fran Bontempo

I drove to the mall with my friend, Chris, last week in search of some cute fall clothes, armed only with my purse and debit card. Silly me. I should have brought my spear and hunting gear.

In department after department, we saw what looked like the remnants of wooly mammoths and mountain goats draping mannequins throughout the store. Vests, sweaters and other unidentifiable items resembled not so much clothing as fur covered tarps, designed not simply to keep one warm in the cold winter months to come, but to reaffirm our kinship with the animal kingdom by reminding us of when we needed to wear them to keep from freezing to death.

Let me hasten to add that none of this was real fur. (No need to start foaming at the mouth, PETA-ites.) But frankly, that only added to my bewilderment. As far as I know, none of us has to forge into the wild and slay God’s creatures in order to swath our families in their pelts. We have synthetics, now. Synthetics which, especially if mixed with a bit of spandex, could make for attractive clothing that actually gives shape—human shape, not that of a polar bear—to the wearer.

So why the fascination with looking like our four-legged, fur covered friends? Is it to prove our intellectual superiority? The fact that we’ve figured out ways to kill them and wear them? You never see them wearing us, so that must mean we’re way smarter, right? Perhaps it has to do with our ever-expanding waistlines. Maybe this is the clothing industry’s way of politely saying that we’re all starting to resemble a herd of cattle and we need to lay off the Twinkies. Or is it simply another misguided attempt on the part of the fashionistas who govern such things to come up with something new on which to force us to spend our money or feel hopelessly out-of-date?

Frankly, if this is the best we can come up with, smarter is definitely not a given. Anyone who willingly adorns themselves with an item that looks like the matted coat of a wet dog should be subjected to an immediate I.Q. test and whisked away for intensive reprogramming—in-patient, if possible.

The fat factor I concede. As a nation, we’re packing on way too many pounds. But has it gotten so bad that we should put on clothing that makes us look more like water buffalo than we already do? And why is it that they always create one extreme or the other—bulge hugging spandex or a fur covered tent fit for Shamu?

That leaves the fashion mavens who have indulged their ever present fascination with animal-look clothing by creating this year’s new, costly atrocities in faux fur. Right now, they’re either patting themselves on the back at their self-proclaimed brilliance or holding their sides and howling with laughter as they watch folks prepare to strut around looking like modern day versions of Sonny and Cher. They’re probably doing a lot of both, as anyone who can get people to spend their hard earned cash on this ka-ka is capable of working some kind of black magic and deserves a good chuckle over it.

I’m more than a little disappointed. As someone who walks around from May through mid-September in shorts, tank tops and flip-flops, I anticipate fall clothes shopping with a great deal of relish. I only purchase a few pieces, as I’m a clothes hoarder and still have fifteen-year-old sweaters in my closet. But every year, I look forward to buying one or two fashionable items to update my wardrobe and keep me from looking like I just stepped out of a time machine stuck in 1977.

And I’ve been known to rock a few faux animal pieces as well, in the form of fake snakeskin pumps or a leopard print belt or scarf. I’ll even concede to fake fur, in the form of a coat collar or cuffs on a glove. But adorning myself in a vest that makes me want to pick up a club and go into the yard to start a fire by rubbing sticks together is not on the agenda.

I have to thank the fashion brain trust for one thing, though. The money I was going to spend on new fall clothes? Zipped safely back in my purse, to be saved or spent on more sensible pursuits. This fall, I’ll just go shopping in my already packed closet.

Sure, my wardrobe may look like it’s from 1977. But at least you won’t have to check me for fleas.

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