I bought Elle magazine this week. I could not resist its siren call. It was the September/Fall back-to-school issue, the fat issue. You know, the issue loaded with more ads and ostensibly more features than usual, touting the latest in Fall fashions and back-to-school styles. It is, in fact, the only time it is acceptable to use the words “fat” and “fashion magazine” in the same sentence, no less the same issue.
I didn’t really look at the cover. I was transported by the magazine’s girth and recollections of decades ago Fall issues when I really cared about hemlines and waistlines and whether bangs were in or out, hot or not, and in a general sense, what was what and all the latest whatnots.
Flipping through the pages on the checkout line, I saw a couple of outfits that peaked my interest – a stylish pink coat and a tan slack suit with black lapels, buttons, and piping.
“I really have let myself go,” I thought as I tucked the magazine inside the reusable shopping bag beside the prunes, kimchi, and jellybeans.“Maybe if I look at all the new styles, I’ll get inspired.”
When I got home, I set the massive magazine down on the counter. It slipped off and smacked to the ground with such a loud thud that my husband and daughter both came running in to see if I was alright. Assured I was, they walked away – without bothering to pick the behemoth up off the floor or help put the groceries away. As I emptied the grocery bags, I ate jelly beans and thought evil thoughts about marriage, children and, for random good measure, Donald Trump.
Before starting to make dinner, I took another quick peek at the magazine and saw a white cashmere sweater with a cowl neckline and mother of pearl detailing. It was pretty and only slightly insanely priced. Maybe, just maybe I’ll splurge and treat myself to it. “Considering all I do for this family,” I muttered as I prepared the vegetarian, gluten-free and meat alternative dining options for my finicky family.
That night I tried reading Elle in bed, but the mega-beast was too heavy to flip through in a recumbent position and, without benefit of backlighting, like on my trusty iPad, I could not read the tiny print. Was the font this small when I was 17?
Two days later I moved the magazine from bedside to kitchen table, resolved to get a dose of chic while eating my lunchtime PBJ sandwich. The cover featured a sulky looking, not completely beautiful girl in a completely ridiculous, enormous black fuzzy hat. The copy accompanying this cover photo screamed “ITS … CARA!!! THE SECRET LIFE OF THE HOTTEST GIRL IN THE WORLD”Now I am not totally cool-less or clueless. I have heard of this model before, but I don’t know or care why she is such a big deal.However, I do confess a fascination with the crazy hat she was wearing. After combing through 120 pages of pocketbooks, lipsticks, eyeliners, and shoe ads, I got the “dets.” The hat is a fur chapka by Louis Vitton. Ah, a fur chapka. Huh? Merriam-Webster couldn’t help me, but that high priest of the Internet, Wikipedia, did not let me down: a chapka (plural chapkas) is “ a type of hat worn by 19th-century Polish cavalry, consisting of a high, four-pointed cap with regimental insignia on the front, and now associated with Polish independence and nationalism.” An inspired fashion choice for any 21st-century American civilian like myself – and I suspect, most of the Elle demographic.
I located the ad with that pink coat that had caught my eye when I first bought the magazine. Sadly on closer examination, I concluded the coat was a tad too youthful (and a tad too Easter bunny) for me. That tan suit with the black piping I liked was also a no-go for me. The long narrow jacket and my short torso with wide hips were not a fashion match made in Heaven. Even that dreamy white cashmere sweater won’t work. It was quite fitted and somehow my less than slim middle-aged midriff would be spotlighted to lamentable effect.
I was beginning to regret my purchase. Maybe I should have bought Real Simple or Good Housekeeping. Maybe I would have related more to those magazines. I look at the price of the fat issue of Elle. It was only $5.95. Well, that at least was a comfort. I hadn’t overspent on my increasingly obvious fashion faux pas blast from the past.
Determined to press on, I turned the pages of the glossy magazine, hampered somewhat by my sticky peanut butter jelly fingers. I eyeballed page upon page of spikey heels (ouch); huge, costly pocketbooks (ouch, my aching shoulders and wallet); and goth-colored make-up (ouch, my sensibilities).
I’ve got a bit more money these days than when I was younger, and I thought if I could at least ID a designer I liked, I would have accomplished something.Dior ads featured models with greasy hair and more of those towering, achy, breaky spiky heels. I haven’t worn heels like that since before I had children and before I developed a host of mid-aged foot ailments including plantar fasciitis and Morton’s neuroma. Greasy hair must be in because Prada models also sported the slimy, slicked-down look along with dark, militarist fashions. Ralph Lauren ads looked the same as they did when I first saw them in Seventeen Magazine, more than 17×2 years ago. They were overstuffed with competing, clashing fabrics and styles more befitting a country home and a young lady born of the manor and with classical beauty features than me, a mid-century homeowner, born more than a mid-century ago with decidedly non-classical features.
On and on I looked without finding either solace or suitable couture inspiration.Only Emporio Armani struck me as a potential style fit, although I wonder if the designer makes clothes above size 8.
Usually, when I read a magazine, I dog-ear pages I later want to pull out and make note of for one reason or another. In recent years I mostly collect recipes or the occasional new mascara to try. But after less time that it takes to do a load of delicates in the washer, I closed Elle with a sigh – and nary a folded page. I was not inspired by looking at skinny girls, one-third my age and weighing at least one-third less than I do. Besides, it doesn’t even get that cold in Berkeley. Who needs Fall and Winter clothes here anyway?
I used to smirk when my husband said, “I love you just the way you are.” Today I am grateful. After looking at “530 pages of THE NEW LOOK,” I concluded, I too love – or at least accept – me “just the way” I am.