Category Archives: frugal fashionista

I am NOT Too Old For a Miniskirt

Who do these people think they are telling me I’m too old to wear a miniskirt?  According to some weight-challenged Brits, no one wants to see women’s legs once we have sagged our way to our mid-thirties. A much passed around post in the Daily Mail proclaims 35 is the absolute cut-off for short skirts. Hubby strenuously disagrees with them and is begging me to buy MORE skirts just to prove them wrong.

DietChef, some British diet food distributor (a la Jenny Craig), supposedly administered a poll to 2,000 (British, dieting, and riddled with low self-esteem) women  asking the age at which certain items of clothing are no longer appropriate.

These legs can still rock a miniskirt.

The Results:

  • Bikini, 47
  • Swimsuit, 61 
  • Miniskirt, 35 
  • Long hair, 53
  • Ponytail, 51
  • Boob Tube (aka tube top), 33
  • Stilettos, 51
  • Belly button piercing, 35
  • Knee high boots, 47
  • Trainers (sneakers), 44
  • Leather pants, 34
  • Leggings, 45
  • Ugg boots, 45
  • See-through chiffon blouse, 40

How is it possible that 35 is to old for a miniskirt but a bikini is just fine until age 47? Trust me, the general public would much rather be forced to stare at my legs in a short skirt than my bit of muffin flopping over my bikini bottom. And how is it that a mere 14 years later at the ripe old age of 61 women should no longer even be SEEN in a swimsuit?  What are we supposed to wear, some kind of geriatric swim costume?

Obviously these people have never been to Daytona Beach, home to the never-ending parade of 85-year-old women proudly showing off their tans, tattoos, and sagging cleavage in fluorescent bikinis.  (A few of these former biker babes WAY past their prime have made Hubby shriek and spew Cheetos and Kiddo point as if a painted whale just crawled up from the sea.)

For most women, there is a cut off age depending on her body type and modesty level, but are these pollsters saying that their own Dame Helen Mirren should not be allowed to wear any swimsuit?  She looks better than me (and probably you too) at the “old” age of 65.

I am rather surprised by the late age cut-off for long hair and pony tails.  As soon as I hit 30 my dad told me I was too old for my long locks and informed me I looked much younger once I chopped them off. (I didn’t cut my hair off for him, I just couldn’t handle the then infant Kiddo trying to scalp me as he practiced grasping and pulling.) Should we all be required to go in for weekly set and curls once we hit the big 5-0?   It has to do with style people.  If you are trying to look like you did at 16, you are going to look old and inappropriate.  No matter the length, if your hairstyle is current you can wear it well at any age.

No trainers (sneakers) after 44?  Are we supposed to give up exercising completely or only go to classes like yoga, Pilates, and water aerobics which don’t require shoes? No, that wouldn’t  work either.  Yoga and Pilates are most comfortable in leggings (forbidden after 45) and swimsuits–well, we already discussed that one. And some peoples feet just need to be covered.  I refuse to trade in my walking shoes for colored leather flats with tassels AND pantyhose with shorts.  My (well over 44) M-I-L just tried hiking the LA canyons in leather flats.  BAD idea.  I just won’t do it.

Somehow shorts didn’t even make the list.  How can that be?  Women, heck, little girls even wear inappropriate shorts at all ages.   Have these people never cruised the mall or stepped foot in a Walmart?  The amount of erroneous shorts choices is just appalling.  Some days you just have to stare at the floor to not get freaked out. Oh wait, the list was compiled by Brits–they only wear shorts while on holiday in some sunny, foreign locale.  Try and tell a woman sweltering  through waves of hot flashes in the deep South she is forbidden from wearing shorts.  Do it and run. I dare you.

We should make a list of all the items MEN shouldn’t wear after a certain age.   Starting with:

  • Speedos–forbidden once potty trained–3
  • Make-up and nail polish–16 (or once they drop out of their garage band)
  • High school jerseys, jackets and other paraphernalia–the day after graduation-18
  • Capris–just pick shorts or pants–4 (because it takes a while for their legs to catch up with their waists)
  • Disney themed apparel–10 (any older and they will rightfully get beat up)
  • Heavy fragrance (i.e. Polo, Drakkar Noir)–18 (or when they actually get a girlfriend)
  • Skinny jeans–16 (and a GIRL)
  • Birkenstocks--24 (once they graduate college and/or stop smoking pot)
  • Crocs–10
  • Tank tops–age 8 (or once they stop coming with the matching swim trunks)
  • Sports jerseys–unless you are actually on the field/court/rink don’t do it
  • Bow ties–only with a proper tuxedo and then only black or white
  • Leather pants–never
  • Navy blazers with brass buttons–65 and up only
Are you a rule breaker?

What else should be on the Men’s list?
I’ll be sitting here in my boob tube and miniskirt waiting your reply. 

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Vintage Barbie was a Vamp

My Vintage Barbie was far more Liz Taylor than Sandra Dee.  She could melt a man (made of plastic or not) with her seductive, heavy-lidded gaze.  You could have spotted her posed at the bar of the Ritz, a cool Singapore Sling cocktail in her manicured hand.  She would have never set a perfectly pedicured and stillettoed foot in a pastel pink soda shop or plastic McDonald’s.   Her clothes were sophisticated but sultry, far from revealing yet clearly to mature for your average teenager.  She was, in fact, a respectable 22 years old when my mother ceremoniously passed her into my small and eager hands.  A mature college graduate with a Jackie Kennedy bouffant instead of a perky, pony-tailed  and overly-endowed teenager.

My Barbara Millicent Roberts was a single girl in the city (long before we discovered sex or the television series).   Her budding career changed as frequently as her clothes–one day she was as a copywriter at a slick New York ad agency straight out of Mad Men, the next a fashion buyer at Bloomingdale’s or an editorial assistant at Vogue.  She could have been a flight attendant, but only on private charters escorting celebrities to exotic destinations (which she photographed for travel magazines).  She would never have considered mermaid, fairy, princess (except for a brief dalliance with the idea around the time of Lady Di’s wedding), or Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader to be acceptable career choices.  And babysitter and dog walker were certainly left for young Skipper and her friends.

My Barbie did not live in a townhouse or dream mansion.  How could a cosmopolitan girl-about-town afford a place like that, really?  She was no  Holly Golightly on the fly, nor would she ever settle for being a kept woman.  She rented a chic little loft or pied-à-terre in the city. 

Malibu beach parties were far to unsophisticated for her tastes. My Barbie would have been found lounging on the sands of the French Rivera before a big night out in the casinos of Monte Carlo.  If Ken wanted to catch her eye he had better be wearing a custom tux, drinking a martini (shaken not stirred), and charming her with some witty yet intelligent repartee while he won big at the baccarat table.    If he happened to be a prince,  he was too busy learning how to efficiently run a country to be prancing around in tights and singing sappy songs.

 Then came the inevitable, a pre-adolescent right of passage which causes every feminist to cry out in pain. Brainwashed from years of watching Saturday morning cartoons (back when they were ONLY on Saturday mornings) and caving into peer pressure, I cast Vintage Vixen Barbie  aside for a bubbly embodiment of anorexic cheerleading princesses everywhere. I saved up all my allowance and birthday money to buy my very own fresh-faced Pretty In Pink Barbie doll complete with a ratty pink fur stole and gossamer nylon cape.   Her face was sweet and wholesome, like a mid-western homecoming queen just dropped at the gritty L.A. bus station.  Her outfit was a teen pop diva’s dream. She went to pool parties and attended Sweet Valley High.  She dated Ricky Martin (a la Menudo days…if only she had known).  She still didn’t have a Dream House or pink corvette, but she hoped her part-time modeling gig would pay off soon and hung out with carbon-copy BFFs who shared their wealth.   Her wardrobe shifted into tacky 70’s and 80’s ensembles (legwarmers!) but she still had some fabulous shoes.
Little did we know back in those days of innocence why my beloved Vintage Barbie had such a seductive, come-hither gaze.  She’s not the all-American teen fashion model we believed her to be.  Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, produced her after discovering Bild-Lilli: a surprisingly similar doll based on a sexy German cartoon.
Bild-Lilli 1955 vs. Barbie 1959

Lilli was a curvaceous country girl who came to the big city to work at a newspaper and used men to get exactly what she wanted.  She was sassy, showed off her hourglass figure with tight skirts and spiked heels, and was referred to by many as basically a prostitute.  Her advertising tag line proclaimed, “Whether more or less naked, Lilli is always discreet.”  So, yes, Barbie was based on  a novelty doll marketed towards *ahem* adults.
Male adults.

Now that I have discovered Barbie’s scandalous history do I think any less of her?   Not a chance.   She was Carrie Bradshaw before Chick Lit, a Mid-Century Scarlett O’Hara bursting with her ambitions and desires.   Far more a smoldering young Sophia Loren than Gidget.  And far more interesting.
I always realized that I would never have Barbie’s 38-19-33 measurements, flawless skin or luxurious mane of hair.  She is a doll.  I never suffered through years of depression, eating disorders, or surgeries trying to become a cheap piece of plastic.  But I wanted her life–not the prostitute’s or the blond beach bunny babe’s–I wanted to be the chic city girl savvy enough to utilize both her brains and beauty.   
And I wanted her fabulous shoes.

I still do.

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Thrift Store Shopaholic

I have a confession.

I rarely set foot in real stores yet  my closets and drawers are overflowing.  I was forced to buy two packs of  hangers last week and  cleared out the guest room closet to handle the overflow.  My Kiddo has a wardrobe stocked with the next two sizes up just waiting for him to grow into.   And I would rather slit my wrists than pay retail.

I  am a thrift store shopaholic.

I’ve been a savvy clearance shopper for years.  I bee-lined to the back of every store I set foot in and had sale rack scanning down to a science.  I memorized store mark-down schedules and regularly made the rounds. But that just wasn’t enough for me.

I had to take it to the next level.
I decided to brave a thrift store.

 I admit, I hung my head slightly as I shuffled across the parking lot, hoping no one driving by would see me and think I was there because I HAD to be.  I hugged my purse tighter and was a little afraid of who else may be lurking inside.  Despite my doubts, I was overwhelmed as rack upon rack of colored and styled clothes stretched as far as I could see.  Thousands of items, each one unique, and all begging for a new closet.  I started flipping through the rack timidly, assuming it would be worn-out discount department store rejects.  After 5 minutes my arms were overflowing with finds and I went in search of a shopping cart.   Cashmere sweaters, preshrunk designer jeans, adorable summer skirts, vintage little black dresses, chic leather jackets, unique accessories–I had died and gone to budget fashionista heaven.

A few of the tips I have learned through trial and error:

  • Ignore sizes.  They vary brand to brand anyway.  Almost everything is pre-washed and preshrunk.  If it looks like it might fit, try it on.
  • Know the merchandise.  A used Walmart t-shirt for $2–not such a deal.   A NWT Banana Republic cashmere sweater set for $3–a steal.   Learn how to spot quality fabrics and brands from a distance.
  • Dress for success.  Some stores don’t have fitting rooms.  Some fitting rooms have a half-hour wait.  If you come prepared in a skinny tank and leggings you can find a mirror and explore your inner exhibitionist.
  • Buy off-season.  If you go looking for warm jackets during a January cold snap you will be sorely out of luck.  Look in July and you may have dozens to choose from.
  • Ask if the store runs sales.  Many stores discount a particular colored tag each day.   My secret store is 50% off all clothes each Wednesday.  It’s an absolute madhouse–but utterly worth it to me.
  • Carefully check out the goods.  They are “recycled.”  Some stores inspect items thoroughly but others may put out items stained, ripped, or torn.  If it needs to be repaired, it had better be worth the work.
  • Check back often.  You never know when some style maven may clean out her closet because she’s bored or changed sizes.
  • Don’t get discouraged.  Some days I find 25 steals I simply cannot live without.  Some days I find crap.  You never know.

The only time I venture into a mall now is when I get my coupon for free Victoria’s Secret panties in the mail.  I have nearly stopped making my rounds at Ross and T.J. Maxx because I know if I am patient, persistent, and sometimes just plain lucky I can find whatever I am looking for (and usually more) for practically pennies.

Every Wednesday I am overwhelmed with the urge to be at my secret store.  I shudder imagining the steals  someone else is swiping if I am not there.  I feel the store calling me, tempting me, like a discount liquor and package store calls every alcoholic for miles.  My family now has so many clothes I often show up at the thrift store with a bag of donations.  I’m all for recycling.

Amongst my fellow thrifty SAHMs I will gladly brag about how cheap I find my clothes.  (Them: Love your shirt.   Me: Thanks!  {whispered} Salvation Army.  $1.50!)  I try to convert my friends after each compliment I receive but only if they don’t wear my size.  I don’t want the extra competition.

When complemented by other less enlightened folk I simply give a knowing smile and a modest “thanks.”

It’s vintage. It’s recycled. It’s unique.  It’s me.

Now if I only had someplace to WEAR all my little black dresses…

I am a grocery shopping addict

Hello, my name is Vinobaby, and I am a grocery shopping addict.

There. I’ve admitted it. My coupon clutch runneth over. My pantry overfloweth. I eagerly await each week’s sale flyer, then peruse the goods, carefully circling my favorite buys. The glimpse of an unadvertised in-store special makes my heart race. I clutch my receipts like a trophy at the end of each trip, and give a only nonchalant smile when the cashier says, “Wow, you did great!” And my receipts are long and lean.

Which may be the problem. As a SAHM on a tight budget, trips to the grocery are not only allowable expenditures, but essential. It is the one place where I can leisurely stroll the isles, browsing the new merchandise, filling the cart to the brim with goodies I feel good about buying.

Now, I don’t mean for it to sound as if I am on a leash (tight, studded, or whatever you may imagine). In our household, I actually control the money, bills, and all expenditures with an iron fist. But I know at least once a week, depending on how many stores I hit, I can swipe my debit card absolutely guilt free.

In fact, I am quite proud of my receipt totals. I was a coupon clipper and bargain hunter extraordinaire long before it became trendy. I saved my Mom’s expired coupons as a little girl. In college, once I actually started buying food myself, I rediscovered the value of those little pieces of paper (hey, saving sixteen bucks back then was giving me a lot of beer money). Once I had my Kiddo and our income was cut in half, my monthly savings enabled me to stay at home with him.
Checking the totals at the end of each trip became a high. How much did I save compared to spend? I don’t meal plan or create weekly menus or any of that crap. I buy what I know we like that is on sale. If our favorite brand of pasta sauce is on sale BOGO, I stock up and buy ten jars. Pasta is on sale too? I have a coupon, so each box will be almost free–I know I have eight boxes at home already, but how do you pass up 19 cent pasta? I know they will be used…eventually…
I never know what is for dinner each night until about 5 p.m. and I decide what I am in the mood for. I actually like to cook. Sometimes dinner is a culinary masterpiece straight out of Gourmet, sometimes it’s dolled-up Hamburger Helper, but whatever I may want, the ingredients are most likely well stocked in my pantry and freezer.

I suppose this addiction may be at least partly genetic. As I was growing up, my Mom’s overstocked pantry was something I would show my friends for shock value. They may be scrounging up anything in the fridge not covered in mold for dinner, but in our house there was a selection of every mix, can, or box readily available for a home cooked meal. Want cake for dessert? There were at least 6 different boxes of cake mix (and coordinating frosting, of course) to choose from. We would joke that if there was ever a hurricane or Armageddon, the party would be at our house.

My Mom is also the only person I am aware of that ever injured herself with this addiction. She opened her packed (yet amazingly organized) freezer one afternoon and a frozen quiche fell on her foot. When I came home I found her crying on the kitchen floor with an ice pack on her foot, waiting for my Dad to take her to the E.R. for an x-ray. Horrible daughter that I was, I just couldn’t stop laughing, and later had a great time telling everyone how my Mom broke her foot. Alas, now I can wholeheartedly sympathize with her plight.

Ever girl needs a hobby, right? I just happened to make mine more productive than say scrapbooking or knitting. Every week is a new challenge, trying to make the bill go down and the quantity of bags go up. And we get to savor the end result. I’ll take some Boursin and Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken with a side of Truffle-Scented Mushroom Risotto any day over a crotchet toilet paper cozy.

Yesterday’s total was a whopping $36.92 with a savings of $77.98. Not too shabby. The only problem was my cupboards were full to the brim and my freezers were overflowing. Ugh oh. But we have saved so much over the years that I get a bigger, brand new energy efficient freezer next month for my 10th Anniversary present. No diamonds for me–practical gifts thrill me.

Now off to the pantry. What shall I make for dinner tonight…?