Following some primal instinct, I find myself looking at the pastels and stark whites in my closet and drawers and think it’s time to move on. It’s an immediate response to the word autumn.
Suddenly, I’m awash in my own images of heathers and mosses, burnt oranges and crimsons. It all reaches a crescendo when the magazine ads start and the New York Times delivers its “Style” section with the Sunday paper.
So, on a recent afternoon, I sat down with a pile of publications on my lap, dreaming of finding myself on those glossy pages. That self is a confident woman with a reasonable sense of daring when it comes to clothes. That self owns lots of black and tan garments, like most safety-seeking women, but occasional purples and cranberries have been known to sneak in. Ditto for a few rich grays.
I am well beyond the age of innocence, so the sweet, little-girl styles that appear every few falls are out for me. I’m also not the type for extremes, my barely five-foot-two stature drowns in capes and elaborate bias-cut, draped silhouettes. But this year I was ready for some inspiration from the glossies on how to present myself now that the heat of summer is over.
Let me begin with bareness. I’d hoped that it was finally over. I thought that women would be discreetly covered again in their midriffs and other places. Not so.
Many of the highest of high fashions were actually low cut and bolder than ever. Especially in the high-end magazine layouts, fashions seemed to apply exclusively to women who have done their aerobics daily and subsisted on lettuce leaves.
Here’s what was topping the hit parade on the style pages I read:
A woman wearing something that looked like a mangled bear as an open jacket, with nothing underneath. Perfect for a run to the supermarket or a zoning meeting.
Two women bedecked in leather and spangles, one with a boa of feathers around her neck. Just the thing for the first-grade play about Tommy the Turnip.
Models dressed in so many layers of clothing, including blouses, vests, over-vests, jackets and skirts underscored by leggings, that it was impossible to discern what was happening, garment-wise. This was a look that would surely work well on a book club Zoom meeting.
Feeling a bit discouraged, but still waiting for inspiration, I pushed on through pages of shoes with stiletto heels, women in strange top hats and an ensemble that included a purple jersey with plunging neckline accented by a chartreuse jacket with metallic studs, a belt with what looked like bullets lining it, all of it teamed with a ruffled yellow skirt and red leather boots.
Let me note that in my long and presumably fashion-challenged life, I have never worn anything remotely like these “new fall looks that work with your life,” as one magazine promised. Nor have I ever succeeded in mingling more than three elements in one outfit.
Scarves that are supposed to “pull the whole outfit together” tend to either choke me or make me look absurd. Any neckline that plunges makes me feel self-conscious at best, horribly uncomfortable at worst. And I do not wear fur of any sort.
So here I am again, on that road paved with good intentions only to find myself stalled at the couture starting gate. Fall is here. The siren call of fashion is beckoning.
I’m planning to spend one day this week going through the hall closet where I’ve stashed my own fall wardrobe, such as it is. I’ll be resurrecting the pants I bought on sale at Target three seasons ago and the sensible, modest shirts with faint fall flowers that go with them. If I’m lucky, I’ll find no moth holes in my stored sweaters. And I may drag out my “occasion” dress, a basic black that doesn’t plunge or have peek-a-boo cut-outs down the sides. And I’ll keep waiting for salvation from fashion madness somewhere down the line.
Fortunately, I’m a patient woman.
Sally Friedman is a freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected]