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Style Smackdown

I’m thinking of launching a new game show. I call it Style Smackdown. It came to me the other day when, for the four thousand and twelfth time, I opened my closet, sweater chest, and tee shirt drawer and it hit me like a smack to the skull that I have absolutely nothing to wear. Sure, I have a few decrepit pairs of cords and some black suit pants decomposing in the back of the fashion abyss that runs along my bedroom wall, but other than that, I’ve got nothing. Nothing stylish. Nothing “now”. Nothing that I really can’t wait to wear.

In an effort to smack back and fill my drawers, hangers and cubbies with cool stuff I’d actually look forward to putting on, I ran to my local Borders, staked out a spot among the magazines, and grabbed a fistful of fashion bibles. Ten minutes into Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, InStyle, Glamour, Marie Claire, and Cosmo, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a prayer of finding something “now”. But if I wanted something “then,” that could be arranged.  

Before I get to where I’m going and I promise, I am going somewhere with this, I’d like to take a quick poll. How many of you are reading this while wearing skinny jeans? How many of you even own a pair? And if you have succumbed to the attraction of these pencil-leg pants, I must know, oh fashion savvy sisters, what do you wear on your feet? Nice safe flats or sexy stilettos? Slouchy boots, or a pair of above-the-knee leather bad boys that look like they should come with a whip (for a very special, dominatrix-inspired date night, don’t you think?)

I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m betting that like me, most of you don’t clad your limbs in skinny jeans. Sure, you have a few friends who do, and some of them probably look darn good. But I’ll bet the rest of them look less like Paris Hilton than upholstered pears in their Rock and Republic’s. No, you’re not slipping into a pair of those suckers. Why? Because you’re not blind. And because years ago you made the most important of fashion purchases—a mirror.

I credit my mirror, my eyesight, and my common sense for keeping me away from the eighties-inspired styles that are making a comeback. It’s tough though. Page after page of magazines like Vogue, where you’d expect to see such silliness, to Redbook, where you’d expect to be spared it, are layering blousy bubble-hem mini skirts over leggings for a look that may have come from the catwalk but belongs on the court jester.

Of course, that’s just my opinion, but it’s one based on first-hand experience, in-depth research, and painfully personal trial-and-error product testing. After all: I went to college in the late eighties and unfortunately, I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

In one, I’m suffocating beneath a cowl-neck sweater with so many folds it could double as a Baby Bjorn. In another I’m wearing a pair of light lavender corduroy gauchos with purple suede cowboy boots. I distinctly recall buying both at Henri Bendel which but proves you can drop a bundle and still look like Barney. In yet a third photo, I’m posing in a white faux fur jacket worn atop a long-sleeved skintight silver turtleneck mini dress with matching sparkly leggings and valley girl boots. I look ready to dash from a John Hughes film casting call to a date with one of the guys from Devo.

Skinny jeans? Sure I wore them. From the front, they were fine. From the back, I appeared to have a huge hematoma distending from the base of my spine. Leggings and leg warmers? Had dozens that I paired with cut up sweat shirts. After all, who didn’t want to look just like Jennifer Beals? I even recall making the leap from Flashdance inspired clothes to catsuits and ankle boots, all the while wondering if, when I graduated, I could wear the stuff to work. (The answer: yes, if the job involved prowling the stairwells of the Port Authority during non-peak hours.)

What a feeling indeed.

 As for the dolman sleeved sweaters the stores and catalogs are carrying again? I confess, I owned several. My favorite was a black and white striped number that gave me a wingspan a wandering albatross would envy. They’re not something I’m buying now though. These days if I want my triceps to flap in the breeze I’ll simply strip down to my bra.

Maybe it’s just me, but I really think that if designers are going to pursue the “fashion-backwards” business, they should be required to add at least one modern enhancement to the clothing they pull out of the past. For example, if some hotshot designer insists on reintroducing the aforementioned skintight turtleneck mini dress the new version should come with a nuclear powered thigh slimmer and built in boobs. A two-pack of Gas-X attached to the tag would also be nice because if you bloat while wearing that baby, it’s over.

See what I’m getting at here? If stuff’s going to come back, it’s got to come back better. Don’t give us run of the mill leggings. Give us miracle leggings. The kind you slip on and in seconds have gams that should be insured by Lloyd’s of London. You want us to wear skinny jeans? Make them with magic fabric that prevents the “pear-in-a-sausage-skin” syndrome so many of us regular gals suffer from. Or somebody’s going to be sorry.

Of course there are certain looks that should never make a comeback. I’m talking about things like pants with waists so high you can rest your boobs on your belt, and tartan plaid ponchos with coordinating skirts. I guess such Emerald Isle style is appropriate if you’re applying for Grand Mistress of the St. Patty’s Day parade but other than that, why cough over twenty-two hundred bucks to dress like a bagpipe player?

Frankly I can’t believe I just spent forty dollars on fashion magazines. I’m still completely clueless as to what I should be wearing. The upside is that I know what I never want to be caught dead in. Leopard print bustier and cropped sailor pants come to mind, as do cuffed wool shorts, flowy dresses, and rabbit fur jackets with raccoon trim. I still haven’t gotten over the guilt for wearing that patchwork rabbit fur horror in junior high.

Maybe my decomposing pants aren’t so awful. They’re not fashionable, but they fit. And that prevents me from walking around naked, which I will be if my only other choice is a huge sweater cinched with a belt the width of a Great White, leggings, and legwarmers paired with pumps. What’s next? A Farah Fawcett “do” a la Carmen Electra? Now there’s a look that’ll send sales of Aqua Net soaring. Again.

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