Mirror mirror on the wall…
I watch the zillion makeover shows we are now being bombarded with on TV (How far are we from a Makeover Channel—all makeovers, all the time?) but instead of being simply amazed at the transformation, I’m astounded that Susie Schlub, in her sweats or mom jeans, oversize frumpy top (whether she is oversize or not) and sneakers didn’t do something before she was ambushed-or secretly submitted as “deserving” (which means they’re tired of her looking like hell) by a well-meaning daughter or friend. I am particularly intrigued by the programs that show Ms. Frump actually looking pretty fly at some point in her past. What happened?
I sit in front of the boob tube transfixed, not by the jaw dropping results, but by the fact that Susie didn’t seem to notice that her boobs were taking a nice nap on her waist before the Makeover Magician showed her what a proper bra could do. Is poor tired, tragic, overworked Susie visually challenged? Does she live in a world without mirrors? How could she not know that her hairstyle, which was probably only marginally fashionable in 1982 is hopelessly outdated in the 21st Century?
How could she not know that her sensible denim skirt isn’t appropriate for every occasion—heck – that it’s hardly appropriate for ANY occasion? Couldn’t see that shoes with run over heels need a visit to the shoemaker or maybe just to be thrown out? Never mind the help available from fashion magazines, catalogs, stores, TV shows and movies. A plain old mirror—purchased at your local discount store and nailed on the inside of a closet door or even leaned against the wall— would have done the trick. Why oh why didn’t she see herself?
Then Susie Schlub is whisked off for some dazzling duds, a clever coiffure and magic makeup. And in the reveal, Voila! We have the modern, refreshed, jazzy— Susie Sharp! We’ve all seen these memorable moments and old Suze looks great! Mostly not the Naomi or Giselle unrealistic/unattainable standard we’ve been taught to compare ourselves too, but so much better than before that she’s hardly recognizable to herself. Then Susie breaks down and begins to weep—“I didn’t know I could look like this! Oh! Thank you. Thank you….” Now we’re not talking plastic surgery makeovers here—maybe a little teeth whitening – but the rest is the easy stuff.
And I’m still sitting there shaking my head wondering why didn’t you do this sooner? What were you waiting for?
The more I watched the clearer the answer became. These women, young and old, fat and thin, tall and short, married and single all had one thing in common. They had given up. Some may have given up before they started, some after getting married, having children, retiring, becoming ill, losing a job, husband, parent—but to a one, they had each become resigned to the idea that how they looked no longer mattered–that cute didn’t count anymore.
Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a big ol’ crock of “*ish”. CUTE STILL COUNTS. I will say it another way. CUTE ALWAYS COUNTS. It counted when you were a baby and your Mom dolled you up. It counted at six when you got that new dress to wear for your birthday party or Easter Sunday. It counted when you were fourteen and hoped “he” noticed how cute you looked in your heather blue box pleated mini skirt and matching knee socks. It counted at twenty five when you were trying to impress them on the job. It counted when you planning to say “I do.” It counted when you put on those awful, (pre-Liz Lange stylish maternity-wear) “hatching jackets” with the dumb, sweet Peter Pan collar and bow meant to conceal your baby bump. And CUTE COUNTS now too, you have just forgotten how much.
I will concede that I probably have a predisposition to Cute Counting I understand (because I was too young to remember- but there is photographic evidence) that when I was little, in the small southern town where I was born, I was “everybody’s baby” and was gifted accordingly. My mother, in order to make sure I had a chance to wear all the adorable clothes I was given, took to changing my outfits, from hair ribbons right down to socks, several times a day.So CUTE was a part of my agenda before I knew or had any control over it. I admit, remnants of the changing clothes a few times a day thing are still a part of my life.
Even in the housedress hausfrau 1950’s, my mother always did her hair and wore lipstick every single day. My dad, who worked in construction and dressed accordingly, had his Sunday and Friday/Saturday “Up the Street” suits, sports jackets and tuxedoes tailor made. As a girl, I remember going to Charlie Baker Clothier with him to look at fabric swatches and pick out buttons—because all of it mattered. Now back to my mom. In her early 80’s she brought quite unexpectedly to a halt by some fairly debilitating health issues. Even after months of being house or hospital bound—she rolled her hair every night and put on her good
robe for company because she never stopped being concerned about her appearance. Her first trip out was to the hairdresser. A few years later, when my sister went shopping and returned with a selection of dresses for Mom to choose from for an upcoming outdoor summer wedding— Mom hinted in a not so subtle aside, “and you know I think I’d also like one of those long flowy peasant skirts everyone’s wearing this spring,” My sister got her a purple one.
So whether it’s nature or nature, my awareness of the idea that how you look affects how you feel, and how you feel affects how others see and treat you, is now so thoroughly ingrained that it no longer matters from whence it cometh.
What does matter is that you goeth out and get some CUTE. Do not let the dreaded closet doldrums—which creeps and chokes like kudzu—take over. Do not surrender. There’s help aplenty available.
So if you are still boxed in business suits leftover from our “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar/Dress for Success” days of the 70’s and 80’s, dressing up to go out to dinner in the same outfit you wore to the Mother’s Day luncheon at church, and your donning your fancy formal duds means a dowdy evening gown that screams “Queen Mum”, or a repurposed Bridesmaid’s dress circa 1987 you drag from the back of the closet, you may not be totally lost, but your trail of breadcrumbs has definitely gone stale.
It’s time to get yourself back on the road to CUTE.
Get help if you need it. You go to the doctor, dentist, and hairdresser for their expertise don’t you? Every major department store has a personal shopper and it’s her job to help you find clothes that suit your body and your lifestyle requirements, whatever the size of your butt or your budget.
Contrary to what you may think, what you wear is not solely about vanity, it is largely about self-esteem. Back in the days when I used to commentate chubbette (plus-size) fashion shows for Hanes Fitting Pretty Pantyhose, in department stores around the country, I was not nearly as interested in what was on the runway as I was in convincing members of my audience that they could and should treat themselves as well as they did others—that being on the “stout” side— didn’t mean that unflattering clothing was somehow a just punishment for avoirdupois. It was a hard fought battle and I suspect this one may be too.
But I won much of the time—no actually the women in the audience won. They went into the dressing room and tried on something new and fashionable and more often than not, they walked out of that store with much more than a new outfit. They also had a new attitude.
Then it was fat frump I was fighting, now it’s age frump (and maybe fat frump too.) But do not let the unlined, uncellulited youth corps get you down. There’s a lot of clothing between teenage trashy—oops! I mean teenage trendy, and resignation retirement rags. No you can’t dress like your fifteen year old daughter or the twenty-three year old hostess at your favorite restaurant, but even without belly baring shirts (no navel piercing please) and low rise pants (I also suggest that you pass on the above-the-crack, tramp-stamp tattoo) BELIEVE ME, you can stay hot—or get hot for the first time!
Re-read this Lesson
Write “Cute Still Counts” 100 times.
Say “Cute Still Counts” 100 times—it’s now your mantra.
Try on something you ordinarily wouldn’t. (Other than short shorts and a tee shirt that says “Jail Bait” in glitter.) THIS IS IMPORTANT!!
If you look cute, not shocking mind you, CUTE (that’s what the three-way mirror is for) BUY IT!
THEN WEAR IT!