Tag Archives: Fashion

Tall Barbie is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (except good marketing)

Good on Mattel for making a big splash last week about the new Fashionista Barbie dolls. Publicity equals sales. Yay, Marketing Department!

(I used to be a marketer. I get it.)

tall barbie

Leather & Ruffles Tall Fashionista Barbie

But I don’t think tall, petite and curvy Barbies with seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles do a whole lot for the evolution of girls.

Or least, the tall ones don’t. I won’t speak for the petite, the curvy, the green-eyed or the blue-highlight-coiffed among us (except to say, wasn’t Skipper petite?).

“We have to let girls know, it doesn’t matter what shape you come in,” Mattel’s promotional video says, “that anything is possible.”

Um, no. Not anything is possible.

Tall Barbie can’t be a jockey. And she doesn’t fit comfortably into a standard airplane seat. And there’s still no way her feet are proportionally sized; tall girls need a bigger platform on which to balance.

I was a tall girl. And Barbies of average height didn’t make me feel like a freak.

Boys did.

Here’s the real question, which Google couldn’t answer for me: Is tall Barbie taller than Ken? If not, tall Barbie is just another doll who fits into the expectation that boys should be taller than girls.

And not all of them are.

I distinctly remember the moment I figured this out.

It was seventh grade. Between classes, a hundred or more seventh graders rumbled through the basement of Wadena Junior High School, an ancient three-story structure that probably had lead paint and asbestos pipes (it’s long gone, and so is the evidence).

In the basement, the girls’ lockers, the girls’ bathrooms and the band room were grouped on the south side of the basement. The boys’ lockers, the boys’ bathroom and the shop (where all kinds of leather tooling, drafting and small engine repair were practiced) were on the north end of the long, low hallway that bridged the sexes.

In today’s age, I assume boys’ and girls’ lockers are evenly mixed between the shop and the home ec classrooms, but not back then. Yes, I know, you instructors of family and consumer science, home economics doesn’t even exist anymore. Some things change, some things don’t. Like how tall are adolescent boys in comparison to adolescent girls.

Back to my reverie. Between classes, I walked that hallway gauging how close the boys’ heads came to the ceiling. Because at 5-foot-8, I had a bird’s eye view.

This was the moment I became self conscious about my height. Shopping for pants only reinforced my insecurities. This was the ’80s, and high-water pants were the most embarrassing fashion choice I could make. Oh, yes, I needed the Nike swoosh on my shoes, and ponchos and peace signs had become weird throw-backs, but short pants? The very worst. Finding pants long enough for my inordinately long legs was a feat I would spend hours, days, weeks to accomplish.

By the time I figured out I was “too tall” in seventh grade, I was past learning lessons from any forward thinking Barbies. Maybe I was taller than all the boys (and all the girls for that matter) when I was playing with Barbies in second, third, fourth grades, but I didn’t realize it and playing with tall Barbies was not necessary then to make me feel less like a freak.

So this whole tall Barbie promotion amuses me. “Imagination comes in all shapes and sizes,” Mattel spouts. Platitudes are awesome in marketing materials. Hard to argue with that. (A better platitude would be that “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” but I’m just a critic.)

What tall girls really need more of is short Ken. Short Ken should never ask tall Barbie to wear shorter heels. He should never call attention to tall Barbie’s height except to comment lovingly on her long legs. When he slow dances with her, he should nuzzle her chest and tell her how much he loves the eye view. He should never complain about his own height because that makes tall Barbie conscious of her own.

OK, I kid. Tall Barbie needs to love herself just as she is, and to heck with what Ken thinks.

But I really hope her pants are long enough.

Fashion Flash back

Leg warmers were cool (if warm can be cool) when my fashion sense was awakening. This was the ’80s, when Flashdance was a thing, the movie that glamorized professional dancers and sweatshirts with ridiculously large necklines.

While they were hip (if lower leg coverings can be hip) in those formative fashion decades of my youth, I assumed those knitted tubes of warmth were historical relics.

Until yesterday.

When I bought a pair.

Apparently leg warmers follow the same fashion cycles as nautical gear and flared jeans. In the words of Carol Anne in Poltergeist (another relic of the ’80s of the celluloid sort), “They’re back!”

Booties are big (the short boots kind of booties, not the baby type), and I found myself a cute pair at the Big Box shoe store yesterday. But one can’t tuck one’s pants into short boots. That’s what makes leg warmers useful (we’re talking fashion here — leg warmers were never desireable for their warming qualities in the ’80s either, though as a girl growing up on the wind-washed plains of Minnesota, they did come in handy).

Also yesterday, I invested in a pair of bunchy socks in which to tuck my pants. Tucking my pants into my socks! It’s like climbing into a time machine! I’m a teenager again!

Wait, no.

I am not a teenager again.

And I’m not cutting open the neck of my sweatshirts, either.

Once upon a time, there were a pair of shoes and an ice cream cone

Nike made a light blue athletic shoe with its signature swoosh in white in about 1980. The toe was covered with light blue suede, and Nike named this style Oceania.

I coveted those shoes in seventh grade when shoes and jeans determined one’s place in the junior high popularity pecking order. I didn’t need them for athletics (and, in fact, I avoided activities that encouraged perspiration), but they looked mighty sharp with my Lee jeans.

One weekend not long after I got them (did I save up my babysitting earnings or did I wear down my parents with my constant whining?), my family went camping, maybe at Big Pine Lake. The campground offered hand-dipped ice cream in the camp store that was a converted big, red barn.

I remember savoring a cone of blueberry cheesecake ice cream outside that store. Extra creamy cream cheese chunks and pieces of graham cracker crust were woven together with blueberry ripple.

It was probably hot outside, and I remember that ice cream as some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

I found some blueberry cheesecake ice cream at a parlour today, and I had high hopes for it, but there was no graham cracker chunks.

Alas.

At some point back in the ’80s, I ripped the suede toe of one my treasured light blue Nike shoes. Probably not during an athletic endeavor.

There was no sewing it back to new. The shoes were ruined. The only way to fix the tear and prevent my toe from sticking out was to glue it with some sort of globby goo that dried sort of clear.

It was an imperfect solution that bummed me out every time I looked down.

For as long as I owned those trend-forward shoes, the toe looked like it had a big, melted drip of Modge-Podge that looked eerily similar to that yummy blueberry cheesecake ice cream.

A sunglasses eulogy

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We are gathered here today to remember a great pair of prescription sunglasses, a fashion statement that has seen me through many a sunny day.

The spectacles were purchased five or six years ago. They lasted longer than at least two pair of regular glasses. With their Vogue label, I felt trendy every time I donned them to shade the sun or cover up the fact that I wasn’t wearing mascara.

Some of my favorite memories of you, Sunglasses, are watching the sun rise behind Hampshire’s water tower when we were jogging early in the morning, when we saw the Minnesota Twins play spring training baseball under the Florida skies and seeing the Caribbean ocean over the rails of more than one cruise ship.

Years ago, you helped me keep score at a season full of Adored Stepson’s Little League games in the spring and then you shielded my eyes while watching several sunny football games in the summer and autumn.

When your bow twisted completely off a few weeks ago, I wondered if you might be reincarnated. By no, it was not to be. You’re irreparably broken, and now it’s time for you to go to the glasses case in the sky where there are no smudges and the sun is never too bright.

Thank you for your years of ultraviolet protection and fashion statement addition to my look. I will miss you terribly.

At least until my sunglasses with the wrap-around lens and tortoiseshell frames arrive.

Packing tips for the fashion conscious

Let’s begin with the concept of Fashion Plates when determining what to pack for next week’s conference of personal historians in St. Louis.

Fashion Plates was an artsy toy from the late 1970s that allowed you to “design” your own fashions with interchangeable plates embossed with outlines of shirts, skirts and pants. The young artist, or designer, would rub the embossed shapes to get the outlines, then color in the clothes with fashionable colored pencils. Voila! A new fashion design!

This is how a 47-year-old who played with Fashion Plates makes her packing list:

packing list

I start with a killer piece — the jeans that fit perfectly, a pair of black boots or a new jacket with a Kelly green print — and I build an outfit around it, drawing an ensemble for each day. A visual representation is a lot more fun than a list, and it helps me remember hosiery or jewelry that knocks the look out of the park (sorry to use a baseball metaphor, St. Louis).

Note: You should look at the weather forecast before drawing your packing list.

Another advantage of drawing your list is packing by day. Who says all your underwear needs to be packed in the same place in your suitcase? When I went to Minnesota recently and slept in a different bed each night, I packed a different bag for each location.

I even figure out what to wear on travel day so I’m not hemming and hawing in my closet when I need to get moving.

Off to design my list!

Bling and baubles for my feet

As I’ve aged, I depend on my shoes to make a fashion statement.

When I was young (and thinner), a cute pair of jeans said a lot about my style; I hoarded brands like Gloria Vanderbilt and red-tag Levis that were long enough. Unfortunately, cute jeans aren’t as adorable when you have a muffin top.

But shoes? Gaining a few pounds doesn’t show on my feet. Now those stilettos, they’re fashionable but unwearable at any age, in my opinion. Standing nearly 6-feet tall in my stocking feet, I’ve never been real fond of 4- and 5-inch heels.

Which makes these babies with 1/4-inch heels absolutely perfect for me. Besides fashion, these state “summer” even when the snow is still melting.

sandals

Aada flat sandals from Zigi Soho: Thank you, DSW, for the timely coupon!

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”

~ Marilyn Monroe

 

Blast from the past: Cheesy was once a treasure

As part of the Grand Home Office Remodeling project, I’ve been sorting through my files.

Yes, my paper files. I’m a dinosaur like that.

Among the treasures I unearthed while sorting each piece of paper in every manila file were these two brochures stashed in a folder carefully labeled “Fashion & Beauty”:

Boy, did they take me back. Oh, Multiples and Hairdini-helped French Twists were the height of fashion and beauty in the 1980s! The only things missing are Bonne Belle Lip Smackers and Maybelline Great Lash Mascara.

Dressing in theme for a Halloween party of spirit week? You can’t go wrong with shapeless jersey knit and tube belts. But wait! There’s more! I bought my Hairdini Magic Styling Wand from an infomercial, and it really worked! I had the best up-dos around.

I wish I still had some of those Multiples, but timeless, they weren’t. Why I still have the brochure with tips on pairing pieces, I don’t know. Ditto for the Hairdini instructions because the Hairdini itself is long gone.

Well, yes, I do know why I hang on to useless stuff long past its expiration. I’m a sucker with a hoarding problem who doesn’t understand the fallacy of sunk costs.

But I’m forging into the future resolving to do better.

Following the publication of this blog post, these brochures have officially completed their useful life, including this pointless foray of wistful nostalgia. I’m throwing them away.

I know a man who doesn’t pay to have his trash taken out. How does he get rid of his trash? He gift wraps it, and put it into an unlocked car.

~ Henny Youngman