Oldest woman in the bistro: Top of the table

This bit of dialog is from the film "Private Life"; it's between 26-year-old Sadie and her aunt, Rachel, nearly 40:
Sadie: "Wait! You're not draping, are you?"
Rachel: "What?"
Sadie: "God, my mom went on this jag where she got rid of, like, everything in her closet that was even remotely form-fitting, and now it's just like cowl necks, and tunics, and draw strings, and shawls, that whole Eileen Fisher thing. It's like she doesn't even have a body anymore, she's just drowning inside all this fabric and erased all sexuality from her being. It's like she's been spayed."

The mortified Rachel squirms out of her long cardi; the camera makes sure we see that inevitable label.

Ooof! The lithe twenty-six year old gaze levelled at middle-age 'comfort' contains a little truth and a lot of pain. "Just wait, young lady", you might be thinking— I did.

A few evenings ago, we went to a bistro well-populated by Sadie's cohort, where I was easily the oldest woman patron, now that I look back. I noticed how many young women were leaning over their glasses of vin nature in sleeveless thin knits, one-shouldered little black dresses, and camisole tops thinner than a dryer sheet. "Aren't you cold, dear?" I wanted to ask. 

(I wore an olive-and-black Oska top like this, slim black trousers and large gold lotus earrings.)

I don't think women go shopping with the plan, "Hmm, I need a shapeless top", but North American department stores are stuffed with them, once you get out of the junior department.

Here is a selection of shapely blouses— because at a restaurant, it's what's above the table that shows:

Left: A pretty, dressy blouse: Anne Fontaine's "Velfy" has sheer sleeves and gorgeous detail, brilliant for those not wishing to bare arms.
Centre: Alexa Chung's gathered floral-jacquard top may be s/o by now on netaporter, but I wanted to show a restaurant blouse that's quite covered up, but hip. Chung is consistently delivering interesting clothes at a below-luxury price point.
Right: A white shirt that did not come from the office. This is especially for you, "chic swordswoman" of Montréal: fencing shirt from Scottish designer Totty Rocks.

These can be worn over the top of trousers or a skirt, but do not look oversized.

For those who chill easily, keep your sweater on, but make it interesting:

Left: ca va de soi's "Ernestine" merino-cashmere cardi in the softest turquoise. The slight decolléte is alluring (wear a cami or not),  the colour sensual and mysterious.
Top right: Arket's Square-Neck jumper is subtly sexy, and shows off the collarbones; in black and ecru cotton-blend.
Bottom right: Marina Rinaldi cotton-blend sweatshirt (plus sizes). I learned this trick from a film costumer friend: to look especially current, dress slightly into the next season.

None of these are bargains, but I've found similar in consignments and on super-lucky days, thrifts. Each could carry you for years of tête-a-têtes.

Behind the yowls of protest from women Rachel's age on up about "being invisible" is dismay about loss of vitality, which typically includes sexual attractiveness. (That means, whomever you want looking at you, isn't.) That allure beams easily from the young, but needs deliberate thought as we skip through life.

I'm not talking about objectification, I mean our own rightness with who we are. Operational definition: Gloria Steinem at Sundance Festival this winter:

Age 85, and not a drawstring in sight.


Jane said…
I enjoyed this post. Another blogger I read invites her over 50 readers to submit adjectives that describe their style. She then compiles a style slideshow for the chosen reader. I don't think anyone wanted to look "sexy", but why not? No one definitely wants to see my midriff, but a low cut vee, an extra button left open? So many rules! We all need to lighten up a bit. -Lily
Duchesse said…
Lily: One of my friends, who is 63, calls it "feeling juicy". She means her choices are not about 'sexy' per se, but the sense of engagement with life.

The approach of the blogger reminds me of the book "Style Statement" (by Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy), which leads a reader through a detailed analysis of preferences and lifestyle to eventually arrive at a two-word description of her style that she can use to guide choices. I did it, it validated my inchoate sense.
If you have boobs like mine, you don't wear that green Alexa Chung top at either 15 or 65. Yes, I know it is important for clothing to be fitted, since you have a body in there, but not tight or uncomfortable. Too bad, as I love green, but not shiny fabrics.

As per young women in the neighbourhood, I see many in loose retro jeans that would make me look as if I were hiding a huge belly or bum, (my jeans are all a bit too large now) and the politically-lesbian cohort (which is fine) wearing loose shapeless things I never would. I really like the right-hand top with the wings (Diane Dufresne would wear that well) https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Dufresne but I never wear white, or I'd show up encased in black cat fur.
Scarfsportif said…
Duchesse, you're more astute than you can imagine: my de-facto uniform (on days I don't feel like creatively thinking about my clothes) consists of Anne Fontaine striking & structured shirts (exactly like the Totty Rocks specimen you showcase) with either a pencil skirt or equestrian pants. Both those bottoms are my stretchy shortcut to comfort without the "draping" silhouette. Mind you, I'm not suggesting this for every body type-- Eileen Fisher flatters many of my friends-- but yes, my intense training schedule lets me eat copiously and be lean. I just wanted to tell you again what a treat your writing is, like a mini aperitif hour in my inbox! -- chic swordswoman
Duchesse said…
lagatta: It is rare that I think of any reader specifically when I write, so pieces are offered as ideas. Not all will work for all body types.

chic sportswoman: Hello and thanks; re Eileen Fisher, my post about these clothes was by far the most-read in the dozen years of this blog; I had no ideas she'd be so polarizing. See https://passagedesperles.blogspot.com/2013/10/what-is-it-about-eileen-fisher.html
I certainly don't expect you to! I just didn't want to sound picky. At first I though Eileen Fisher might be comfy, but so many of her styles are horribly blobby. I've had more luck at Simons, with organic cottons in their signature green. And while I know they aren't the best quality, I tend to default to Reitmans sculpting jeans (petite) in dark colours (deep red or violet, forest green).

I'm making stock with turkey necks! A young person called it "bone broth!"

In terms of more serious subjects, some friends turned down participation in a conference in Europe; in the meantime it has been put off until later.
materfamilias said…
I have a few EF pieces that work for me, but I'm not likely ever to combine them for that neutral-soigné look they promise. Just getting ready now to meet my husband for dinner at a local Sicilian place (getting my fix there in case our June family reunion falls victim to this virus). . . and you're inspiring me to stay sassy ;-)
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: Hope you can go, and a son has a trip there in June, too.
Frugal Scholar said…
Well, I have loved EF forever--perfect for my body type. My daughter and all her friends--late 20s-30s, mostly in creative fields--also love EF. AND the managers at Buffalo Exchange told me that EF is among the most desirable brands for their much younger than I am demographic.

Thank heavens for the Buffalo Exchange and on-line secondhand. After years of yearning, I can finally afford Eileen Fisher.
Mardel said…
I have a few EF pieces I love, and a dear friend who looks stunning in the EF style, drapey and columnar as it is. But I liked drape when I was young, and as an older woman who still runs hot, I may be baring older arms even though they are not as attractive as they were when I was younger. But this also reminds me that I have other friends who think it is a shame the friend above, who is slim and has a lovely figure, “hides” her figure under her columnar silhouette, even though it suits her style and personality perfectly, friends who think that EF is for women who are no longer slim enough to carry off fitted styles, and so forth and so on. I remember being a young woman who sometimes thought some older women seemed to have given up, and I can easily recall my own growing acceptance that it is nice to be able to embrace my own sense of style as the person who occupies my personal space, without the need to prove something to anyone else. I like the options you show, that they are suitable for different women, and I like your description of your own outfit as well.

It somehow strikes me this morning that we all dress ourselves every day and like food (we also all eat every day) I increasingly think we are all subject then to biases about both simply from our long (expert) familiarity with our own bodies and lives. I admire the intention to discuss as clearly as possible, revealing our own biases and attempting to look beyond them.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: As I said in that EF post, I have tried to like this brand on myself and do not, and admire it on some women. I like it best when mixed with something else. It reads differently on young women than on mature ones. It is not a big seller here; Montréal has a more adjustée inclination, no matter the age or sex. When I talked to a salesperson in an EF department in a department store here she said, "We sell it to older ladies and tourists."

The company has done some exemplary work re recycling/repurposing its old garments and scrap.

Mardel: EF is indeed kind to women who can't carry off fitted styles ; they also serve plenty of women who, like your friend, could wear fitted and prefer the looser cut. IMO women should wear what makes •them• feel great, though sometimes we get stuck in a rut.

I appreciate friends' feedback but also realize they are giving it from their own biases. I once had the services of a pro stylist (pay for a job I did with a fashion magazine) who had me get rid of every single oversized thing in my closet and I am ashamed to say that filled five garbage bags (to donate). To this day I see her wisdom, and would not have done it on my own because I felt fine in those things.

Materfamilias, Duchesse and others, you might enjoy reading Rachel Roddy's Guardian column "A Kitchen in Rome". Mostly about (usually simple, family) cooking and the everyday life in Rome of Rachel, from England, her Sicilian husband and their thoroughly Roman little boy. It rarely touches on fashion, focussing on everyday life in Italy, mostly Rome and Sicily.

I am also hoping to get back to Italy this year, but it depends on (among other things) the health situation, both in terms of actual hazards and possible quarantines. You might find Max Mara and Marina Rinaldi marked down over there.

The posts with the most