Behind, in front of, or marooned?

Knitwear in Tallinn

I was born into a generation where the purchase of a new dress or pair of shoes was still considered something of an indulgence, a treat, an extravagance made necessary because of an upcoming special occasion (wedding or suchlike). Thrift, and make-do-and-mend had been ingrained into my grandmother’s and mother’s generations by years of war, then continued rationing. Even when this finally came to an end, choice was limited, the normal state of the world, I believed. It took some time for the consumer society we, in the affluent Western world, are so well acquainted with, to make itself felt.

Window display

Window displays to entice us in to make a purchase.

If money is plentiful then becoming a shopaholic is easy, in fact it’s easy even if money isn’t plentiful — debt being one of the big problems of our societies. The marketplace has grown, wooing buyers with what are promoted as must-have items, widening exponentially by online shopping.

Shopping in the Algarve

Twilight stroll with time to browse and shop.

So with unbelievable choice why can I never find what I’m looking for? Somewhere, hidden in a filing cabinet in the depths of my brain is a folder for every item I am ever likely to buy. In it are contained the specifications, the style, the colour, the shape, the size — all the details necessary for a choice. So when I open a shop door, or load a retailer’s website I already know what I am looking for. The appropriate folder has been plucked from the drawer.

Although I have more or less decided what I’m after, with all the choice now available I should easily be able to find my ideal item. Sadly, that’s not how it works. Invariably the style I have set my heart on is not to be found, anywhere. The colour was around a few years ago but is not in vogue now, and instead I am offered brown, and brown, and chocolate, coffee, taupe, chestnut, beige…you get my drift. For a colour-loving woman like me brown makes me want to bury myself.

Standing to display

Bumping into a bargain.

Where are all the reds and vibrant blues?

Frills and thrills

Ole, ole, ole.

I flick through pages and pages on sites upon sites belonging to well-known and unknown retailers, having already exhausted the offering of local shops. Don’t think I’m so difficult to please that I see nothing I like. On the contrary, I could have filled several cabin trunks with purchases – could I have afforded the prices. That’s something else the folder specifies. Price is fundamental, as is value for money. And perhaps I’m being overly dismissive but I wonder what the real difference is between items at £30 and a not dissimilar item at £3,000.

Reflection of my taste

Cartier and me – or at least my reflection with camera raised.

Quality, I hear everyone shout. Well, yes. But I suspect there comes a point where quality and workmanship only account for so much of the price, with the rest being down to the label, the imitation stamped gold plaque on the front that boldly declares the owner has the money, the taste, and perhaps the gullibility, to purchase the item. Or does that merely indicate a lack of vision in my appropriate brain folder?

Laying price aside, why can I never find the article I want? Here’s me, a mature woman who still likes to look good. In previous generations there seemed to be a dress code age line for women. On one side you were expected to ‘make the most of yourself’ by dressing well and taking care of your appearance. The line was set around the age of 45, and once you crossed that on the other side was the matronly, the staid, the my-best-years-are past clothes. It used to be easy care materials, pastel shades and shapeless styles to hide the rounding figure. Those who dared flout the convention and chose to dress fashionably were accused of being ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. Thankfully that way of thinking has largely been left behind, and we are free to wear what appeals — providing we can find it of course.

Estonian national costume

National costumes tend to be colourful, and distinctive. This Estonian lady wears hers with pride.

Knitwear and walls

Choice aplenty. Hand knitwear being sold from alcoves in the old walls of Tallinn in Estonia.

Though not ahead of the trend, I’d like to believe I’m reasonable fashionable, yet my inability to track down what I want makes me think I might have fallen way behind, or perhaps lost it altogether, my taste marooned like a rags garbed castaway on the desert island of fashion.

Dress in Lucca

Ran down some red in Lucca – though not quite the height of fashion!

The new First Minister of the Scottish Parliament is a woman in her early forties who has set the heather on fire since recently taking over. She undertook a tour of venues in the country to meet the public, culminating in a packed 12,000 venue in Glasgow. A woman after my own heart, she likes red so wore an almost red dress (fucshia), with a natty vaguely tartan, Victorian style jacket with mini bustle in matching and contrasting colours. Very chic.

Beating the Nicola drum

Scotland’s First Minister playing her own tune as she relaxes before a 12,000 strong rally in Glasgow.

She had already caused a stir amongst journalists by wearing a pair of tartan heels (picture and details at The corporate drab, the female equivalent of male garb, has been softened to one of femininity, elegance and attractiveness. Yes, women can be bosses and look great too. Dress designers in Scotland must be rubbing their hands in glee and anticipation of a field day, vying to provide clothes to the First Minister.


Come and buy me – you know you want to.

And in her tartan heels she struck another blow for equality when her first cabinet was announced with a 50/50 gender split between men and women. The glass ceiling shattered by a tartan stiletto. Good on her. And if she can wear the kind of clothes that appeal to her then perhaps my brain file isn’t so far wrong after all. I need to take a leaf from her book (albeit at a more down-to-earth price) and just go with what appeals irrespective of what is deemed high fashion.

Bags of choice.

Bags of choice. Shop selling leather goods in Florence.


About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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8 Responses to Behind, in front of, or marooned?

  1. Rosa de los Vientos says:

    Very interesting to read. I agree with you on those boring colours, like beige and chestnut… Can’t bear it. Especially on mature women it looks so sad, they end up looking all pale, slowly fading away… How beautiful it is to see ‘self conscious’ older women in colourful dresses, it really doesn’t matter what shape you have. I have seen many people in black winter clothing again lately. It looks creepy to me, especially when they walk around in groups and talk about the economic crisis :). Of course if you have long black hair and you’re wearing a black dress with high heels and red lips, it looks fantastic, but when people just put black clothes on out of easiness (‘it combines so easily’ -which I find is not even true-, ‘it doesn’t get dirty that easy’) it looks just depressive. If you can’t find something colourful according to your taste, the solution is a colourful shawl! Or you can ask la súper-Pepi how to deal with it… 😉 😀 My regards, Rosa.

    • Yes, agree wholeheartedly, Rosa. Living in Scotland, some bright colours are needed in the winter to cheer us up and inject some warmth into our lives, otherwise everything can be very drab and grey for days, weeks on end. And the economic crises never end, with further austerity threatened.

      I’m off to cut some holly – for the first time ever it is awash with red berries this year – and maybe that will cheer me up.

  2. lenathehyena says:

    I still don’t dress my age. I like to see women looking classy in classic outfits but I never seem to reach that age when I would be comfortable to wear such items. Colors come in phases -sometimes vibrant then back to black. Currently enjoying my leopardskin trainers (not the actual animal pelt).

    • I’ve decided there is no such thing as dressing my age. What suits me suits because the style, shape colour make me look good, and I feel good in them. My mother never in her life wore trousers — I’m rarely out of them. And yes, black has a place in my wardrobe. Black trousers which I can dress up with a bright, fancy top when going out.

      Leopardskin trainers? Now that sounds good. I actually, in the family archive, have a pair of real leopardskin ankle boots (I used to have a leopardskin coat too) belonging to an aunt who spent years in India prior to Independence, returning just after. Some of the Indian mementoes ended up with me. I did think of ditching them, but used my aunt’s Indian experiences as inspiration for a book, gaining a new insight into her life in the writing of it. So they have become a precious (and creatively useful) part of family history.

  3. I’m absolutely with you about color. I think there must be a law against it in Washington, DC. You should see the looks i get just for wearing something that is styled for business and generally ordinary EXCEPT that it’s a color. I call the way women here dress “DC Drab.” So dull, so drab, so devoid of all color and inspiration…
    Happy shopping. I hope you accidentally run across something you love. Hugs. 🙂

    • I suspect the whole corporate thing has much to answer for. Women to be taken seriously in the workplace had to adopt a male dress code. Thankfully that’s now changing, and if neutral coloured suits are worn it’s probably more because a top or blouse of any colour can be worn with it. We remain very much in thrall to the whole fashion thing though. I shudder when I see the lengths to which fashion pushed us when I watch films from the 1980s, and women wearing grotesque shoulder-padded outfits that makes them look like American football players.

      Colour is what drives me. I buy something because I fall in love with the colour and have to have it, then find I have nothing to wear it with. Luckily denim jeans can be worn with most colours and styles. What would we do without them!

  4. carol1945 says:

    I love it when a good writer puts into words what I have been thinking but cannot express. Your blog was simply wonderful to read this morning. About a month ago, I was in Macy’s in San Francisco, expecting color for Christmas, and instead every mannikin was dressed in black!!! I found a documentary video on Netflix called “Advanced Style”. If you can find the video, I think you would find it as fascinating as I did. A photographer went around New York looking for women over the age of 60 who dressed with style. The interviews are really something!!!

  5. Hi Carol, I must have a look for that video. It sounds fascinating. Yes, black equates with celebrating – the little black dress fetish. Actually I do have quite a number of black garments. Instead of my scattergun approach because I like the colour, I’ve been trying to keep trousers and skirts to neutral colours, then I can run amok with the tops knowing they will go. Of course it doesn’t always work.

    I remember seeing a programme about a well-known dress designer, can’t remember who,who only wears navy (kinder than black for people of her age she said). This meant she had no deliberating in the morning about what to wear and whether things matched as all were the same colour. Sounds interesting, but how did she deal with different colours of navy, I wondered, as slightly different colours can annoy me intensely?

    Anyway, hope you have a great New Year and that all goes swimmingly for you. D

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