Today’s post on ways to love yourself was contributed by style expert Andrea Pflaumer. Enjoy, darlings!
It’s been said that when your memory starts to fade the first thing that goes are memories of what you just learned or did or said. It’s kind of like LIFO, “last in, first out.” An old boyfriend of mine said he thought it was just that there’s no more room for information when we are old. Funnily, a Harvard study actually confirmed that! There’s just too little bandwidth left.
I like that better. It explains why I can’t remember why I just walked into a room, but can still remember, with exquisite detail, things I wore 65-70 years ago.
Those images of what I wore and how I felt about them at the time are forever burned in my brain. They bring me joy, and they reawaken memories. And there are dozens of them.
You may also enjoy reading Creating a Wardrobe to Build Confidence by Andrea!
First was my cowgirl outfit, complete with six-shooter. I must have been about five at the time. Oh, how the times have changed! These days, Child Protective Services would have been called on both my parents! I did have a pretty fierce expression on my face in the one picture that my photographer Dad took of me wearing it. My older brother, born three years before me, had a similar get up. I think it was the just because we loved watching Hop-along Cassidy and the Lone Ranger on Saturday mornings while our parents slept in.
Then there were my floral pedal pushers. I have no idea why my grade school let me wear them, as there was clearly an unspoken law back then that little girls wear dresses and skirts to school. But I loved them. They made me feel free, energetic, and sassy, and I stuck out like a sore thumb in the class photos.
It’s possible the pedal pusher phase was simply my rebellion from the tortuous tulle dress I had to wear as the flower girl in my older sister’s wedding. It itched my neck, my upper arms, and my legs. To this day I hate tulle.
Still, by the time I was nine, I had become totally besotted with fashion. I designed, colored, and cut out outfits for my paper dolls. I wanted to see them dressed in something that I would have worn or that I thought they should be wearing.
All my six-shooting, pedal-pushing came to an end when I hit puberty. It was the start of the 60s and skirts were getting shorter. My tight-fitting (mostly) spandex turquoise blue pencil skirt, the one I wore to audition for summer musical theater class, became a symbol of the glamorous entertainment world I hoped to be a part of someday.
Our house was miles away, but on a rare, non-smoggy day, we were still within the site line of the Hollywood sign. It was my inspiration and aspiration.
In those teen years, every summer our family went to Palm Springs. My Dad loved playing golf, even in 114 degree heat, while my mother, brother, and I baked in the mid-day sun, (and I have the sun damage to prove it).
One year, Aunt Ethel, my mother’s sister, was there at the same time, and she took me shopping. Ethel was glamor incarnate, so I was thrilled that she invited me. She had two boys but had always wanted a girl to dress up.
Although she was low on stock and it was a pricier item, she gave me one of those necklaces. I still wear it to this day.
She bought me a pair of olive green cigarette pants, an orange sleeveless top, and a pair of tan leather Bernardo thong sandals with white stitching along the edges. I have still been searching for something similar over the years.
Aunt Ethel was also the source of another very significant fashion memory. She owned a costume jewelry wholesale distribution company and occasionally my mother and I would go downtown to visit her there. I loved wandering between the stacks of floor-to-eye-level height drawers, each with a little clear pocket that held a sample of what was inside — beaded earrings, gold chain necklaces, tennis bracelets, and metallic belts.
One of the drawers contained a cultured pearl choker. Although she was low on stock and it was a pricier item, she gave me one of those necklaces. I still wear it to this day. When I do, I swear can still smell the Shalimar perfume that wafted through the air of her office and on her mink coat.
Then came the Beatles. They had me at “She Loves You.” By my junior year in high school, I was a full-on Beatlemaniac. I read everything I could find about them and hoped to become a contributing writer to Teen Beat magazine so I could interview them someday. The closest I got was interviewing Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones for my high school newspaper “fads” column.
So, when the Beatles performed at the Hollywood Bowl in August of 1964, I HAD to go. In Southern California, late August is often the hottest time of the year. But I was hell-bent and determined to dress like one of the British Carnaby Girls just in case they just might notice me among the wild blur of thousands of hysteria-riddled screaming fans. So, I wore a black turtleneck sweater, a black and white checked mini skirt, black tights, and knee-high boots. It was sweltering. I was miserable.
Early Adulthood and A Life-Altering Experience
College years demanded a uniform: jeans or loose pants and tops. Not much in the way of fashion. And in my post-college years, something beyond fashion and rock and roll began stirring more deeply. It was our generation’s hunger to make sense of the times.
This was the height of the Vietnam war. Several of my high school classmates had already been drafted and sent to Vietnam, and as I learned at our 50th reunion a few years ago, died there. Then came the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, and the race riots. It was a frightening, confusing time.
I moved up north to Berkeley. As with a lot of my generation, I turned inward for answers. I started practicing Transcendental Meditation. After experiencing the relief from the chaos of the times that it brought me, nothing else mattered but my spiritual evolution. I decided it would become my life’s work.
It was a sophisticated but very feminine look. It spoke to my inner self. It was a good omen for the marriage.
In 1974, right before heading off to Europe to become a teacher of TM, I went clothes shopping to have something more suitable and respectable than jeans and t-shirts. I bought a paisley wrap skirt, a pair of slouchy navy wool trousers (I wish I still had them), and a few sweaters — all on sale — at Capwells in downtown Oakland. And I packed a camel coat I had picked up at a thrift shop years earlier. They served me well. But winter along the North Sea in Belgium, where the course was held, was very cold and often windy.
In the little seacoast town of Ostend, Belgium, where we studied, I stumbled upon a small boutique where I bought a popcorn stitch gray wool triangular shawl. That shawl saved me, especially on our days off, when I went for long solo walks along the windy shore of the North Sea, where WWII cannons still lined the beaches.
When I came home my whole life was internally focused for many years. Fashion was secondary. Like my fellow meditation teachers, I dressed conservatively in what I thought would be more “business-like” attire (blazers and skirts and dresses) so that we young kids might be taken seriously by the mature professional people and celebrities who came to learn to meditate at the West Los Angeles TM Center. When not teaching I also wore loose-fitting shapeless dresses. My mother said they made me look like a nun. In a sense I was.
In fact, a few years later I actually moved into an ashram. But instead of taking nuns’ vows, I ended up taking marriage vows, as that’s where I met my first husband.
For that first wedding, I wore a floor-length long-sleeved ecru lace-over-satin dress with a slightly loose-fitting bodice, and slightly flowing skirt, and a crown of flowers in my hair. It was a beautiful dress. I looked like something out of a Tolkien fantasy. But I knew the marriage was doomed. Or at least my dress choice gave me a strong hint. The dress wasn’t me and the marriage didn’t “stick.”
A little more than a decade later, for my second marriage, the one that did “stick”, I found a knee-length tailored and very fitted ivory wool v-neck sheath with buttons all the way down the front. My sister-in-law, a model’s agent at the time, did my hair and makeup. I wore the long string of majolica pearls that my friend’s mother gave me as the “something old.” It was a sophisticated but very feminine look. It spoke to my inner self. It was a good omen for the marriage.
Because a major lesson I took away from my 51 years of meditating was my teacher, Maharishi’s, constant refrains: “Life is bliss… it is meant to be enjoyed.”
For all the subsequent years I worked for the TM organization I volunteered writing articles about meditation for newsletters and magazines. As a result, in my early 50s, that led to a very different writing opportunity that landed in my lap. It was the one that set me in a journey back to my fashion-obsessed roots. I was asked to write fashion and commerce articles for a local magazine. And I jumped at the chance. My first article was about brassieres. A friend who only knew me from my meditation work said, “But I thought you were a “SPIRITUAL” person!”
Around that same time, I had my palette colors and style archetypes analyzed by a highly experienced and well-known professional. He confirmed what I had intuitively known all along. I needed to wear comfortable, very sophisticated clothes but with slightly playful elements and primarily in warmer palette colors. They were exactly the garments and the colors I had gravitated to since I was designing clothes for paper dolls in my childhood.
Fashion for the Mature Years
Now, in my 70s, I tend to opt for neutral basics, with pops of color in a handbag, blouse, sweater, or scarf. Sticking to a formula like that makes my life a lot easier. And many of my favorite neutral colors suit the increasing amount of silver swaths of hair appearing along my temples.
Except for a few fun costume jewelry pieces, I favor real gold jewelry, and higher-end handbags that I will pass down to my nieces and great-nieces. And in all things, natural fibers: cashmere, wool, cotton, silk, leather, and suede.
But on my 75th birthday this year, after searching for months on end at every higher-end store and boutique for the perfect navy blue blazer and perfect trench coat that actually fit my shrinking frame, I found both. The jacket fit perfectly, miraculously. The trench was absolutely smashing, very trendy and in one of my favorite olive greens.
Both were made entirely of polyester. They were $65 and $79, respectively…and at H&M. They will likely outlast me because they are, essentially, plastic. But I will wear, celebrate, and remember that find for the rest of my days. Because a major lesson I took away from my 51 years of meditating was my teacher, Maharishi’s, constant refrains: “Life is bliss…it is meant to be enjoyed.”
Fashion – and the memories it holds for us – is part of the bliss of life.
About the author:
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of two books: the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
She does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. Her free course, Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe is available on GoHighbrow. Andrea hosts two video series: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. She interviews women in the areas of fashion, beauty, and wellness on her Shopping for the Real You YouTube channel. She is a regular contributor to several national and international publications for women over 50.