Taking it up a notch - une femme d'un certain âge

Taking it up a notch

Among the recent countless articles about “shopping your closet” and general recessionary-themed style advice, this article from the LA Times caught my eye the other day. Now I’ll admit that I often find the LAT style (“Image”) section to be celebrity-obsessed and usually outside of my frame of reference, preferring to profile the most avantgarde designers and hippest haberdasheries. But I thought they included some good suggestions, most of which don’t require a large outlay of cash. I’ve cherry picked a few to share and expand upon. These small changes can make a big impact.

20 Ways to Upgrade Your Style

Ditch those jeans and step it up. OK, I’ll agree with this one. I love my jeans, but LA is a town that takes “casual” to new heights, or rather, lows. For Pete’s sake, if you’re going to dinner at someplace like Crustacean, take a few moments to change out of your jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap! While I do wear jeans to work a couple days a week, I try to stick to my dark blue or black denim, and dress up with a jacket.

Invest in an evening bag. I heartily second this! Unless you’re coming straight from work, don’t shlep your Subaru-sized hobo out for drinks with the girls. There are some lovely clutches out there, but une femme strongly suggests one with a shoulder strap when you need both hands to juggle the drink, crudités, and business card.

Keep it clean. (Lose the embroidery, tattoo prints etc.) Not a problem, my style is generally simple and un-embellished anyway. Wish I still had those vintage beaded sweaters, though.

Grow back your eyebrows. Hah! Like I haven’t been trying for the last 20 years??

Stop the ‘homeless or Hollywood’ hair. Thank you!!! How the lank-and-unwashed look ever gained traction I’ll never understand. Remember when men’s hair products used to be disparagingly referred to as “greasy kid’s stuff”?

Stop for a shoeshine. OK, that one’s in the “for the men” section, but keeping your shoes polished and repaired will go a long way to help project a posher image. Actually, one of my favorite chores is polishing shoes. I love the process, and the result.

Learn how to be a gentleman. I don’t think this one has to be male-specific either. “Being prepared to produce cab fare for a tipsy friend, a clean handkerchief for a child’s skinned knee, a kind word for the cashier,” and being helpful in general are qualities we all can cultivate.

I have some of my own additions to this list.

Consider wearing shoes other than flip-flops. Even in weather that dips into the 30’s, the flimsy rubber footwear is frequently seen on LA streets. There are shoes out there just as comfortable (if not more so) than flip-flops, which should be relegated to pool- and beach-side wear.

Pay attention to your your nails… even if you’ve cut back on the manicures. The LAT article mentions cuticles, but keeping nails themselves looking good (filed smooth, at even lengths–shorter looks better, IMO–and clean!) goes a long way to helping you look more pulled together.

Save the tracksuits and yoga wear for the track and yoga studio. I know, you want everyone to know you’re committed to that fitness program, but perhaps it’s time to re-introduce yourself to the concept of “street clothes.”
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  1. January 9, 2009 / 2:37 pm

    While the sheer misery of five months of winter takes care of some of these, I enjoyed reading the writer take aim at general shlubbiness, and your amplification. I’d add: untrimmed beards, untucked shirts (especially with suits), stained backpacks instead of a bag, the wearing of facial ‘body jewelry’ when the contiguous body part is clearly rejecting its ‘jewel’ and a cellphone permanently attached to the ear.

    I’m seeing a ‘raise your game’ look here (Toronto), which is the conservative, well-tailored, closely fitted skirt suit, knee-length skirt, with nude hose and plain but very high heeled pumps. It seems some young (20s to early 30s) women are tired of me-too expensive jeans, and want to dress more formally.

  2. January 9, 2009 / 2:43 pm

    This is great you posted about this subject today, I just posted on my blog a little while ago this morning about “Recessionistas” and shopping in my closet and my plan this weekend to do just that!
    I have found some nice skirt suits, new, recently on Ebay for a quarter of the retail price too, and have been dressing up a little more at work!

  3. Anonymous
    January 9, 2009 / 4:15 pm

    Great list and I love your additions. I HATE flip-flops. They have their place and function, but this has gone too far, and they are horrible for the feet in street and mall walking. Try real shoes.

    You hit one my ultimate obsessive pet peeves with nails – ladies, 7-8 long nails with the rest broken does not look great. 10 ragged long nails of different lengths does not look great. Paint isn’t necessary, but a clean, neat, groomed look reflects very well on the hand-owner. Frankly, to many of us, the long/ragged/broken look suggests something unsanitary and unsavory. And hand creme rubbed into cuticles, at the very least, is everyone’s friend. Tend those cuticles and they’ll look like someone cares about them!

  4. Northmoon
    January 9, 2009 / 4:42 pm

    I’m kind of suprised that half the recommendations are basic grooming and civility! Clean and polish your nails, hair, shoes, clothing (and body, I hope.)

    I agree with Duchesse that here in Toronto there’s more formal business attire happening. The flip-flops are seen more on the tourists in the summer months.

    I’m trying to ‘raise my game’ by wearing accessories. Your scarves have inspired me to get some of my collection out of the closet more often.

  5. January 9, 2009 / 4:52 pm

    People go to nice restaurants wearing baseball caps?!? That must be stopped.

  6. January 9, 2009 / 6:28 pm

    Pseu, those are all great suggestions. It’s not just LA – all towns have taken casual to new lows – as one blogger put it, it’s the “pajamfication of America”, and it’s not pretty. But, I too see signs that the trend may be starting to reverse. I guess it couldn’t have gotten much worse!

  7. January 9, 2009 / 6:30 pm

    Duchesse – Here’s hoping that the ‘raise your game’ zeitgeist works its way southwestward…
    And I second your additions!

    Kelley – do you find that dressing up a bit gets your head a bit more in the game? I sure do.

    Anon – yes, I know some women think long nails look nicer, but if half are broken off and the other half are jagged or yellowed/dirty, it really detracts from one’s overall look.

  8. January 9, 2009 / 6:34 pm

    Northmoon – yes, it does seem that we’ve come to a point where people have to be instructed about grooming and civility, but I keep hoping those concepts are making a comeback. And I’m glad to have been an inspritation for you to experiment with and wear your scarves, yay!

    WendyB – Yes! Isn’t it appalling? I will note that I have seen a better level of dress the last few times I’ve been in nice restaurants, but there are still the folks who seem to think it indicates their own importance to not dress appropriately for the venue.

  9. January 9, 2009 / 6:37 pm

    Rita – I’m wondering how much the flagging economy has to do with it. But regardless, I hope the reversal of ‘pajamafication’ is a developing trend!

    LBR – me too! We tried to ban flip flops in our office a few years ago and practically had to quell a mutiny. I’ll admit I’m seeing fewer of them these days, but one pair in the office is one too many, IMO.

  10. January 9, 2009 / 6:57 pm

    Miss J read the same article. Kudos on picking the best suggestions, Deja, esp for us Angelenos. Having spent a few days in San Francisco last week, Miss J couldn’t help but note how much better-dressed the folks there are then folks are in LA. Miss J attributes it two 2 things: it’s chilly enough to inspire layered, classic dress (and discourage flip-floppery) and foot traffic encourages people to dress better- sort of a see & be-seen metality develops when you encounter so many folks head-to-toe rather than half-hidden in their cars.

  11. January 9, 2009 / 6:59 pm

    Definitely dressing up gets my head more in the game, especially at work. I work in a law office which fortunately has flexibility in that you can dress up (suits, panythose, pumps) or do business casual (nice pants, sweaters, flats) and on Fridays we can wear nice jeans. When I am more dressed down, even in nice pants and a cute sweater at work, I don’t feel as professional and productive as I do in a business skirt and jacket or pants suit. Interesting.
    Another place I’ve notice a real dressing down that I hope turns around is at church. I attend a Foursquare church of about 300 and a large majority of women (and men) wear jeans to church on Sundays. All ages. I guess I am old-school, but I still like and still do dress up for church!

  12. January 9, 2009 / 9:50 pm

    Great advice Deja- and very right on the evening bag with strap – I can’t stand it when I see a woman out and she’s schlepping round a beatten up old leather bag, it completely kills the look.

    Great advice. I always feel better when I dress well and only ever wear the exercise clothes either when I’m actually exercising, or sometimes in the evening watching tv when I will not see anyone else and I want to be comfortable.

  13. January 9, 2009 / 10:34 pm

    great suggestions, Pseu. I think those who aren’t already there and who take these on as goals for the New Year will be surprised to see not only how simple they are to adopt but also how much better they make one feel. Respect for others begins with respect for oneself.

  14. La Belette Rouge
    January 9, 2009 / 6:28 pm

    I wish you could get this mandated as fashion law. No flip-flops, jeans, yoga pants, etc. I hope that the ‘raise your game’ takes off in L.A. I keep hoping MadMen makes a permanent impact and dressing up will become the norm and not the anomally.

  15. Completely Alienne
    January 9, 2009 / 8:28 pm

    This was interesting, thank you Deja. A lot of it was basic grooming too. I also hate long nails, especially those plastic looking ones with jewels stuck on then. I always keep my short – and the same length. Flip flops are only summer wear in England, fortunately. At this time of year you’d get frostbitten toes if you were stupid enough to go out in them! I don’t think I could part with my jeans though; I have to be smart for work so I enjoy the jeans or combats at home.

  16. January 12, 2009 / 4:46 am

    Miss Janey – yes, folks in SF definitely dress up a bit more. It helps that really warm days are few and far between!

    Completely Alienne – oh, I’m not ready to part with my jeans either! Live in them on the weekends.

  17. January 12, 2009 / 4:53 am

    Imogen – I so agree about how the wrong bag can just wreck a look. The last few times I’ve been to semi-dressy events, I can’t believe all the young women I see in cute party dresses and big ol’ LV Speedy’s!

    Materfamilias – Respect for others begins with respect for oneself. Absolutely!

  18. January 12, 2009 / 4:59 am

    lorrwill – even when it is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit here (SF Bay Area) and I have seen several people in heavy hoodies, shorts and flip flops. I’ll never be able to understand this. I get COLD! Oh, and the sweats with the writing on the seat are another pet peeve of mine. Those are just tacky!

    Karen – IMO = In My Opinion.

    It’s interesting about differing levels of dress for religious services. When I first started attending High Holy Day services and my husband’s temple, everyone dressed up quite a bit. I’ve noticed that the vibe has gotten more casual over the years…not jeans, but fewer women in skirts and hosiery, fewer men wearing ties. More “business casual” type dress.

  19. lorrwill
    January 11, 2009 / 11:00 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Karen
    January 12, 2009 / 3:53 am

    My sentiments exactly!

    What is “IMO”? That is one “text” term I don’t get or can’t figure out on my own!

  21. Karen
    January 12, 2009 / 4:02 am

    One more comment re: what Kelly said about church dressing. We have a service for teens and college kids and their families and there’s a real rock vibe on Sundays in that service. The kids are such good kids, they want to come to church, and jeans are de riguer here. You just can’t fight it. However, there’s another service going on at the same time in another part of the church where men and women are dressed up in their traditional Sunday finery. Their music is very traditional.

    I truly think God doesn’t care how you show up at the altar, He is pleased that we come as we are to serve Him. We come clean, with open hearts and I just hope that’s good enough!

  22. Shay
    January 14, 2009 / 4:34 am

    While we are on the subject, what ever happened to nice hostess gowns/dressing gowns? Even if nobody sees you except the cat and the husband, what’s wrong with looking spiffy in your jammies?

  23. Anonymous
    January 20, 2009 / 8:38 pm

    Oh how I wish some of the girls at my uni would take some of those points and put them into practice. It’s almost as if these people do not care for themselves at all and feel brand name uggs, jogging pants, hoodies and carry all bags are going to save them. I always appreciate your blogs keep it up.


  24. Debbie
    September 1, 2011 / 4:40 pm

    I’m sorry, but I hope panty hose comes back…

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