[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 1, 2017] ©2017
When my young granddaughter was visiting one weekend, she queried, “Mormor, why do you always wear the same thing?” I turned to my husband, Olof. “I think I’ve just been fashion-shamed by a five-year-old.”
As I explained to her it only looks like the same thing. I actually have eight pairs of those black slacks and at least as many of the white tops, the combination of which make me look like a server at a trendy trattoria. I do actually have slacks in other hues but it is my personal opinion that black best minimizes years of food felonies. In my defense, I do possess a wide selection of colorful sweaters and shirts. Sometimes I even wear them.
Both sons cheerfully insist that Olof and I dress like bag persons. And we assure them that this is intentional. I think this comes under the heading of "letting oneself go,” a philosophy we think is underrated.
Of course, we’re both retired so we can dress any way we want. In college, I was seriously into fashion, owning at least 40 pairs of shoes, the blue Pappagallos with the green trim, the green Pappagallos with the blue trim. I was also really slender.
But in 1983, the year I was divorced, two major factors impacted my sartorial life. I packed on 30 pounds on the post-divorce Mrs. Fields Cookie and Chardonnay Acute-Depression Diet©. I was also suddenly poor.
In my post-divorce working years, I was wearing makeup and skirts so I was probably in the top one percent sartorially in my department. That’s because I worked in an uber-casual male-centric office where if a guy was wearing shoes and long pants, somebody would call security. Or think he was a Dell salesman. This environment was ideal for the retail-challenged.
One might think that it is just since we retired that we’ve let ourselves go. But we told the travel agent who was booking our honeymoon in 1995 that she could immediately eliminate any place where Olof was required to wear a jacket at dinner. We’ve just been achieving a higher level of goneness since retirement.
Frankly, I might try a little harder if clothes that I could actually try on in a store were a little easier to acquire. Finding apparel at any price in my size in most shopping centers is an exercise in futility. I would chat it up with the personal shopper at Nordstrom who would inform me that they usually only order one size 16 in any particular style and those are so in demand that she immediately pulls them for her regular customers. Now, I’m not in retail, but if I had a size that was instantly selling out, I’d order, well, more. But I’d be missing the point. Once you get past a certain size, department stores don’t want you waddling around in there among the osteoporotic svelte.
Chunker departments, where they even exist, are invariably hidden in a corner of the third floor which you can spot from fifty yards: racks of nasty brown, navy, and black polyester slacks, and skirts with hideous floral prints in colors not found in nature. We chunkies just HATE wearing this stuff – a point that I routinely note in the feedback box at Nordstrom Oinker. (It’s actually Nordstrom Encore, but if you say it fast it comes out sounding like Oinker, which, in fact, I am convinced is the subliminal meaning in that choice of word. What, after all, does “encore” have to do with fat people?)
It quickly became apparent that for any reasonable selection, I would be relegated to catalogs from the Talbots Butterball Collection or Lands’ End-Porcine. Logging on to Lands’ End in search of attire for the adiposely-amplified, I was happy to discover a feature called Virtual Model. You type in your assorted measurements, hair color, age, and voila, there is a virtual you standing there in your undies ready to try on clothes. You can fine-tune the virtual you to a certain extent, but I did notice that “modify My Model” did NOT include such features as “add cellulite” or “increase sag”. In fact, the My Model of me with my weight and measurements wasn’t half bad – because of course, I had the flabless thighs of an Olympic speed skater. Given this, I enjoyed trying on bikinis and even making myself different races. Alas, clothes that looked great on the virtual me rarely looked good on the real me. Fortunately I know exactly what size black slacks and white tops fit me on Lands’ End.
And hence, my patented orphan look.
In recent years we’ve only dressed up for weddings, funerals, or our office Christmas parties. And now since we’re both retired, we don’t even have those. Hopefully no one will die any time soon. We’d have nothing to wear.