What Not to Wear

I love the TV show Project Runway. Maybe its the years I spent designing products, or because I learned to sew in my twenties and still remember the marvel of making my own clothes. These garments would not have passed grade nine Home EC – not if anyone had checked the seams, zippers or darts. But I’ll never forget the first couple things I made; white bell bottoms and a fabulous satin pantsuit. If I’d ever learned to disco, I had the right outfit. It pains me that I don’t have a photo of it to paste here. But that was back in the day when you had to use an actual camera.

I also made a number of semi-hideous matching Victorian dresses for my three daughters. “This is the last time I’m doing this,” my long suffering twelve-year-old told me at her cousin Leon’s wedding. There was also the blue velvet with white satin collar outfits they wore when they were too young to complain. Otherwise, their plea might have gone like this: “Judith Pettersen designed these hideous garments. Please save us.”

I watch Project Runway like an alien examining human beings. I don’t ‘get’ fashion, and lag years behind other people, especially those who appear in magazines wearing famous designers. Unlike my daughters, I’d be happy if the whole world wore matching jumpsuits and no one bothered expressing themselves with clothing, ever. Am I comfortable spilling my anxieties and secret wishes on this page for the whole world to read? Yes. Have I ever once figured out fashion trends? To quote the Donald: ‘Not.’

I’ve recently learned that the enormous white sneakers I wore in the nineties are making a comeback. This fear was confirmed by the Project Runway show I watched just the other night. Every model strutted down the runway in bizarre interpretations of puffy jackets, dresses designed for a dystopian world, and extra wide calf length pants. The last outfit was matched with a pair of sling-back shoes, and the designer was criticized for not accessorizing with supersized sneakers. The models are 5′ 11″ and110 pounds. They wear crazy with no problem at all. Then there’s the rest of us. Dressed like that, we’d all look homeless.

Back in the nineties I proudly wore those white sneakers, or, as we call them in my neck of the woods, runners. I was in love with that era’s combo of shapeless pants, wide sweaters and huge Minnie Mouse style shoes. But now my heart sinks at the thought of revisiting the Big Whites. ‘Do we have to?’ I ask myself, with the troubled certainty that I will never get things right. This also applies to your average North Americans vacationing in Europe. On the other side of the world, they’re always three years ahead, fashion wise. Every time I visit London, I feel like an Appalachian Hillbilly. (My apologies to all hill folk, but Hollywood has not been kind to your people.)

On the other hand, I live in Northern Canada, so jackets tend to be naturally puffy, and so does footwear. But that’s in the winter, mostly. Can’t I wear something more slimming in summer? May I not hold on to relatively form fitting clothes? Perhaps a T shirt or two? When you’re short, you don’t want to call a lot of attention to the fact, and the MC Hammer pants coming back into style do the vertically challenged no favours. Right, Joni Hanson?  Unfair of me to target a sister, but yes. In the nineties, she was in bad need of a makeover. When she put on a pair of jeans one day, people thought she’d lost fifty pounds. Such is the power of tailoring.

In conclusion, I fear the next decade. I’m in that awkward age group where I can’t dress young, but don’t find the elastic waist pants and loose tops of the elderly quite necessary yet. But, wait. That’s the answer. Old people clothes are finally in. (Or, back in. Remember the nineties.) Elastic waistbands, comfy shirts and pants. And yes. Big white shoes. The baby boomers are descending even as I write. Watch out, New York fashion week…you’re about to be ripped off.

If you don’t watch Project Runway, I have no evidence to prove any of this. Whenever I try to google pictures about it, all that comes up is ‘mature porn, very old naked people.’ Since that’s a fashion we’ll all be embracing soon enough, let’s just leave it at that.

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