Sprucing up my trusted business casual staples the other week with doubling pearl necklaces, I was simultaneously mocking and celebrating my eventual attentuation and attraction to stereotypical mature woman brands. Those franchised fashion institutions that were the target of condescension and scoff during my undergraduate years, when bold and ironic magenta eyeliner was a not uncommon flair. Inevitable attitude of youth: I will never. Never wear pleated slacks, never wear button-downs. Never wear sterile white, totally practical cross-trainers, outside of the gym. Never wear matching sweater sets. Never wear mock-turtle necks. Never die. Psychologically, I am certain some bored and myopically-focused graduate student could link this sartorial mentality to the desire to deny senescence and mortality. Or already has. Free thesis idea to anyone with the bandwidth and grants.
The next day after that self-deprecating meditation on trying to not look completely business bland, I placed quite an impressive online order at Talbots; to redeem myself, I admit that all pleats and sets were adroitly avoided. This time. Seeking affirmation that I am not yet irrelevant, or old, or my mother, I sought out my sister for some superficial approval. She assured me, condoned my choice of shop. Herself a shamed but loyal advocate of Eileen Fisher, she knew just what I needed. These, for us, are the truly hidden gems; we find incredible pieces, wear them, unabashed and proud, knowing their true brand identity will remain a mystery to our peers. Anyone can find something on trend at Zara, or discover that perfect amalgamation of professional and fun at J. Crew; combing through the occasionally shudder-inducing selections at Talbots requires real innovation.
Perhaps hypocritically and unfairly, we both still good-naturedly poke fun at our mother's style, and favorite stores. Then, earlier today, reading this article like a drone, I found myself perusing the wares available online at J. Jill, the very place that is typically the substance of our jokes, easy and innocuous. Earnestly shopping, not pausing to glance for grins. I was ensnared. So many pairs of shoes that I could legitimately envision myself wearing, nothing like the broad, square loafers my sister and I so innocently tease. Cognac leather ankle boots, metallic ballet flats, classic black bows.
Blame could be easily laid on my weakened constitution; sitting in one chair for too long, hunched, eyes peering at a single screen, softens the mind, numbs its once nimble neural firings. With such mental mush, how could I possibly resist succumbing to the wily, irresistible sucrose of digital media advertising? Or, worse, has Refinery29 cracked the code: while it may not be discussed openly, in polite conversation, those mature, business professional women's brands have some sophisticated and sneakily fun merchandise. Am I now going to be competing with other eager young women for those sales on cashmere, for those discounted wool pencil skirts? J. Jill joining J. Crew to vie for our affections?
(images taken from J. Jill)