Thursday, October 01, 2009


All right, so this is a really bizarre thing to make someone like me feel disappointment. I am not a clothes shopper. I am not someone who has a clue about fashion. According to what people tell me, I missed my calling as an academic when it comes to style. However, I hate to tell you this, but I have always secretly loved fall fashions and the fall issues of fashion and women's magazines.

When I was a teenager, it was that fabulous, extra-thick August issue of Seventeen that had me salivating. Remember all those plaids and wools (this was the early 1980s, for you poor souls who don't)? Preppy-dom, as well as trying to look as British as possible, was "in." I was so much more sophisticated than my clueless peers, because I'd just come back from living in England. I "introduced" what we Americans call "knickers," which would have had my English classmates in stitches had I told them, "I wore my knickers and a Fair Isle sweater to school today."

I was also into Glamour, which pulled out all the stops for fall. I was always thinking about how to combine what was in Seventeen with a few ideas from Glamour, so that I could, well, you know, pull off a truly glamorous look. Not exactly easy to do when working with a babysitter's budget. Still, I was judicious and didn't mind putting things on lay-away at stores at the mall in July so that I could be wearing them come October. (After all, in North Carolina, one could never really wear fall clothing much before then.)

I subscribed to both Seventeen and Glamor from about ages fourteen on. In the fall, however, I would make the big purchase of Vogue as well (absolutely, completely beyond any imaginable budget I might have as far as the fashions depicted, but I still had an imagination and this horrible little disastrous thing that has gotten me into trouble all my life known as "hope"). I would spend hours poring over the models in their exquisite fall outfits, wondering if I could ever look like that.

Okay, let's forget all the damage such magazines do to the teenage girl out there, most of whom think they need to look like those models and wear those clothes that nobody in the real world can afford. Let's think about comfort and nostalgia instead. Let's all pretend we are 45-year-old women wandering around in Border's, looking for a little comfort after a hard day. Let's pretend we haven't looked at any of those magazines in years. Let's browse through some sale displays and find nothing that grabs us; let's look for some authors who are not on the shelves; let's be annoyed with ourselves for forgetting that book so-and-so told us we must read. Let's suddenly remember it's late August, and the fall fashion magazines must all be on the stands. Let's wander over to the magazine section that we typically ignore.

Let's not. You know that beautiful, thick, enticing issue of Seventeen you remember oh-so-fondly? It no longer exists. Ditto Glamour. Vogue is still somewhat promising, but when you begin to flip through it, you find yourself wondering if you have accidentally picked up the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Elle, another favorite from your twenty-something years, seems to have shrunk to the size of a comic book. What's happened? Disillusioned, you decide, "Oh well, at least there's O," only to discover that you can't find it anywhere. Frantically looking for some sort of comfort, you decide to buy "as a nice surprise for your husband" an issue of Rolling Stone, only to be reminded that it is now the size and shape of a glossy-covered People. You end up leaving the store empty-handed. "Disappointment" does not even come close to describing how you feel.

Tell me: I'm getting so old to feel so disappointed, right? Then again, e-magazines can't come quickly enough for the likes of me.


ZoesMom said...

I loved those magazines as a kid too. I remember being very excited when I was allowed to subscribe to Seventeen. It is sad that the magazines aren't what they once were and I don't think kids today will ever get the thrill of having the new issue arrive in the mail. At the same time, there is so much more out there on the web that they really are superfluous.

BooksPlease said...

OK, please tell me what "knickers" are in America. I'm giggling over here and wondering what they can be.

Emily Barton said...

ZM, "superfluous" is definitely the right word, except on those rare occasions when I'm overwhelmed with nostalgia. However, I will take blogs over Seventeen any day.

BP, I'm not sure what you call them. They're knee-length trousers. Another old-fashioned name for them here is knee breeches.

Rebecca H. said...

I'm having a little trouble relating to the disappointment you describe here, but then again, I am one of those academics with some style issues! Thank God for Becky who is doing what she can to improve matters a bit.

knitseashore said...

Coming to this post very late, but had to comment. Like you, I loved Seventeen, Elle, and the occasional issue of Vogue. The "big" issues this year were so small due to the lack of many magazines are folding and it's so sad.

I don't know if I can do e-zines -- not nearly as much fun stuffing one in a totebag on your way to the beach or a weekend away.

Emily Barton said...

Ms. Knits, you, too, huh? And if we're reduced to nothing but e-zines, what WILL we take to the beach that will be able to survive all that sand? Maybe I should have kept all my ancient issues of Seventeen for reminiscing in the future.