A growing luminescence  

About six years ago, I did that thing women of a certain age aren’t “supposed” to do: I stopped colouring my hair. Soon afterward, a female acquaintance of similar vintage felt compelled to provide a report, which she delivered with a combination of concern and competitive glee, on the number of shady interlopers congregating in back, suggesting I was overdue for a salon visit.

Going au naturel, so to speak, evokes an astonishingly visceral reaction. How dare I actually choose to do so? After all, the right shade, savvy marketers purr, will make all the difference. You will still be you, but a better you, defying the slings and arrows of Mother Nature and Father Time through a shimmering, multi-dimensional forcefield. If it doesn’t work out, just pick another colour. With a little effort, a fair bit of cash, and a slightly itchy scalp, you can not only look glam, but also fight the clock!

Do not curse me, manufacturers and purveyors of hair-colour products, for I’m sure I kept you solvent in my many years of trying to keep up appearances. And not just for grey coverage, but style. More than once I left the salon with something far too dramatic, acquiescing to the whims of stylists and, after wincing repeatedly at my reflection, sought a home remedy to tone it down. The result was usually odd with copper highlights. Then I’d wash it multitudinous times to fade it, tie it back and vow to never do the same again.

Until I did. There’s something mesmerizing about what happens in that salon chair, whether it’s sitting primly while adorned with a crown of foil – a look that could easily be mistaken for an attempt to receive alien radio signals instead of highlights – or the subdued calm induced by tightly bundled plastic wrap for colour processing. Call it the magic of anticipation; the promise of crowning glory.

I attempted to rediscover my natural colour in my 30s, thinking I’d just get it back to “normal” and leave it alone, scouring the aisles of permanent and semi-permanent hues for the ever-elusive match. During this Holy-Grail quest, an intriguing new trend surfaced amongst younger women as they took the shades once designed to ease women into senior citizenry and inverted them, showing brunette, ginger and flaxen roots atop greyscale locks. ‎At first, I thought it was a bold feminist statement, but I ultimately realized it to be no different than the incipient expressions of individuality my friends and I experimented with in our teens. Back then, lemon juice and sunshine were all you needed.

Despite the pleas and thinly veiled disdain, I’m sticking to the plan and avoiding the telltale stripe that is a recurring side-effect of colouring beyond a certain time. The first two years were moderately dreadful, but with a modicum of patience – all right, an abundance of patience – you, too, can discover and embrace your authentic shade after years of colouring. Mine turned out to be chocolate brown with a touch of auburn and a growing luminescence. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of bling.

Dior enchants at the ROM

An extraordinary exhibition. Hard not to fall in love in the presence of such beauty…

“As a rule, I would say use jewellery generously to get the most out of it.” (Christian Dior, 1954)

An ode to the classics

There was a time when people kept up appearances. Things could get a bit stuffy, even. Then along came the great soul-baring revolution of social media, which pretty much obliterated the idea that some things, perhaps, should remain off limits.

Fashion is no stranger to this tell-all aesthetic with its almost competitive sport of hemlines, second-skin cuts and see-through. The once half-smile relish in a certain je ne sais quoi has become a wide-eyed stare of incredulity.

But with the decline of mystery comes the decline of elegance and the unique narratives told through subtlety and charisma. The signature look is going the same way as the cursive signature itself and what a pity.

This is not a plea for Victorian necklines, but for a renaissance of the classy and the smart – a wardrobe that evokes intrigue and allure through tailoring, hints and suggestions, such as ballet-neck styling instead of fashion reminiscent of other kinds of dance. Remember Audrey Hepburn? Grace Kelly? Right.

1. Mini-skirts always seem to be on the menu, but here’s the test: upon sitting, if the fabric of the skirt doesn’t cover your knickers, it is too short. Pencil skirts and A-line midis, on the other hand, are always chic, whether the hemline hits just above the knee or just below.

2. The sheer layer is meant to be worn over another layer, such as a tank or camisole. This trend comes and goes but common sense should not.

3. Tunic shirts are shirts, not dresses, and require some kind of leggings or trousers. Please don’t skip your trousers. Similarly, leggings are meant to be worn under something. 

4. Oh, those pesky lines! What you wear underneath should be your own business, regardless of posh brand.

5. What will it take to stop the madness of super-skinny jeans? Slim-fit jeans are one thing, but can we please bid adieu to those that leave seam indentations all the way up your legs and incite other unintentional and unflattering results?

6. Super-short cut-off jeans or shorts? Unseemly, even with tights underneath, and the cause of much personal injury to the hapless souls following up the stairs. A minimum three-inch inseam should be maintained at all times. (Preferably five.)

7. Zippers should serve a functional purpose and for most pieces, be hidden or downplayed (i.e. blend in with the fabric). The look-at-the-giant-zipper-running-down-my-back thing is distracting (not in a good way).

8. Neon should be for signs or for your aquarium, not your wardrobe.

9. There are high heels and there are running shoes; never the twain should meet in a bizarre hybrid.

10. Pyjamas in public? Is it such an ordeal to put on actual clothes?

There are so many phenomenal fashion designers in the world and beautiful, flattering, and yes, elegant pieces to be found at every price point. It takes a bit of effort, but so does getting to know someone. Imagination is so underrated. 

The best of the blues

Whatever happened to those perfect jeans? The ones for class as well as for going out dancing? Back then, the latter typically meant “bar with dance floor” and no glittery club apparel was required. They were the “boyfriend-fit” blues; found in vintage stores and worn by someone else’s boyfriend many times before I acquired them.

Nothing could beat those softly distressed darlings that fit with a gentle but firm hug of the hips, loose enough on the waist to require a thick leather belt, and relaxed through the thigh. They left something to the imagination – a key ingredient often lacking in fashion these days – but were still decidedly fetching.

The few contemporary versions that dare to come calling by the same name are either “destroyed” through machine-made rips or very poor replicas of the original. They are not the comfortable-as-pajamas, relax-by-the-fireside variety worthy of a soft drink commercial.

Contrast the jeans of yore with the super-skinny leggings type that sadly continues to saturate the market. These show-it-alls somehow manage to be tighter than a second skin and often create unhappy results (witness the pervasive force of the “muffin-top”). They are truly the most unforgiving garments known to woman. And on men? Oh, please, no.

There are boot-cuts, I suppose, but they lack sit-ability. If you want to be comfortable in these, you’ll be standing. But boot-cuts are still preferable to their predecessor, the mega-flared bell-bottoms wide enough at the ankle to trip over the fabric and barely breatheable everywhere else. If they were boyfriend jeans, they’d be Robert Plant’s in 1974. And it took some serious rock star-quality guts and glory to pull them off – and to get them on in the first place, much like the designer jeans that followed in the early 80s.

The procedure for fastening freshly washed designer jeans was as follows:  while flat on the bed, hold in your breath, suck in your gut and apply a metal hanger to hoist the zipper. There was no stretch in denim then, and you had to “break in” your jeans like shoes. Heaven help you if they went too long in the dryer.

But the modern-day 180-degree alternative, o dread, is the high-waist “mommy jeans” style reminiscent of the late-80s fashion blunders some of us barely survived the first time around. Sorry, but no.

I took the debate to my friends and while there was lively dialogue defending boyfriend-fit and boot-cut, there were no passionate nods to the super-skinnies, bell-bottoms or mommies. One woman summed it up nicely, saying she simply wanted something that made her assets look their – uh – its best.

After a multitude of fruitless web searches and in-store disappointments, I followed the proverbial yellow brick road to a certain she-she denim mecca. And there, as if I were a jubilant Dorothy clicking her heels together, I found the way home to my old boyfriend: the “low-rise loose.” Not only are they the perfect boyfriend-fit jeans, they are stonewashed to the point of feeling like silk – silk pajamas, that is. And I’m dancing again, even if it’s just around the kitchen.