A brochure for a firm called Fifty Plus dropped out of this week's Radio Times. Here it is:
It's a taster for the proper catalogue, something to catch your attention and hook you in. I can imagine plenty of senior ladies (very probably older than fifty) reaching for their phones in response, or filling in that form and posting it off. My Mum would have reacted in this way, up to age eighty and beyond. I actually had to shut down a couple of mail-order accounts when dealing with Mum and Dad's estates, and they died in their late eighties. A lot of people like to shop this way, even when they will never use the goods because of poor health, or a social life that has ceased to be.
I've absolutely nothing against the firm behind the brochure. The text and photos in the brochure are fine, the model wears the clothes well, but the only garment I'd think of ordering for myself would be that dark blue dress she is wearing on the beach. And then only if I could fool myself that I had her figure and legs. Because although they clearly have my size (UK size 16) that dress wouldn't sit quite so well on the Melford frame. Like my Mum, I would have bulged a bit in the tummy department, and my top half would seem a bit large compared to the model's. Also, I'm not especially tall, only five foot eight, so I can't offset these things by being all scandinavian and statuesque. All of which would compromise the intended svelte effect. And I don't wear heels: I want to preserve my feet in good shape, avoid blisters, twisted ankles and back pain, and walk decently fast if I want to.
This is why I haven't got a wardrobe bulging with dresses - just a limited number that I can wear on nice occasions, perhaps for important meals out, or posh cultural events. I've enough for a cruise, or a grand hotel, even if they have a formal night every night. Mostly I wear 'smart casual', dressing in a contemporary way, as if I were ten or twenty years younger. But never as if I were still in my teens, or my twenties, or my thirties. Dignity and credibility are important to me. The clothes must go well with the sagging face, weathered limbs and dishpan hands. Thus shops like Fat Face, and Betty Jackson's and John Rocha's stuff in Debenhams, cater for my self-image and what I can actually wear with comfort and aplomb.
This Fifty Plus brochure has its role, if not so much for me, then for a lot of older women, because it offers clothes that won't look odd or inappropriate. It's a good way of avoiding ludicrous mistakes.
I have one minor point of criticism: what is that awful plastic-looking retro camera that the model is holding? It looks like a stage prop to suggest 'I'm snapping in sunny Lanzarote'. But then, my parents weren't camera-savvy, and would see nothing amiss. And sunshine is the prevailing weather in all shopping catalogues, isn't it?