This post is dedicated to my late great-aunt, Ethel Stradford Adrine, who loved to dress well and always looked FABULOUS. I’m sure that St. Peter will see the eagle carrying her fine spirit in the distance and open the gates of heaven in preparation. For heaven is being graced with a quiet, capable presence–probably rockin’ a dress that tells everyone a grand lady has arrived. Fare thee well, Aunt Ethel. Fare thee well.
There are plenty of times in everyone’s life when you feel as low as an ant’s belly, but for whatever reason, have to fake it ’til you make it. Maybe you were just kicked to the curb by your significant other; perhaps you’ve had a big argument with your best friend, or; sadly, there’s a death in the family and there’s no way you can skip the funeral. If you’re really unlucky, you’ve had all three at the same time. I did, in a sense. I was already quite depressed when I heard about my aunt’s death from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. While I wasn’t as close to her as I am to my other great aunt, also named Ethel, her passing was, in my eyes, one less Adrine in Cleveland. The only “good” thing is that she’ll be with her husband, my great-uncle Russell, who passed very suddenly from a stroke some years ago even though it seems almost like yesterday.
What to do? What to do? Honey, I’ll tell you: Throw open those closet doors; break out your best jewelry, borrow some more if need be; put some killer shoes on legs clad in stockings, pantyhose or tights; add an interesting belt, and; hold your head high. And, if you have a family like mine with several factions who are in the midst of simmering dispute on any given day, you tell them it’s time to come together and support each other or you’ll quietly kick some ass. But let’s get back to dressing to feel like a million.
I am an underwear slut. There is nothing that makes me feel better than to have on a bra and panties that are sexy and sensual. Therefore, I’d suggest putting on a really nice set of underwear. If you’re a full-figured woman like me, don’t forget to wear your very best bra for lift. As much as we don’t like it, the breasts get closer to the floor the older we get. In addition, if you’ve gained weight recently and haven’t gotten to the gym yet, (damn that knee replacement), a good bra is absolutely essential. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Go to Lane Bryant and check out their Cacique line of underwear and sleep wear.
I am very fussy about my bras. I insist on underwire and, until I found out about Cacique, hated padding. Now I have so many Cacique bras and panties that I’ve run out of room for them all! Yes, I know what Lane Bryant was like when you were growing up. It had mumus fit for little old ladies. However, this ain’t your mama’s Lane Bryant. The chain was purchased by Charming Shoppes, Inc. (CHRS), owners of Fashion Bug and, I would assume, Fashion Bug Plus, and Catherines. Their buyers get better every year.
Now for the outerwear.
Most people go to funerals in dark colors. I did the same before my cousin, Lisa, died in 2010 at the age of 42 or 43 years young. Oh, I went to the store with the intention of buying a suitable, dark, dress, but the only thing I heard as I drove through a sleet storm to get to the strip mall I frequent was her voice saying, “Live!” Lisa’s death both shook me up and spit me out. I was an absolute wreck. Were it not for her voice demanding that I live, I would have hidden under the covers until I had to drive 30+ miles to her memorial service. I’d seen her death before it happened, but didn’t know what I was seeing except her sitting under a rock overhang with legs crossed watching an eagle fly high in the sky. Lisa and I were very close, though we’d only known each other for a relatively short time. She was visiting her sister, Loretta, who works on the Arizona section of the Navajo Indian Reservation. It’s a two-hour drive to get from where Lisa and Loretta lived off the rez. As remote as it was, Lisa really, really needed to be there to understand herself and make peace with her spiritual beliefs. I envied her in a way because I’ve wanted to soak up the rich culture found there, but had other places I needed to be before I went to Arizona.
I went to Lane Bryant with the intention of buying something as dark as my mood for the memorial service. However, a brightly colored sheer tunic caught my eye. Again, I could hear Lisa’s voice telling me to live as opposed to locking myself away to mourn. I bought the tunic and some black tights to wear with it. That trend has continued with Aunt Ethel’s funeral. I chose a vermilion coat dress with black velvet collar that had been custom made 25-30 years ago for some occasion or another.
Although coat dresses fall into the category of “classic style,” it needed an update. I found a thin black belt with gold fixtures that allowed me to ever so slightly blousson the top, thereby making the wider hips I have now fit better. In addition, the belt showed my waistline, though it, too, is larger. The dress’ the small to medium shoulder pads gave me a balanced look. When I added black pantyhose and shoes, I effectively got blocked colors.
Now, for my face and neck.
The skin on my face is very sensitive. I can’t even wash it twice a day with very mild soap (Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Bar) without getting red marks on my cheeks and forehead. Oil of Olay? Ha! It is not hypo-allergenic where I am concerned. It breaks me out faster than if I’d had six cans of pop and slathered my face in oil. Speaking of oil, it’s oily in some areas and dry in others. I think the only reason it looks half-way decent most days is that I tend to go au naturelle most of the time. When I’m feeling particularly good and sexy, yes, I’ll put on the make-up, but I’ll put on as little as possible.
My complexion is caramel colored with red and yellow undertones. Finding a foundation is very challenging, even in the Fashion Fair line, a beautiful make-up collection for all women of color. Rarely have I found the right blend of brown, yellow and red. Borghese once made a shade that was perfect for me, however, it seems that it is no longer in their line, at least if one looks at their web site. Fortunately, I have enough to get me through the spring, at least. Someone really should write to them about the lack of shades for brown women. I like looking as though I barely have any make-up on during the day. I want to look fresh and my eyes to be highlighted just a tiny bit. Once the foundation goes on, then I begin applying a pencil liner to both the top and bottom lids. I’ve found that pencil liners give me more control than liquid. What color shadow I wear depends on the mood I want to set and, again, whether I want a look that makes people ask whether I’m wearing make-up. For shadows and blushes, I use Lancôme for the most part. This time, I wore a chocolate color called “Chocolat brûlé” on the lid and another called “Nosegay” in the crease and on the brow. Then, I used ordinary Cover Girl mascara to lengthen lashes that are already fairly long. I don’t use eyebrow pencil, although I probably will one day. I apply blush just a tad under the cheek bones with a brush at each temple as well. Again, all is applied very lightly. I really don’t care about lipstick manufacturers, although I must admit to having a high percentage of Lancôme here as well. Before I do my lips, I put on a coating of lip balm because my lips tend toward being chapped all year. The balm provides filler and added softness. The unfortunate aspect is that my lipstick will come off more easily. Hey, we all have to make compromises at times.
I have lots of earrings even though I don’t wear jewelry very often. I chose a pair of green glass teardrop earrings with gold fixtures made from a glass blower’s scraps. I love the different shades of green running through each one, with just a smidge of almost-white and a hint of blue that’s barely there.
I should probably say a word or two about my hair. My hair doesn’t know what texture it wants to be. I inherited it from my father’s side of the family tree. He got his from his grandmother who I remember as this very interesting woman who chewed snuff and had a braid that went straight down her back. It was only much later in life that I learned she was Cherokee and married a black man. I wish I’d known her when I was in my teens, but she died before I hit double digits. I don’t remember when her husband died. At any rate, my hair will stand in a crew cut naturally if I don’t tell the barber to cut it so that it lays flat when combed from the swirl. I have a widow’s peak of which I’m very fond, but barbers always want to shave off. I’m just different that way. It’s been about a week since my last cut, not long enough for the hair to start curling yet, but it will by week’s end. That gives me a much softer look that I like just as much as the shorter, close-cropped style. Unless I’ve allowed my hair to grow for a couple of months, I can get in the shower, shampoo, moisturize if time permits, apply body lotion, some hair oil and clothing. That’s it. I don’t have to comb it or brush it if I don’t want to, although I could train it to wave if I had the patience. After several attempts, I’ve given up.
The Winchester collar on my dress cried out for a necklace, but I’m very short on those. Therefore, I raided Mom’s stash. She’s got enough jewelry to open her own store and, believe me, it’s just as much fun going through her collection as it is shopping for my own. She had the absolutely perfect piece. It has at least 20 separate ropes of small, black beads held together by a short, gold chain. On the end is a gold teardrop.
Good underwear: check. Black pantyhose: check. Black shoes: check. Make-up: check. Green earrings: check. Black rope necklace: check. All that I needed to do was put on my dress. As I’d hoped, the color was blocked and the dress didn’t look bad at all given it’s age. If it had larger shoulder pads, then there’d be a bit of a problem. The medium sized pads worked perfectly to balance me out. Coupled with the belt, I was A-OK.