In my life as a clothing consumer I have been subjected to a series of sudden visions known as Dressing Room Revelations.
Most of them were unpleasant.
Most of them were unnecessary.
Most of them were brought to me by that demon of technology, the three-way mirror.
It was in a dressing room, for example, that I discovered what I look like from the back. This is something I really didn't have to know. I could have led a decent upstanding life blissfully ignorant of this information.
It was also in a dressing room that I learned how I appeared in a bathing suit under fluorescent lights in February. Not my best. Definitely not my best. In fact, if I ran a department store, I would make sure that all swimwear dressing rooms were candlelit and equipped with small hand mrrors.
Well, last Saturday, in by biannual venture to the wonderful world of merchandising masochism, I had a different sort of shock. I discovered that I am too tall to buy a skirt. At 5'8" I have been factored out, rejected, eliminated from the entire skirt-buying market of 1980.
This is something of a shock because I was told by my fortune cookie that this was the Year of the Skirt. What the fortune failed to add -- I will never trust another cookie -- is that this is the year of the short skirt. Or the year of the short person's skirt. In this case, I think it is okay to say the short woman's skirt without being accused of sexist language, but you never know.
In rapid succession, I tried on a dozen skirts, all of which would have exposed by entire kneecap to chilblains and/or ridicule. My research brought me to the following set of conclusions, which I will share with you as a public service. In order to buy a skirt this fall you must:
1) Be no taller than 5'3".
2) Be looking for a miniskirt for a '60s Nostalgia party.
3) Be willing to have your knees surgically transplanted to the middle of your thighs.
There is, of course, another alternative. You could let down the hem. What is a hem, you ask (and well you may)? A hem is not the sound you make clearing your throat. It is something they used to have in clothes along with seams. What is a seam? A seam is something they used to have in along with dressmakers. What is a dressmaker? That is something stores used to have in the era of covered buttonholes and $30 dresses. What is a $30 dress? Forget it.
The skirt problem itself isn't all that unusual. If petite is chic, so it goes. But it isn't that simple. This year there is another wrinkle contained in the favorite song line, "Sam, you made the pants too long."
Yes, indeed, the same folks who have made the short skirt have also made the long pant. To wear a size 10 skirt you must be under 5'4" and to wear size 10 slacks you must be over 5'10". I have seen women walking around the dressing rooms with pants trailing behind them like bridal veils.
Their is a tendency for those eternal rationalists among us to wonder: Who on earth are the manufacturers designing for? Who on earth are they thinking about? The answers are simple. They are designing for themselves and thinking about us.
For years, Seventh Avenue has declared various parts of the female anatomy "in" or "out." When they invented the phrase "ready-to-wear," they were talking about the consumers, not the clothes.
Women may not have been slaves to fashion, but we have proved to be, uh, flexible. We have padded our shoulders and girdled out stomachs, retrofitted hips and outfitted sweaters, and generally retooled out bodies from season to season with more speed than General Motors.
Now they have presented us with the supreme challenge. The true elegante, the fashionable woman of 1980, will be the person who changes her height to go with her outfit. Tall by day, short by night (or vice versa), she will be unfettered, liberated from the old archaic limits of mere inches. Hosanna.
Just remember . . . you read it here first.