October 2013 Issue
A weekend makeover in Columbus offers a fresh approach to fashion.
Much of my attitude toward life reflects the liberal tone of the ’60s — the era in which I came of age. But when it comes to fashion, I cast my political leanings aside. Where clothing, hair and makeup are concerned, I’m conservative — and proud of it.
My philosophy on appearance was born during Gloria Steinem’s reign in the ’70s. Like so many college students back then, I followed her advice to the letter: To make it in a male-dominated world, you have to dress like one of the boys. So, every season I made a pilgrimage to Higbee’s downtown Cleveland department store. I couldn’t wait to peruse the new Panther, Jones New York and Evan-Picone suits taking center stage in the Career section. Back then, it was so easy: choose your color, then select the matching blazer, vest, pants and skirt, plus a couple of coordinating blouses that tied the look together.
Voila! You were done and ready to face whatever came your way in the workplace.
But that was yesterday. And yesterday’s definitely gone. Higbee’s has disappeared into the mists of time. And so has the universally acceptable “power” suit. Today, many of us who’ve reached a certain age resent being surrounded by a sea of funky looks we wouldn’t have been caught dead in even in the days when we had the bodies to pull them off.
Needless to say, when my pals Beth Ervin, director of communications at Experience Columbus, and publicist Amy Weirick, president of Weirick Communications, ever- so-tactfully suggested it was time I head to the state capital for a makeover ... well, let’s just say I didn’t leap at the chance. But they persisted, holding steadfast in their belief that you don’t have to be twentysomething or thirtysomething to be trendy.
This I had to see for myself.
First stop: Photographer Scott Cunningham’s Italian Village studio, for “before” pictures of me in one of the tried-and-true Coldwater Creek “casual” ensembles I feel most comfortable in. We will return tomorrow to shoot photos of what Amy and Beth promise will be “the new me.”
Hmmm … Let the games begin.
Known for its bohemian ambiance, Columbus’ Short North neighborhood serves as the ideal backdrop for Substance, a boutique that’s the epitome of hip, cool and cutting-edge — and billed as the place “for fashion conscious people.”
Which begs the question, What am I doing there?
The store’s general manager, Madeleine Etter — an ethereal redhead who looks like she could dance the lead in “Swan Lake” — gently leads me to the fitting room. (Ignoring my skepticism, Beth and Amy assure me that plenty of boomers are regular shoppers here, themselves included.)
After asking what my favorite shades are (in Color-Me Beautiful-speak, I’m an autumn) and clothing preferences (I have not worn a skirt since hemlines skyrocketed in 1999), Madeleine selects several outfits she thinks will pass muster. She holds out a pair of Krazy Larry flat-front spandex skinnies and a Substance private-label black T, then adds an olive green cheetah-print wool jacket by Grace Chuang New York. Maddie (yes, we’ve gotten pretty chummy by now) tops off the look with a silvertone Nigel necklace. Yikes! Never in a million years would I have chosen this outfit!
Wearing it is like taking a walk on the wild side. And yet, as I scrutinize myself in the mirror, years melt away. No longer do I look the proud-card-carrying-member-of-AARP-age that I am.
The second ensemble is one I can really cozy up to: It features a cotton acrylic sweater in teal by Ya. In fact, it’s similar in color to a garment I owned in the ’80s. But in this decade, the shape has been updated with a fresh, distressed look of circular cutouts. Maddie complements it with an Abstract Hearts scarf from East Cloud and neon orange Resin Circles necklace. Clearly, I have hit new heights — especially when I sashay around the room in four-inch Nelly peep-toe pumps by Chelsea Crew.
Woweee!! Maybe there’s something to this.
I’ve always been one to view eyeglasses as functional, not fashionable. Maybe that’s because I only need them for distance and driving — although I do confess to bumping up the type size on my computer to 18-point.
Barbi Tuckerman, however, begs to differ. A licensed dispensing optician, she has both the expertise to fit lenses from prescriptions and help customers decide what they look best in. Her Grandview Heights studio, b. tuckerman unique eyewear, resembles an art gallery. It’s filled with collages of colored frames that put my Granny Clampettish spectacles to shame.
“Let me see your glasses,” Barbi says. I sheepishly open the shabby “I Love Lucy” case I’ve kept them in since the new millennium. Her brow furrows slightly as she glances inside. “Nevermind,” she says with a barely perceptible shake of her head. (Translation: How on earth can you wear those?)
“When people come up to say hi, they don’t look at your feet first, they look at your face,” Barbi admonishes gently. “Your eyes are the windows to your soul. The glasses you wear should enhance them.”
And clearly, mine do not. Barbi steps back and takes a long, hard stare. What I need, she explains, is something wide enough to support my broad, square face, but not swallow my close-set eyes.
“This is just like dress-up,” she says gleefully, grabbing handfuls of frames for me to model, while cautioning me to avoid red because it clashes with my ruddy complexion and to steer clear of black, which she deems too harsh.
“When was the last time you had your eyes checked?” she asks, after noticing me squinting toward the display case across the room. My reply (“Sometime during the George W. Bush years”) makes her shudder.
“Answers like yours drive me crazy,” Barbi sighs. “So many people go five to seven years between eye appointments. Yet, they get their teeth cleaned twice a year.
“If you lose your teeth, you can get them fixed,” she adds, “but you can never replace your eyes.”
Finally, after much deliberation, Barbi and I settle on a teal and brown titanium frame by Face ā Face Paris. The $629 price tag (which doesn’t include the prescription) makes my head spin. But I must concede they do exude a confident, look-at-me statement.
Seeing is believing. Glasses like mine are ancient history.
Face the Music
I begin Day Two with more than idle curiosity: Amy and Beth have made an early-morning appointment for me at Mukha, a custom cosmetics and day spa in the Short North. (Pronounced moo-kha, the moniker means “face” in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.) Clearly, I’m in good hands: Salon president Tim Maurer has administered to models on British Vogue fashion runways. His make up artistry has also been seen in "Little Man Tate" and "Field of Dreams."
But can he work his magic on me?
“Every woman has beauty,” Tim says. “It’s all about finding the spark and igniting it.”
I’m ready to light my fire. First, Tim custom-blends a foundation that’s surprisingly affordable. So much so that the price is equivalent to what you’d pay at a department store counter. He then creates an easy-to-apply-at-home-at-6 a.m. palette comprised of bronzer, blush, three eyeshadows, lip color and gloss. My friend Amy swears by Underwhere? the bronzer Tim uses to define his clients’ cheekbones. My favorite cosmetic: Hi-Beam brightener, which he recommends applying to the entire upper lid, from lash to brow. The highlighter wakes up my eyes and draws attention to them, instead of the bags holding court below.
When I look in the mirror, I often see a 30-year-old staring back. With Tim’s dexterous touch, I’m as close to being one as I’ll ever be again.
OK, I’ve been a good sport so far. But my hair is non-negotiable. My list of demands is simple: Don’t. Touch. It.
I was born a redhead who soldiered through Independence High School amid of sea of cool blondes who looked like undercover cop Peggy Lipton of “Mod Squad” fame. And, as with so many things in life, I didn’t learn to appreciate my auburn tresses until I began going gray and losing them at 28. My first foray into hair-coloring was a disaster: I wound up looking like a punk rocker. Luckily, I found a stylist 25 years ago who is a true artiste when it comes to mixing the perfect shade. Thanks to her, I’m not sporting the eggplant maroon hue or the Little Orphan Annie flame so many women my age think is flattering (not!).
Enter Damon Givens, owner of Stile Salon at Easton. I hunker down, ready for a fight. But all trepidation evaporates when Damon immediately remarks that my color suits me perfectly. (Awww shucks.) But, as for the cut … well, he really, really wants to tweak it. No surprise there. In fact, I take full responsibility. I’ve never been handy with a blow dryer. My styling solution: Wash my hair, slather mousse on it and go to bed with it wet.
In the morning, if the odds are in my favor, I won’t look like Elsa Lanchester in "The Bride of Frankenstein." Damon listens patiently, then convinces me to allow him to add just a few blonde highlights and layer my hair to add the height I fruitlessly have been trying to achieve for two decades — ever since the Age of the Perm went by the wayside.
He’s been so nice. I can’t say no.
The result: stunning. The bangs will take a bit of getting used to. But, oh what a difference three inches makes. Damon’s short-layer technique at the crown has created a shape I cannot screw up no matter what I do or don’t do.
I emerge from the salon with a feeling of freedom and a new way of looking at this chapter of my life.
Although I still mourn the demise of the pantsuit, I have learned that fashion can be fun — no matter what your number. The dawn of a new age is at hand. Bring it on.
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