For the past few months, I’ve been scouring the retail racks and online boutiques in a quest for something resembling loungewear. I work from home and even I have to admit that I’ve let my daily uniform become truly lack-luster. Summer usually means some version of a flowing sundress, but winter finds me layering up leggings, loose sweaters and on really cold days a ratty, old robe over it all.
Up until now, I haven’t had much luck finding anything but yoga pants and big shirts, but that’s about to change. I’m in like Flynn—well, maybe. It all depends on overcoming a dislike for sewing that stems from the Home Economics teacher from hell crushing my early enthusiasm with her wicked, stinging tongue. But desperate situations call for desperate actions; I’m ready to move past that trauma.
Since menopausal midriff bulge has made its home on my previously svelte figure, I don’t know how to dress anymore. Nothing seems to work for my body type. If I choose comfort, I look dumpy. If I choose fashion, I look like an over-stuffed sausage, bulging and about to burst out of my skin.
My childhood recollections keep harkening back to the mid-century heyday, when I remember mature women wearing crisp house dresses, smart suits cut fuller in the hips with shorter waist jackets, and those fabulous palazzo pants with long flowing vests.
I can see my auntie in her chic loungewear, with a slender cigarette holder poised at her lips, smoke spiraling from behind a long finger of gray ash precariously dangling from the tip of her menthol Newport. Clearly she was channeling Auntie Mame (their names rhymed, at least).
And now I can bring it all back. Well, maybe not the smoking. Okay, definitely not the smoking, but for sure the loungewear—and the house dresses, thanks to more than 83,000 vintage sewing patterns now available at Vintage Patterns Wiki.
This is pure genius.
I ask you, what better serves comfort and style for the fuller bodied, post middle aged, wanna be diva than the classic house dress? But not just any house dress; I’m talking about the wrap around dress.
I’ve had the pleasure of wearing a wrap dress. It was a fine woven, ivory silk with full circle skirt that I scored in an exclusive shop in Aspen. That was in the mid 80s and it’s entirely possible the gem had been hanging there waiting for me since 1964. It was definitely something Betty Draper would have worn for a dinner party.
Wearing a wrap dress feels like wearing a robe. With the right style and cut, it definitely doesn’t look like wearing a robe.
Take this Butterick 6015 pattern with it’s sly and slimming V in the wrap. It positively takes 15 pounds off a pleasingly plump body when done in two tones like the black and white illustrated.
For everyday wear there is this snappy little number 7753 from Advance. I’ve never heard of that brand, but I’m willing to give it a try. I see year round comfort and fashion here. Light cotton, with bare arms and legs in the summer. Add some fun, chunky jewelry and a pair of sandals and I’m ready to open the door to the UPS or Fed Ex guy without shame.
Come winter, a black, long sleeved, mock turtle neck and black leggings underneath will keep me toasty warm but looking hip—sort of an artsy, beatnik vibe.
And did you notice the sizes on both of these? Fourteen and sixteen. Nuf said.
And then (be still my heart), there is the loungewear, long beads and mules de ri·gueur.
I’m digging the second one from the left with the mid-length vest. I’d have to modify the body suit to a two piece ensemble though, just sayin’.
As for the Auntie Mame cigarette holder, I’m thinking a long paint brush casually dangling as if waiting for the muse to put it to paper will lend a more-or-less bohemian flair.