Clothing nostalgia

Spring is trying here. It really is … Maybe another week. The soles on my winter boots and walking shoes have worn through and these will be divested as soon as it’s ‘safe’ to change over the new season’s things.

I’ve done a fair bit of clearing out over the past few years but one area I never touched was the skirts and trousers I wore to work in New York and initially when I moved to London.

Mostly, they’ve sat in my closet and each time I’ve done a cull they looked at and I looked at them and they got a pass.

I think I stopped wearing them after pregnancy due to weight gain but I also have this idea that there just wasn’t the fun in it after my London office went from casual Fridays to full on casual dress. How lacking in imagination.

I worked in finance in NYC for years and then in London from 1998 till 2008 (when I got booted during the Great Financial Crisis — why it’s referred to in initial caps I don’t know).

In any case Tom’s post a few weeks ago made me think again of those lovelies in the closet – that Cary Grant pic looking so suave. I remember I really enjoyed getting dressed for work in NY – and I know I didn’t wear sneakers into the office and then change into heels.


And I have a vague early memory of the fun of putting on a full face of slap when I first worked in London.

I moved from really nice j crew and Banana Republic (when they were affordable and full of great stuff) plus things from Boltons on 57th Street and Saks and snazzy boutiques to Marks & Spencer suits (before the advent of casual all the time). M&S is great for many things, including its food halls, but back then clothing wasn’t exciting at all but was priced decently and I couldn’t justify spending a load on things I hoped I would no longer need once the pregnancy weight was completely gone.

Anyway, I have really great memories of what I wore in NYC. And, I got a manicure every week.

I don’t know why but I remember one lunch hour walking up Madison Ave to do something in a black knee-length sweater dress and high-heeled brogues. That was such a good look. I recall one weekly visit to J Sisters on 57th chatting with the technician and coming out with blood red nails (I was all over the colour spectrum, but frequently gravitated to reds). I remember wearing a charcoal silk midi skirt with a slit to just above the knee and Isaac Mizrahi stamped leather t-straps with a block heel (see below – I managed to keep those – and I recall buying them and thinking yes, they were pricey, but they were so pretty; they’re at least 40 years old and still awesome).

And of course the memories wouldn’t be complete without perfume. But, oddly, the only fragrance that I can picture is Santa Maria Novella’s Melograno. I know there were loads of other things but I’m drawing a complete blank at the moment. Guerlains, Chanels (definitely No 5), L’Artisan, Goutal.

Anyway, those things in the closet. Around 15 skirts and trousers I hadn’t really contemplated in a long, long time. So, out everything came and it all got tried on. To my delight, a bit over half the things still fit and were comfortable and looked decent. So, back they went into the closet. The things that couldn’t be buttoned or zipped up went to my favourite charity shop in the next town over. The town is actually a pretty snazzy place and I am hoping my skirts – all pencil (black wool, one great white cotton print, etc) – find happy new homes and I will actually see one or the other on someone in the future.

There was no point in making a proper effort when I worked from home. But now that I’m retired I’m slowly retooling my style. Out with the sad tunics and leggings and in with more wide legged trousers in linen and cotton, fun tops (here’s the Boden strawberries – I initially wanted the lemon print, but so did everyone else, so it’s out of stock), nice sweaters, a couple of pairs of All Stars in cream and black, and low-heeled Mary Janes in sky blue which I can walk in given I no longer have the high heel knack. (I’ve also finally been through my makeup and culled down to a really nice light tint from Lisa Eldridge, mascara and cream blush. I still miss full on Prescriptives foundation, blush, mascara and eye liner though. I’m not artistic, but back then I was quite decent at painting my face.)

Things change, our bodies change, work changes, where we live alters. Still, I’m really nostalgic for all that great dress-up and how it made me feel — chic and powerful while having a really good time. Does any of this ring true for you?

Pics: Pexels and mine

  • March says:

    I love thinking/talking about this. As I think I mentioned in a recent-ish post, I went Full Hippie for three years after my move. This winter I found myself craving more grown-up, structured clothing. I’ve been playing with pairing some of the dressier items I kept with jeans etc. A series of moves has compelled me to not hold onto the massive amount of clothing I’d have if I never had to pack everything.

    • cinnamon says:

      I feel I have the headspace now to look at this clearly but that’s a while in coming. After I posted this I re-read your post from many years ago about buying a new work wardrobe — and a different car during a period of change.

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I am normally a t-shirt, jeans and hoodie type of person. Seems like everyone I know is going through some kind of cull. I did a mini cull of makeup. Some of that stuff was almost 10 years old and hadn’t been used in at least 9. I am dreading my clothing cull. Most places I have worked at have always had a uniform that was provided so there was no need for fancy clothes.

    • cinnamon says:

      I was always very pleased that my son’s schools through secondary had uniforms as it made life simpler but I can imagine it being a bit frustrating as an adult unless it looks decent. I’ve come to enjoy culls but I have to say I still need to bite the proverbial bullet on makeup. I’m definitely not wearing most of what I have at this point.

  • alityke says:

    When I left ward nursing & went into clinical research I could wear mufti. No jeans, trainers or trackies but anything went. I quickly settled into well tailored trousers, a Breton or thin knit, with dresses in summer. At that time no heel was too high, so sandals, courts & boots with kitten, stacked or stilettos were a must.
    When the goverment decided to hoodwink the public into thinking there were more nurses & in the face of research, made all nurses wear ill fitting NHS uniforms. I looked like a toilet roll dolly!
    I’m currently going through my wardrobe & boxing up work wear to donate to a charity that supplies workwear for interviews & women new to the workplace.
    Parting with the heels isn’t going well. I can’t wear them now but they’re so gorgeous. As a little girl I slept with my new shoes!
    Now I wear jeans, Bretons, thin knits, sweatshirts & hoodies. I flirt with dresses in summer & leather trousers & legging in winter. I’m a Fitflop & Birkenstock girl. The chunkier the better.

    • cinnamon says:

      I’m deeply impressed by ‘no heel was too high’. Maybe get a glass fronted cabinet for the shoes? Would be a shame to lose them…

      • alityke says:

        They are not pristine but worn & loved. The Jimmy Choo Bondage sandal & Swarowski Gina’s are still in their dust bags & boxes. The C Doux’s I keep thinking I should get them cobbled & wear for the wedding. Many were completely worn out. Some unworn were sold.

  • Dina C. says:

    Loved your clothing and shoe memoir, Cinnamon! I love fashion even though my style has changed through the years, as well as my size. I love a T-strap! I still have a ritzy pair of black & white spectator T-strap heels which I rarely pull out. Last year I found a low wedge silver sandal T-strap that’s great. I have a little section of my closet where I’ve held onto perhaps a dozen high quality one-of-a-kind items from years past which I don’t want to give up. A mini clothing museum. It sounds like you were very sleek and fancy in your NYC financial days. But the Cinnamon of today still seems pretty darn fine, too!

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx, Dina. I think it might be more accurate to say the Cinnamon of today is trying to get back a bit of mojo. Love t-straps. They are good in stilettos, block heels, even flats. Just a really good look. Spectator style is so chic. Indeed, a mini clothing museum.

  • Portia says:

    Clothes are funny, aren’t they Cinnamon… we place so much stock in presentation. Mum always said “You can only make ONE first impression.” Then I studied fashion so it was almost religious.
    One day I woke up and suddenly couldn’t care less beyond a Polo shirt and jeans. There isn’t even a suit in my wardrobe anymore, though there are a couple of blazers.
    Quite soon after that I got the notion that I should only have 10 pairs of shoes at any one time and I have settled around there ever since.
    Obviously drag is quite different but even there I’ve culled and narrowed the collection as other parts of me have broadened.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      I’m with your mum, Portia: I think people look at us and their brains make the equivalent of a polaroid and that’s it. I don’t think it’s hugely important unless your living is made totally on how you look. But, having said that I feel a lot of us would benefit from acting a bit more out of the box.

  • Tom says:

    Oh totally. I still have in my closet a navy blue wool suit I haven’t worn in decades. I bought it a designer resale place in Culver City in the mid 90’s that specialized in clothing purchased for TV shows- usually worn once and then turned over. This one they had trouble getting rid of- it was a 42 long with a 12” drop- meaning the pants were 30” waist. The sales lady didn’t think it would fit but it did like it was made for me. I got it for a song, and yes, it made me feel like Cary Grant.

    Of course my days with a 30” waist passed a while ago, the pleated pants went out of style then back in, and it has moth holes. But I still keep it. Maybe sentimentality, maybe just a sacrifice to any moths who may be in the mood. They can eat that and leave the stuff that fits alone.

    • cinnamon says:

      Oh, my, there are charity shops, especially in areas of London, which are known for being treasure troves of rich people’s castoffs.

      Oh, yes. I’m in better physical shape than I was 5 years ago but those stubborn bits of wiggle have moved to different places. I think feeling like Cary Grant would make me forget about that though.

  • Maggiecat says:

    My personal style, for a very long time, has been trying to hide the fact that I’m wearing jeans and a t shirt by tossing on a jacket/sweater/and/or scarf. As a college professor (now retired but teaching classes at my church), I didn’t have to dress up much (except for that brief stint in administration about which We Will Not Speak). I wore dresses and skirts many years ago, until I blew out my knee and found out that pants were easier and more comfortable. But, after a recent scramble to find something appropriate for a dressy event, I’ve been thinking perhaps I should Try Harder? Something at least better suited to the Channel perfume, anyway?

    • cinnamon says:

      Scarves are the bomb. They help with everything.

      Yes, that’s where I am: Try.Harder. But without compromising comfort and without looking like many of the middle aged/middle class women I see here who seem to have settled into a weird, dowdy, mixy-matchy look which makes me feel twitchy or are trying to recapture their youth in weird ways.

      Ah, admin. I had a boss a number of years ago here whose way of dealing with casual Friday was to wear the same rust-coloured cord trousers every week. It was a look but a terrible one — and became material for jokes.

  • Cyndi says:

    Yes, absolutely. I am retired and compared to how I dressed and wore makeup everyday, I am now as bare bones as I can be. I still love wearing my perfume and I give myself a manicure every week, but as far as anything else, I don’t make much of an effort. I also got into the habit of tunics and leggings all the time. However, with the warmer weather here, I bought some proper pants, blouses, and a lovely red midi dress. Here’s to more dressed up days!

    • cinnamon says:

      Yup, tunics and leggings. I’m small. I caught myself in a mirror in a store fairly recently and just thought ‘you look like you’re trying to be a teenager’. I know there are ways to rock that look but I wasn’t doing it.

      I sometimes find myself thinking I need to dress up to my perfume, like live up to how great it is. That’s something of a motivation.

  • Tara C says:

    I loved getting dressed up for work and had a great wardrobe of clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry, as well as fancy cosmetics. But as soon as I retired I got rid of nearly all of it as I am not the type to dress up to sit around the house, walk the dog or do grocery shopping, which is mostly what I do now.

    I’m a jeans and tshirt kind of gal now, with too many hoodie sweatshirts and boots. But it’s okay, I still enjoy it all. When I get tired of something I donate it. And of course there’s those gazillion bottles of perfume I’m enjoying. I have happy memories of my fancy stuff but I am happy the working chapter of my life is over.

    • cinnamon says:

      No, those aren’t tasks that I think require oomph. But unlike you, I no longer wear jeans. I think they can look awesome — on other people.

      I sometimes think the thing I loved most about that period of dressing for work was the heels. I had a shoe thing and the right pair could ‘make’ a plain outfit. I don’t recall wearing much pattern at all but I had all these amazing shoes.