The Kicker

The perils of taking fashion advice from a 27-year-old

Dressing in middle age? Sheer terror.

alison seiffer/illustration by alison seiffer for the boston globe

My name is Beth and I took fashion advice from a 27-year-old who looks like a runway model. And let’s just say that I am not, technically, young, tall, or willowy.

So, anyway, the 27-year-old, my friend’s daughter Sarah, tells me that a store she loves — Rouje — is having a sale and that I have to get the “Angele” skirt — a flirty number with a ruffly slit. Sarah has it in pink sunflower.

The slit is wide and revealing, the skirt too short, but for reasons unclear to me now, I was so suggestible I could have been under hypnosis. I was needy, but for what: Another shot at youth? A bit of excitement? A distraction from life’s angst?


“I got a lot of compliments when I wore it,” Sarah says.

Everyone is worried about the elderly getting scammed these days. But what about the middle-aged? We’re vulnerable too, it’s just that we’re often our own con artists.

Eager to stay in the game, we’re simultaneously afraid of trying too hard, or not hard enough, and it leads to problems — towering heels that are never worn; tops with peekaboo shoulders that are retired after we actually see ourselves in a photo; ordering on-trend “grandma sweaters” that look sexy on the models but make us look like actual grandmas.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. Rouje is in France. As soon as I read its manifesto — “Rouje is a brand for girls who apply lipstick with their fingers, who end up barefoot at midnight for having danced too much . . . who eat french fries and drink red wine” — I knew there was nothing I needed more in my life.

Never mind that staying up until midnight would kill me the next day, and that the fries are too fattening, and red wine is a known tooth stainer. In my Rouje skirt, I wouldn’t be a person with responsibilities (children, job, mortgage, dog). I’d be meandering on my bike through a cobblestoned French village, an unwrapped baguette in my basket, smoldering, or at least warm, with sexuality.


The skirt was too pricey, even on sale, but I was overpowered by potential. It was not like buying something from Amazon with free returns, however. Rouje is in France. That upped the stakes. If the skirt didn’t work out, I was looking at more than $40 in return shipping fees.

At this point, readers who have also found themselves in the grip of a fantasy know how my little love story will end. All mistakes share something in common — a dream and then a disappointment. The hope that this top, or these shoes, or this cream, will fix what’s wrong, followed by the realization — inevitably forgotten — that all answers lie within. Sadly.

But like a toxic lover, the object of your desire turns you into its puppet, until you become willing to spend anything, overlook any flaws, just to possess it.

To the bystander, and often even the victim, the obsession makes no sense. Why was I driven to shop overseas for a skirt when the rest of my wardrobe is apparently the subject of no attention at all? Right now, for example, the zipper on my puffy coat is stuck 3 inches from the bottom, meaning I have to step in and out of it like a toddler. When I wore it to an interview recently, I had to hide around the corner to take it off.


So yeah, of course I ordered the skirt.

But wait! I tried it on, and it’s see-through. You can watch TV through it. That can’t be right. Sarah never mentioned a problem. I texted her.

“Haha yes,” the 27-year-old responded. “I find it’s OK with beige lace underwear.”

At this point — weeks after the skirt cast its spell — I couldn’t remember why I liked it so much. That wide slit was not only revealing, it meant no store-bought slip would work. I’d have to have it lined. “Sixty dollars,” the tailor said.

There was no way I was paying return shipping when the Angele was trying to turn me into a floozy.

But Rouje’s French customer service agent was unmoved by prudish concerns.

“You can see on our website that the skirt is very sheer,” she wrote, “and very alluring.”

Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.