A couple of weekends ago, my boyfriend and I were walking to the grocery store, a journey which directly passes an Urban Outfitters. I find his apartment location very convenient for a number of reasons: next to the subway, really close to where I work out, surrounded by amenities, and it’s proximity to some great shopping -- not the least of which is said Urban Outfitters.
I always find myself staring at some vintage-inspired something in the window and on this particular day it was a pair of overalls over a sequined top. I stopped in front of the window display, transfixed like a hamster staring at a mirror. I was thinking to myself, should I get another pair of overalls? I really liked the ones I had back in the day...
Then came a big laugh from the boyfriend with the comment: “Urban Outfitters?!? Oh, COME ON! Seriously, act your age!” He smiled at me and gently tugged my hard a bit harder to get me to walk forward. I tugged back and stopped walking again.
Exactly how am I supposed to take this comment? On the one hand I'm thinking I may in fact be too old to shop here as much as I used to. But on the other, the moment kind of feels like when you mention you've gained weight to your friends and they repeat the sentiment back to you. Suddenly, those are fighting words.
In his defense, he IS only repeating back to me what he’s heard me say myself. But, really, when did retail environments suddenly become fraught with such age issues?
Let’s be honest here: I’m in my early 40s, and so is my boyfriend. Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily go bounding out of the house wearing Victoria’s Secret PINK logos all over my body. I personally don't think I can get away with cartoon shirts and the like, and I try to keep from putting block letters across my ass. Those days are long gone and, in my opinion, best reserved for those still attempting upside-down keg stands.
I have also given up on super sexualized pieces that clearly flaunt a younger form. Tube tops and bandage dresses and I will never see each other again. Stunt dressing is a thing of the past.
However, the “charm” of Urban Outfitters, at least to me, is the cheap thrill aspect of finding some nods to a few current trends mixed with a grab bag of vintage-inspired pieces. As I'm writing this piece, the windows of the store up the street literally look like 90’s-era grunge threw up all over the inside, and it’s strangely comforting to me. I loved grunge. I continued to rock plaid shirts, knit caps and ripped denim for decades. It’s my sweet spot. It makes me really happy.
About three times a year, I stop into Urban Outfitters to check out sweaters or jewelry, maybe the T-shirts or jeans. I can count on one hand the number of items I’ve bought from the store in the past three years. Yet now that someone is telling me I should avoid shopping there and I’m obsessed, standing in front of the windows, peering in.
It’s not that I really want to shop in Urban Outfitters, but suddenly it’s a question of SHOULD I? Am I really too old to want to revisit fashion trends from when I was younger? I’m not looking to step out into the streets dressed like I reek of teen spirit, but if I grab a sweater here or a pair of pants there, am I really trying too hard?
Because here’s the question that makes me nervous: At what point do sensible slacks and stores that offer turtlenecks in every color and pleated-front corduroys start to make sense? Leslie Mann’s character lamenting that she’s too hot to shop certain retailers caused nervous laughter in "This is 40" from the women in the audience, because, damn it, it’s true and it’s scares us.
I get that Urban may not be the best choice as far as time, taste and efficiency, especially if I have the originals that inspired the remakes handy. But there’s a crazy turn on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of Aging, and that’s when you realize that the clothes you would have once considered dowdy are suddenly supposed to be right for you, or that clothes you’ve gravitated toward for years suddenly make you look as if you’re trying to run with a younger crowd.
I feel like screaming “I was here first!” as I wave my tattered plaid shirt in the air, clutching my Soundgarden CDs. Oh, Lilith Fair, where are we now?
Exactly when did you know that certain retailers were no longer for you, and was it a matter of age, taste, money?