Oliver: Following latest clothing trends leads to frustration

Sometimes the best thing to do is to laugh. How else could I react when the fashion powers-that-be decided that the “thing” this season would be off-the-shoulder and “cold-shoulder” tops?

Any woman old enough to have gone through a few cycles in fashion knows that everything comes back again. Those of us who have learned a few things also know that some of those reincarnations are just not for us.

We know this, I might add, because we tried them the first time and would prefer that you never bring it up again, thank you very much.

As a gal of the top-heavy persuasion, I am loath to don anything that does not allow for straps. A good foundation is essential. Yet, most strapless bras are uncomfortable at best, painful at worst. And don’t get me started on the bras with “invisible” straps. If you recall how painful it is to rip off a bandage, then you get the idea of what those plastic straps did to my shoulders. Ouch.

I’ve seen some of the girls with a similar problem opt for tank tops under these off-the-shoulder numbers. Essentially it creates a faux “cold-shoulder” top.

The problem is that if it wasn’t designed that way, it tends to look awkward. Or at least it does to me.

Then again, it’s a free country, do what you want.

Then there’s the whole “maxi” dress and skirt trend that continues. The modest part of my personality loves the idea. However, when you’re all of 5 feet 3, the style is, well, challenging. Who wants to look like a tiny mushroom planted in the soil? Clearly this whole maxi business is meant for the statuesque among us.

Happily, after years of failures and a heavy dose of TLC’s former show “What Not to Wear,” I have a better handle on what looks good on me and what doesn’t.

Sadly, a lot of women tend to blame their own bodies when a particular style doesn’t work or they can’t seem to find any clothes that fit. I know I used to do that, too. However, it’s not you, it’s just not for you.

I remember a particularly embarrassing incident involving a dress with an “empire” cut. This style is particularly good when one’s narrowest part is right under the bust. On me, it created an unhappy illusion of a maternity dress. It took me weeks to quash the rumor that I was pregnant. Guess what style I now avoid like the plague?

Of course, we all have our particular problem areas.

I always thought taller girls had it better than I until I recently went shopping with a friend who towers over me. Apparently she can’t find anything with sleeves or legs or hems long enough. I can see how that wouldn’t be a lot of fun, either.

It’s OK not to follow the trends if they just don’t work for you. Learn what works and stick with it. Mix, match and create a look that’s all your own. And it’s an important message to send to our girls, who have even more peer pressure to look the way everyone else does.

Just stay away from the stuff for the petite, top-heavy, short-waisted fashion plates of the world.

I’m calling dibs.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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