Jewish World Review April 20, 2001/ 27 Nissan, 5761
Not so long ago Chicago was a man's town of booze and blues, wicked and tough, the palaces on
the prairie that made up what Carl Sandburg called "The City of Big Shoulders.'' Men wore
hand-painted ties, wide-brimmed hats and swaggered through the speakeasies with molls on their
arms and big guns in their belts.
Those days are with us now only through Untouchable Gangster Tours, tracing Al Capone's
murderous enterprises. The garage where Capone's mobsters disguised as cops slaughtered seven
button men of the Bugs Moran gang on St. Valentine's Day is gone, replaced by a retirement home.
Gone are the gritty streets where Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie'' lost her virtue. Vanished are
the mean neighborhoods where Nelson Algren met drug-dealers, hustlers and a guy named Frankie,
who carried a "duffel bag of trouble.''
Much of modern Chicago (but by no means all) is a chic, classy "chick city,'' where fashionable
women search out expensive fashion in Michigan Avenue's famous emporia of high-toned rags. But
not all of them are happy.
The young women of Generation Y look just fine in their mini-skirts, tight slacks, sleeveless blouses,
spaghetti strap dresses, backless frocks and backless shoes with skinny heels. But what's a mature
woman, a mature woman with a pocketful of plastic, to do? Where's the chic fashion for her?
"I still want to look really good, but I don't want to look stupid,'' Myra Reilly, age 60, a suburban
matron from Lake Forest, a tony Chicago suburb, coming home empty-handed from a shopping
tour tells the Chicago Tribune. "There isn't a lot that's displayed for women over 50.''
This is not your daughter's feminism, and it's an opportunity for the industry. And here's a statistic
the politicians in Washington as well as designers and retailers elsewhere might take to heart, too:
More than a third of the women in the United States are over 50; every seven minutes a boomer
turns 50. Half are female. You might think someone would be sewing for them.
The women of the '60s generation who once wore granny dresses to protest against feminine
fashion imposed by "male chauvinists'' don't want to look anything like Granny today. One very
specific reason women "of a certain age'' are looking for a more stylish mature look is that more
long-term marriages are breaking up. Divorces between 1981 and 1991 declined among those
married less than 30 years, but increased 16 percent among couples married longer than 30 years.
Such trends continue, with enormous implications for national policy of all kinds.
These women are spending their money, and a lot of it, on other things: travel, restaurants, gyms,
spas, personal education and enrichment. They would spend more on clothes if the designers would
Retailers of women's fashion instead continue to be obsessed with the waifs of the youth market,
trying to build long-term relationships with those under 30. Talk about age discrimination: These
sophisticated female boomers have more buying power than any distaff generation in our history.
Traditional stores without a label mature women can trust are abandoning core customers offended
by the incessant appeal to youth. Burberry windows on Michigan Avenue reflect the fashion
conflicts. Half the mannequins are dressed in the traditional Burberry trench coat, half in scanty plaid
underwear and bathing suits, all with the design of the classic Burberry lining. This is up-to-date and
"edgy,'' but it's a little daffy, too. You can play to the young and hip and you can play to the aging
with hips, but not with the same goods.
"Even those 50-year olds with great bodies aren't as small as they were,'' says the owner of a
specialty boutique that caters to the over-50's with mature chic. Jane Fonda still has a great body,
but it's not the body she had in "Klute.''
Older women have more money and more options, and they're pursuing what they think they missed
with feminine fury. Nevertheless, it's considerably more difficult for a former wife than a former
husband over 50 to find someone new. On this unequal playing field, Viagra is the best friend a man
can have in his pursuit of a young woman in a backless dress and backless shoes. Alas, there's no
seduction suit for the mature woman on the
04/16/01: Reaching for the moon
04/13/01: Who's sorry now?
04/10/01: The details
04/05/01: News that wasn't fit to print
04/02/01: The devil in the legal details
03/29/01: Making marriage glamorous
03/27/01: Crime and punishment on the small screen
03/23/01: When speech isn't free
03/19/01: Russell Crowe doesn't wear a Black Beret
03/15/01: 'The little intimidator' of the breakfast table
03/13/01: "We are asking the Creator for clemency"
03/08/01: Saving El Salvador with dollars and sense
02/27/01: The last cowboys of their craft
02/23/01: When Bubba graduates to Bobo
02/16/01: Clarence Thomas addresses an imperfect world
02/12/01: Ariel Sharon, not by Steven Spielberg
02/07/01: Profaning the sacred with the political
02/05/01: What's the Creator got to do with it?
02/01/01: Live like the snopses, leave like the snopses
01/29/01: It's education, stupid
01/25/01: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"
01/22/01: Poetry and religion in the Bush administration
01/18/01: Ashcroft can't dance (don't ask him)
01/15/01: Clothes make the First Lady
01/11/01: Pity Jerusalem in the 'peace' process
01/08/01: Laying the political race card
01/04/01: 'What women want' in the new millennium
01/02/01: This year, looking ahead is sure sweeter than looking back
12/21/00: Black power with a Republican face
12/21/00: First impressions of two First Ladies
12/18/00: Challenge for the 'better angels of our nature'
12/14/00: What we've lost sight of
12/13/00: Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink
©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate