Normally, when I do these Bad Fashion posts I don’t focus on one store. Largely because I start in the mall and work my way around, but also because the concentration of terrible clothing per one store simply isn’t that great. Usually. Sure, there’s plenty of “Oh, hell no!” fashion, and even more “Bwa ha ha ha no” choices, out there. But to find shirt after shirt, terror after terror, in one place? It doesn’t happen that often.
Until last night.
George and I decided we needed a quiet, uneventful evening out, so we went to a local Italian place for some dinner and afterwards, stopped at this…store. Peebles. Yes, Peebles. Just like the pet store in Magilla Gorilla. It’s apparently in 40 states and has something like 900 stores, so this store is out there, quietly exuding its fashion menace upon an unsuspecting populace. The store near us has been open for about a year now and I hadn’t ever managed to make it in, until a heavy Italian dinner made me want to sort of putter around and walk a little of it off.
It must have been instinct that kept me out of there. Because once I walked in…oh, the horror, the horror…
As many of you are well aware, I have a particular disdain for embellished sweatshirts. I don’t like ones that have seasonal, “charming” decals because these shirts make a sad, tired statement about the wearer. If you’re wearing a poorly designed sweater with school houses or snowmen appliqued on it, you’re telling the world that you’re willing to look unattractive so long as you can project a dash of whimsy. Why do that to yourself?
Please note: this little beauty is a heavy-knit cardigan, in dull winter sky gray. Festooned with…what I first thought were quilted Stars of David but au contraire! They are little ersatz snowflakes. On a gunmetal grey sweatshirt cardigan. With a dusty plum double-layered crew collar. Nothing says “Seasonal Affective Disorder” like a shirt that emulates that depressive syndrome. Kill me now.
Though I suppose you could try and cheer yourself up with a shirt that looks like it was ripped from the reject pile at Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light’s failed projects studio.
Shapeless? Check. Weirdly designed? Check. Touch of the ever-present whimsy? Check. This shirt has everything that I can’t stand. However, I must reiterate (largely because they had an enormous collection of bizarrely bedazzled wear)…I haaaaaate sweatshirts that are spangled. Why? Because it’s a goddamned sweatshirt. For sweating in. Sparkles, on the other hand, were not made for sweat. They’re present in our lives to add a little glitz, a little glamour. Bespangling a sweatshirt, well…
It’s kind of like gilding the turd, isn’t it? And at $44, it’s not like it’s a cheap turd either.
The common theme that ran through most of the Peebles clothing was “boxy”. Everything was shaped like a box, like a square, without a curve in sight. It was kind of like shopping for a Volvo.
I mean, come on. I could chart Cartesian coordinates on these clothes.
How about a snappy vest? A well-tailored vest can keep everything nicely contained, provide a finishing statement to a casual outfit, and maybe even accentuate a lady’s waist.
Unless, of course, you’re this corduroy monstrosity, whose side pockets are designed to draw your eyes laterally. Who wants to look wider? No curves here, please.
And then there’s…well…let the picture speak for itself (at first)…
I don’t have a problem with a basic cable knit sweater, though I’ve seen them cut to look ever-so-slightly less like a shipping box and more like an actual article of clothing. I do object to this dull clay color (bad on almost everyone) and…if you only take one piece of advice from this blog, take this one…
…repeat after me…
FRONT PATCH POCKETS ARE ALWAYS WRONG. Always. But they’re particularly extra-wrong on knits, where they easily get stretched and misshapen. So, not only do you look wider than you might want, thanks to this sweater’s overall shapelessness, but it won’t take long before you’ll be irreversibly lumpy in the front from the stretched out pockets. If you need to tote things with you at all times, then 1) wear bottoms with side pockets or 2) carry a purse. There are solutions, people. Patch pockets are not a good one.
The unsexy box look wasn’t confined to tops, either. It made its presence known in dresses. I walked through row after row of shapeless dresses, sweater dresses that looked like a designer simply elongated the cable knit above (I thought sweater dresses were, by definition, supposed to be kind of slinky?) and evoked from me, at best, a disdainful curled lip. Nearly all of the dresses were terrible. Here are my two favorites.
First, this little maroon number was made of a super-thick, cottony, knitty, quilty fabric. It struck me as less of a dress and more like a moving pad you can get from U-Haul, to protect furniture from banging together in the back of a moving van.
And then there’s…oh, dear God. What.
So this blue dress. This. This blue dress. Sometimes, we come across clothes that are perfectly adequate for covering our nakedness, keeping us warm in the winter, and keeping us out of jail due to indecent exposure. They also say unto the world that the wearer has nothing left to live for, except sucking oxygen and converting food to fertilizer. This blue dress? Is one of those items.
Do note: the shift dress part of the dress is attached, so it looks like a two-piece and yet is only one. It is as shapeless as it gets. This is an article of clothing designed to keep us out of jail and still gainfully employed, and entirely forgettable. If you’re looking for a promotion? Increased responsibility on the job? Any semblance of joy? Then avoid this outfit at all costs.
It’s not just the embellished sweatshirts or the boxy knits where Peebles design fails. It’s also in their more “fun” clothing.
They don’t even provide a fake collar at the top to complete the layered look. Guys, come on. Who gave this the green light?
Or this one, that looks like the worst of Mrs. Roper‘s wardrobe mated with a lace factory to create this lacy, yet shapeless, overdone…here, see for yourselves.
For those of us who didn’t have to endure the era of Three’s Company, here is Mrs. Roper, for visual reference.
There was one shirt there I actually kind of liked. An open-weave sweater with a cowl neck and short sleeves, designed to be layered with a long-sleeved tee or some kind of camisole. It had the potential to be super-cute, and if the wall trimmers had done their job correctly, there would have been an entire, layered, salable outfit on the wall that customers could look at and think, “That. I want that.” Instead, they put it on a mannequin, unlayered. So what the customer gets is a bit of an artificial peep show.
Seriously, people? The objective is to display things as they’d be worn, and unless you’re selling exclusively to the Sweater-Wearing Nipple Club, this is a lost opportunity. People like things staged for them. They like houses they’re checking out to look like someone lives there, they like to buy art in frames, and they like to be told what shirt can be layered with what other shirt. Because it’s easier that way. People have lives and kids and work and spouses that make them think. Buying clothes? Retailer, please. Put together that attractive package for the customer and send them on their happily coordinated way. Don’t make them think about what they’ll need to make their wardrobe nip-free.
But you know, I really should consider the store about which I was talking. Because oh, the horror, the horror (part 2). Front and center, right along the main aisle, right in the middle of everything, stood…
The polyester velour track suit. While I think the purple one with the cascading pearls is special indeed, I am overwhelmed by the ruched red number on the left. Part window drapery, part Sgt. Pepper’s, this beast is the sort of thing that haunts my retro nightmares. Peebles buyers, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
I need to go lie down now.
Remember: Just because it’s in a store, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Just because someone designed it, doesn’t mean they know better. Define your own style, don’t let style (negatively, in most of these examples) define you. I’m just here to help.