Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

February 23, 2010

If you are reading this you are too old for Betsey Johnson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Miss Plumcake @ 4:41 pm

This weekend I met with two new Glam Rehab clients. They’re both kinda hip and groovy in a crunchy sort of Austin way. They’re in their late-ish 30’s and generally pretty awesome (they also gave permission for me to talk about them on the blog. Thanks!)

We were chatting about their fashion time line, what they like what they don’t and they both told me they loved Betsey Johnson. I nearly had two strokes (one stroke each.)

Because Betsey Johnson?

Betsey Johnson at the Fifi awards


I mean sure, love Betsey Johnson the whackadoo designer , because she is totally endearing and would probably be a really fun friend to have as long as you didn’t embarrass easily (confidential to BJ: when I see you and the first words I can think of are “Nylon hair” “hot mess” and “Deranged Suzanne Somers stalker having a really difficult time with her m-to-f  transition” perhaps it’s time to rethink the look) but really, you do not live in a world where it’s All Junior Prom All The Time and maybe it’s time to up your sophistication level.

Does that mean you have to burn all your cute young clothes and only leave the house in St John knits?



Wait, I mean NO. (Although I love St John and I don’t CARE  that it’s as WASPish as you can be without having a tax shelter literally built around you. But they don’t make plus sizes so whatevs)

What it means is that you’ve got to start looking at what appeals to who you are today.

There is some great Sufi teaching story about a swan egg that got in a chicken coop somehow, and he was happy and all with his adoptive poultry family (clearly they weren’t Danish poultry, who –if we’ve learned anything from Hans Christian Anderson– are all bastards) who taught him how to eat grain and keep dry in the rain and all sorts of handy things. He’d watch the swans fly overhead and swim in the sea, secure that when the time was right, his chicken momma and chicken daddy would teach him how to fly and swim. But they didn’t, because they couldn’t, so the swan never learned because he thought “they have taken me this far on my journey so well, surely they can take me the rest of the way.”

The moral of the story is (kinda) just because something worked then, doesn’t mean it works now.

When was the last time you took a good look at your wardrobe and asked “does this fit who I am and what I want to project now?”

Maybe those lug-soled mary janes were super cute when you were 21 and it was kind of ironic that you were wearing old lady clothes since you were so  young and winsome, but now you’re 36. Don’t give up the essence of what you love, but make sure it’s being continually refined.

If you love punk, don’t give it up, just make it a bit more sophisticated than pink kitties and skulls on Ugly Knitted Things.  Alexander McQueen did it beautifully, and Viv Westwood, the Godmother of Punk, kept the punk sensibility without sacraficing sophistication when she showed for Fall 2010.


(I am DYING for that jacket).

SPEAKING of Betsey Johnson and Lee McQueen, how do we feel about her little homage at Fashion Week? Her heart was in the right place, but it didn’t quite sit right with me. And the hay-strewn runway? Didn’t Herr Karl do that for Chanel last season?



  1. Plumcake has spoken, ladies…and skip over the Betsey’s handbags (well, probably the accessories in general) while you’re at it. She’s immortalized in the Gallery of the Horrors for a reason. Yep, I’m also too old for Betsey.

    Comment by rainebeaux — February 23, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  2. I’m curious about “Glam Rehab clients.” Do you offer personalized styling services/fashion advice? Or I am completely missing the boat on this one?

    Comment by Mrs. Hendricks — February 23, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  3. Screw that. If I like it, I’m gonna get it, including those handbags and shoes.

    Comment by Jennifer — February 23, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  4. My fourteen year old niece wore a Betsey Johnson dress to her 8th grade graduation. It was perfect for a 14 year old. Also, it was so small that only an 8th grader probably could wear it. She is normally a size 0 but had to take a size 6 in the BJ dress. Isn’t that insane? She has a 21 inch waist!

    Thank you Plumcake, for this important public service announcement.

    Comment by Christine — February 23, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

  5. Everyone is entitled to his or her own personal style, of course, but hopefully that style evolves over time. When I see someone in their 30s (or beyond) dressing like it’s still college, it looks like a case of denial to me. After all, do you still use milk crates, 2×4/cinderblock bookcases, and posters tacked to the wall when decorating your residence, more than a decade after graduating from State U? (Please say “no.”)

    Even when I was in my late teens/early 20’s, BJ was too cutesy-wootsie for me, and don’t even get me started on her whole Pink and Black motif. It’s like Hello Kitty meets Victoria’s Secret.

    Comment by SusanC — February 23, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

  6. You bring up a very important point, Plum that bears repeating. I’ve seen people with the same hair/make-up/clothes for 20 years. Make-over shows are built on the ridiculous out-of-date fashions. I consider myself reasonably fashion-forward, but I struggle with what is appropriate and what I just can’t get away with anymore. I have literally cried over my wardrobe updates, and have a box of beloved pieces that, even though I can’t wear anymore, I can’t bear to part with. They are mementos, along with photos and 1st grade report cards.
    You gotta PUT IT AWAY. accept it, deal with it.

    Comment by klee — February 23, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

  7. I have hated Betsey Johnson’s fashions ever since I first heard of her and was young enough to wear her (about 22, so 1992). She was always too damn cute for my taste.

    Comment by Ripley — February 23, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  8. (clearly they weren’t Danish poultry, who –if we’ve learned anything from Hans Christian Anderson– are all bastards)

    This is the best thing I’ve read all day. And if it can put a smile on my face after the untimely death of an elderly relative has put the kibosh on a long-awaited weekend getaway to Austin, then it’s pretty darned funny.

    Comment by Kay — February 23, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  9. I always try to make it a point to wear clothes that reflect who I am. I would feel totally uncomfortable wearing clothes that just aren’t “me”.

    Comment by All Women Stalker — February 23, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  10. Yeah, add me to the group that didn’t like BJ even when I was young enough to get away with wearing it…

    I’ve actually found that, being in your (my) mid-twenties, it’s really, really easy to dress too old and conservative because you’re trying to fit in to the office workforce, or too young and trendy because, well, you’re still in your twenties and can get away with looking ridiculous. Plus, you probably just graduated college and bought a bunch of clothes to replace your busted jeans and hoodies, so it’s the first time you’ve had to think in terms of building a grown up wardrobe and that’s a little overwhelming. Most of us just threw our hands in the hair and bought a pile of interchangeable basics from the Gap.

    Comment by Evie — February 24, 2010 @ 12:20 am

  11. I came to grips with some serious sartorial growing up recently: I had to buy a suit. I tried on at least 15 before I found the right one. On about suit 8 I started to believe *I* was the problem, that I was never going to feel comfortable in something so professional or grown-up. I even wondered if suits were just wrong for my zaftig figure. Then it happened – I found something entirely appropriate and professional but also flattering and with little details that made it feel like me. I learned a lot – you can be you – even in clothes you are not used to wearing, but mostly that there are way too many manly, poly-rayon suits out there.

    Comment by ladymissm — February 24, 2010 @ 12:38 am

  12. ladymissm: And if you’re a different size on top than on bottom, that just adds a whole ‘nother level of fun to suit shopping. Bah.

    Comment by enygma — February 24, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  13. I have a BJ necklace that never fails to get compliments, and bracelet that for some reason really works (it’s grey metallic crystal). I can not explain this. I also have a handbag of hers that really works–some white and black thing I bought ages ago that has enough kick to be interesting, not so much to be silly. I wear a lot of blazers, scarves, jeans combos, and you can go a bit off the normal when the rest of what you are doing is so staid. At least I think so.

    However, Plummy, old dear, I can’t abide that green suit. My God what that pattern would do to my hips. I’d need to apply for a zip code.

    Comment by Lisa — February 24, 2010 @ 5:20 am

  14. When I was fifteen, my favourite school bag was a zebra-striped, over-sized clutch that zipped up at the top. It was fun, graphic, and it kept everything handy–and the topper was that it clashed perfectly with my (still unbelievably hideous) school uniform, so all the nuns hated it.

    But even then I remember thinking: I’m too old for Betsey Johnson.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — February 24, 2010 @ 9:27 am

  15. Oh yeah: Westwood’s homage…

    I’m still seething over her three-thousand-dollar-orange-prison-jumpsuit-homeless-man collection from a few weeks ago, including cardboard strewn runways and shopping cart hoarding accessories. Not sure if she’s mocking or sincere, I don’t know what the hell she’s thinking anymore. I really hope she knows it’s bad taste to use a remembrance as a marketing ploy.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — February 24, 2010 @ 9:34 am

  16. Evie I’m spot on with your post. I’m having the problem of being in my almost mid-20’s and just having a baby 5 months ago trying to redo my wardrobe. Mom/young/working/fun woman looking for clothes that work for all of this without doing the Gap interchangable collection. Ugh.

    Comment by Jessica — February 24, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  17. I might have to disagree with you Plumcake. Fashion is fun. Clothes are fun, they are an expression of who you are, how you feel at the particular moment or who you want to be. My wardrobe consists of lots of DVF wrap dresses, Nanette Lepore and assorted other tasteful contemporary and bridge designers. It is filled in with Banana Republic and Gap t’s. I have always been told I have good taste. That said, occasionally I throw on a Betsey Johnson top and pencil skirt to go out with my husband. He enjoys it and so do I…it’s fun!

    Comment by Catherine — February 24, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  18. Since neither Betsy Johnson or St Johns make clothes in my size that isn’t a choice I have to make. However, I would MUCH rather hang with someone in Betsy Johnson than that BORING St Johns suit. Blech!

    Fashion should be fun and fabulous.

    Comment by Desmo — February 24, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

  19. Too old for the overall BJ look, maybe, but a fun piece here and there? No problem. Especially at night:

    Comment by Astra — February 24, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  20. IMNSHO, while what you wear is important, what’s far more important is HOW you wear it. While I think that Ms. Johnson should fire her stylist, I went to look at some of her pieces before commenting (so, like, I’d know what I was talking about) and some of them have a lot of potential. In fact, I can’t tell the difference between some of her necklaces and the “statement necklaces” seen all over. (But I agree, some of those handbags should be put out of our misery.)

    I’m 45 and I love to shop at places like Torrid. I just don’t style the pieces like they do, and I stay away from the too much lace and tulle because that’s not the way I want to present myself. I’ve kept a number of my favorite items from the past even though they’re technically “too young” by restyling them with a belt or a cardigan, etc.

    And if my only option is St. John, please just shoot me now.

    Comment by TropicalChrome — February 24, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

  21. They will pry my 23 year old, three hole, classic Doc Martins from my cold dead hands. Bought them when I was 13 and they still work.
    Reliable in the snowy slush that we’ve had, and polish them up and they’re good with jeans and a jacket.

    Comment by jojo.k — February 25, 2010 @ 1:34 am

  22. Its no secret that I have a love for Gold Lamé and all things shiny…and it is also no secret that I have a special place in my heart for Betsey Johnson.

    Now, can I wear her things? Not as of yet, no. (Although it is a dream to one day have a Betsey DRESS for party times…)

    But I still love her. And her designs. They are kicky, they are wacky, and they throw themselves over edge of acceptable and make new limits for the more timid among us to move around in…

    Do I think ALL of her clothing is appropriate for ALL of my life? Well, no. But do I think that if I could wear say, this black dress from her spring 2010 line, then yes, I’d be the belle of the ball!

    Comment by De — February 25, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  23. so true, so true! went through my closet and realized hmmmm 28 year old mom… wait, size 16, 28 year old mom. yeah better put those goth as fuck lolita clothes in the tupperware. then i quickly booked a tattoo appt…… well i ever learn!

    great post!

    Comment by eva — March 2, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

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