Through the ups, downs, and sideways’ of fashion, I have remained tenaciously, solidly, anti-fashion.

Even during those periods when I had a body that might — in theory — be a fashionable shape, the clothing was never me. Too tight. Too pointy. Too bright. Too striped. Just too too too.

So, I never tried to be fashionable. When young, I wanted to look like Joan Baez. If I think about it, she was stylish in her own way. Hippyish, which was my general style too. I never went with crazy patterns, but I did go with loose and comfortable. I found a couple of places in Greenwich Village where they made my idea of fashion. I continued to buy the same clothing from the same places until I became a mommy and didn’t have time (or money) to go into the city. After that, I replicated the same styles via various mall stores.

As I got older, there was always L.L. Bean and Land’s End. Their catalogs were my fallback position. I could usually count on finding A-line skirts and round-toed shoes. And turtlenecks. In black, taupe, gray, navy, and occasionally, mauve. Jeans were always good for between work and later, at work because eventually, you could wear anything to work and no one cared.

I still wear the same stuff, though yoga pants have taken over for jeans. Once you go stretchy, you’ll never go back. Long, loose dresses because I have a stupid itchy rash and often can’t wear elastic.

Fashion statement? Me? I visit “Chicos” for special occasions. Three sizes fit all. No matter how hard I try, there is always a wedding, funeral, or some kind of reunion to attend. Sometimes I have to go … and I need a dress.

On the upside of unfashionable, unless I get much fatter or a lot thinner, I can wear the same unfashionable clothing forever. It was out-of-date when I bought it and it will be no more out-of-date five years from now. Even better, periodically my lack of fashion becomes in fashion. Long skirts, blocky shoes, loose tops. I wear what I wear, but fashion sometimes changes in my direction. So every now and then, I’m “IN.”

This is not one of those years.


SERENDIPITY HEADER--Flare-AtteanView_003

Just as self-publishing has redefined authorship for many people, so has the “design-your-own” clothing business changed what we wear. Specialty shirts for teams, schools, and organizations have long been an industry, but in recent years “swag wear” has become ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. There’s slogan clothing for anything you can think of. And a whole bunch of stuff you would never have thought of.


You can find a commemorative shirt for movies, authors (living and dead), as well as every book and concert tour … not to mention TV shows and their individual characters, historical, alive, or fictional — and any combination of the aforementioned.

I don’t remember exactly when tee-shirts with clever sayings became the clothing of choice for everybody, but if I had to take a guess, I’d say about 30 years ago.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

That’s the first time I remember buying a tee-shirt that had people stopping me on the street so they could read it. It gave humorous definitions of world religions as they relate to the word “shit.” The only problem was it took a while to get through all the words, so I had to stand there and wait for people to finish reading.

Since then, the world has burst into a blooming bouquet of slogans and logos on all kinds of clothing, though not yet (but never say “never”) on business suits. It will happen. Just please, not yet.


Somewhere along the line there came into my world “CustomInk” who can make anything you want in the way of a tee-shirt, sweatshirt, mug, mousepad, pen, calendar, or poster. You name it, they can put your design on it.

Use a photograph, drawing, or use the company’s design tools to create something that says “me” or “you.”  I’ve done both. I’ve designed special shirts as Christmas and birthday presents … and of course for Serendipity because … well … why not? Of all the enterprises in which I’ve participated throughout my life, this one is the most “me.”


There are hundreds, probably thousands of places doing custom design and printing. CustomInk happens to be the one with which I have worked. Despite sticker shock, I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the product. I tend to reward companies that do good work by continuing to give them my work … however little it may amount to in the overall scheme of things.

Since the subject in this week’s “Discover” challenge is essentially “clothing that defines us,” what could possible define us more than unique clothing we design and create?

I should also point out what I kick I get out of designing stuff. I’ve always enjoyed design, whether it was illustrations for a technical guide, a book cover … or a tee-shirt. There’s a special satisfaction in designing apparel. It’s not high fashion, but it’s my fashion. These days, you don’t have to wait for someone else to come up with your perfect fashion statement.

You can make your own statement. Using your own words and pictures.



Let’s hear it for all of us who never even tried to be fashionable. When young, I wanted to look like Joan Baez. So I bought all my clothing in Greenwich Village and continued to buy the same stuff from the same places until I became a mommy and didn’t have the time to go there. After that, I replicated the styles via Macy’s or other mall stores.


As I got older, there was always L.L. Bean and Land’s End. Their catalogs were my fallback position. I could usually count on finding A-line skirts and round-toed shoes. And turtlenecks. In black, taupe, gray, navy, and occasionally, mauve. Jeans were always good for between work and later, at work because eventually, you could wear anything to work and no one cared.

72-Marilyn at Canal-GA-042716_125

I still wear basically the same stuff, though yoga pants substitute for jeans. Once you go stretchy, you’ll never go back! Long, loose dresses because I have a stupid itchy rash and often can’t wear any elastic at all.

Fashion statement? Me? Visit “Chicos” for special occasions (three sizes fit all). There’s always a wedding, funeral, or some kind of reunion. Now and then, I have to attend.

What’s best about my total lack of fashion is that periodically, I’m in style. I wear what I wear, but fashion changes. Some years, I’m “IN.” (This isn’t one of them.)

And now … I have to pack up some stuff ’cause we’re on our way to visit friends. See you all on the other side!



I recently stayed with my daughter, Sarah, in Los Angeles. I was struck by the interesting design and decor elements I saw in homes I visited.

Sarah is 31. She lives in North Hollywood with a roommate. They have some wonderfully funky things on their walls that gives their house a happy, creative, fun feeling. For example, as an inexpensive way to treat a large wall behind the TV, they strung LP records together and created a decorative statement piece.

Sarahs house

To give drama, color and interest to the opposite large wall in their living room, they came up with something unique, to say the least. Budget friendly, too. Sarah’s roommate found a large model of an airplane in the trash. It had been made for a studio to use for exterior shots of airplanes in movies. They hung it, nose down, and dotted it with colored paper ‘flames’. To complete the vignette, they have a Barbie doll parachuting to safety from the wreck. Not for everyone, but I love it!

Sarahs plane

I also visited an old friend who recently moved from Westchester, New York to LA. His name is Gary Kiffel and he just retired after 22 years as the sound effects man for David Letterman. He decorates his home with some of his cool collectibles, like vintage radios, microphones and phonographs. Unfortunately his giant , fully working antique pinball machine didn’t make the move out west.

The microphone that says “WRR” is an RCA that dates from 1946-1954. When Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, he used the exact same mike.

garys mikes

The smaller phonograph is an Edison Standard Model A from 1899-1901 and played Edison cylinder recordings. The larger one with the beautiful blue horn is a Columbia Phonograph from 1905 or 1906. It played 78 and 80 RPM records. Both phonographs still work and Gary has a collection of discs and records to play on each of them!

garys phonograhs

Maybe I just have creative friends and family. But these two styles, although transplanted from the New York area, seem to epitomize the relaxed, unconventional, do your own thing vibe of LA.


Style, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have noticed that it seems to be dying out.  You are probably glad of it too.  You did not like it.  You may even have been insulted by it, so it is so long and farewell.  It should be like many style statements we have seen over recent generations.  It is here for a while, then reason sets in.

Of course, we are talking about that so-called “fashion trend” that saw young men wearing their baggy jeans below their rear ends so that we could see their boxer shorts.  I am sure this did as much for makers of boxer shorts as it did for sellers of baggy jeans.  Perhaps these guys have started to realize just how crazy this was.  There may have been some cheap thrill in letting us see their underwear, but as a practical point of view it could not have been dumber.  At least you know these guys were not going to cause trouble.  It is tough when you have to waddle away from the scene of the crime.

Maybe the lack of a Justin Bieber tour helped to kill this idea.  Let’s hope that his next tour does not bring it back or some equally strange wearing of clothes.  The alleged singer-songwriter will take his “Purpose” tour on the road this year.  We are not sure of the Purpose or style yet.

When I was younger we had our strange fashion trends, which I am sure were heavily influenced by the entertainment industry.  If someone looked cool in the movies or on television, then I guess we wanted to look cool too.  I was too young to be influenced by the first wave of the British Invasion.  It did not matter to me what John, Paul, George and Ringo were wearing.  For clothes choices, I got whatever my mother thought I should have.

As I got a little older I realized, as all kids do, that a little (or a lot) of whining would probably get me a few of the things I liked.  By high school, it was white Levis, madras shirts (plaid) and penny loafers.  I thought this ensemble was cool.  I guess I still do.  For a while it was “skinny jeans.”  I don’t think we called them that but they were the type that were difficult to put on and the opening at the bottom of the pants leg was barely big enough for your feet to go through.  I guess we thought we were sexy, like the boys showing off their boxers in more recent times.  Skinny jeans also seem to be quite popular at present.

It was just a few years and that whole “preppy” look I loved so much was out, and a whole collection of things that would not stand the test of time came in.  When skinny jeans gave way to “flares,” that is pants that had wider leg openings at the bottom, and then bell bottoms we had a whole new look.  Yes, I got those, including the “hip huggers” style.  Those had a lower cut.  Neither my parent nor my grandparents ever wore any such items.

Your wide pants might go with a variety of looks, but maybe not with your Nehru jackets or shirts.   These items may have retained their popularity in India, where they are named after  Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who served from 1947 to 1964, but they were a brief trend here.  The jackets and shirts with the “mandarin collar” would make you look like a priest if you wore something dark.

Your 70’s hippie look did need “tie dyed” t-shirts.  I guess those just keep coming back around the style block.  They were always popular with the Grateful Dead crowd and then with Phish, the Grateful Dead for the 21st Century.  I am glad to say I never owned one.  You may think that picture of you with beads, tie dye shirt, bell bottom pants and sandals that one of your friends posted on facebook on “throwback Thursday” looks really cool, but I have news for you…

All of this was followed by the regrettable trend we called “leisure suits.”  The polyester creations featured jackets that looked like shirts trying to be jackets.  Unfortunately, a number of pictures of my youthful self in these suits can be found.  My friends who escaped the camera at the time are pleased to point out how unfashionable that look is today, using one of my pictures as an example.  The worst looks were the ones with the leisure suits featuring polyester, flower patterned shirts with big collars.  Thanks to the internet and some Boys Club photo albums, I may never live that down.

It would have been easy to be an Urban Cowboy next.  Who does not love a classic American western look?  Following his success in making us all want to look like something out of Saturday Night Fever (which I saw more than once), John Travolta soon convinced us we should change to jeans and ride a mechanical bull.  Yes, the fashion bull kept galloping through our lives and many of us got trampled by it.

It probably would have been better to stick to standard looks that stay in fashion generation to generation.  Frank Sinatra always looked cool.  He has styled throughout the ages, even if it was all pretty much the same.  A sharp suit and a fedora hat would have been good, but not as good as a tux with carnation or other fresh flower and a hat tilted to the perfect angle.  If you do not understand, here’s your primer:


red fitflop clogs

Retirement changes everything. When I stopped working, I had a wardrobe full of business casual clothing. Skirts and pants, suitable for an office environment, but comfortable because I had long since forsworn suffering on behalf of fashion. Boots and shoes that would go with the aforementioned “nice” clothing.

marilyn birthday 68

I also had the “fancy” wardrobe since, when Garry was working, we got invited to A-list events where formal clothing was mandated. It’s the only time in my life I had a formal wardrobe and led me to the discovery of those few designers who manage to make evening wear for women that does not cause pain, (and) or require a professional dresser to manage the zippers, buttons, and hooks. The organization of formal women’s wear can make the dashboard of a 747 look like child’s play.

Marilyn birthday portrait writer

There were overcoats for dress, for play, and the inevitable, regionally appropriate deep-winter parka guaranteed to keep you alive through an Antarctic blizzard.

Boots for winter, sandals for summer, heels for dressing. Flats for when the feet hurt too much to care. Pantyhose and insulated tights, heavy socks, thin socks. Big heavy gloves, lovely, elegant gloves (one usually lost before the second wearing). Shawls and wraps, capes and cloaks. Watch caps and wooly hats. Summer hats with wide brims to protect me from the sun.

Then, one day, all I needed were a few sweatshirts and sweaters, tee shirts, sweat pants, yoga pants and one good black dress per season. The rest? I’d never wear it again.

Garry and Bonnie olympus

When I first stopped working, I dressed as if I was going to the office. I did it automatically. I was programmed. One day, I looked at Garry. He had stopped wearing his sexy jeans and had made the big move to pajama bottoms with elastic waistbands.

I realized I needed to move on and was happy to do so. Today, it’s yoga and sweat pants. Logo tee and sweat shirts. Socks for my feet in the house.

Sandals in summer, Uggs in winter, clogs in-between. I have a pair of heels — the obligatory box shoes — in case I positively have no choice but to wear something dressy. It happens. Rarely. Once in a deep blue moon.


Clothes are still important. They have to be washable (dog hair is a fact of life). Comfortable. Loose. I find myself obsessive about non clashing colors. I favor neutral bottoms. Not a problem. Gray, black, tan, taupe, and navy will never go out of style. On top, black dominates, but there’s also red, orange, purple (violet, lavender) and even some green and blue.

Of course clothing is important. Naked at my age is not only chilly, but ew. It’s different. No one is going to notice the designer label except Garry and he doesn’t care.

Garry photog

I can wear whatever. And in a this town, whatever I wear is high fashion. That would include my Castle “WRITER” sweatshirt and my Abby’s lab forensic NCIS hoodie. Because I know fashion.


With all the serious issues in the world today, why am I writing about pants? Maybe it’s frivolous, but my lifelong search for comfortable, well-fitting pants has finally come to an end. Throughout my life, I have sought two things: shoes that look good and in which I can walk … and perfectly fitted slacks I can throw into the washer and dryer.

yoga pants gray

My feet are happy since discovering Uggs for winter, FitFlop clogs, and Clark’s sandals for warm weather. Perfect pants eluded me. Jeans, the iconic garment of my generation, look better than they feel. As soon as I sit, they pull down in the back, ride up in the front, and dig into my waistline all the way around. The better they look standing, the more uncomfortable they are sitting. Stretch denim improves the comfort factor, but my body has never been shaped right for jeans. I’ve been thin, not-so-thin, fat, and all sizes in between. Never found a pair which fit quite right.

Too loose or tight, waist too high or low enough to slide off my hips. I could wear a belt, but I hate belts. Add them to brassieres with steel bones for garment-based misery. Complete the picture with spike heels and a thong and you have head-to-toe discomfort.

new boots booties uggs

I can’t be happy if I’m uncomfortable. If my shoes pinch, if underwear is up my butt, the waistband of the jeans is sawing its way through my mid-section, I’m not going to be my scintillating self. I will twitch, pull, and rearrange garments in a never-ending and increasingly desperate attempt to get comfortable. Eventually, I will look as if I have a weird nervous disorder.

red fitflop clogs

Some years back, an end of season clearance on Land’s End featured yoga pants. I’ve owned stretch pants. They’re okay, but never looked quite right. But yoga pants. From the moment I slid into them, I knew I’d found it. Boot cut, so my short legs appear long and graceful. Forgiving fabric which stretches every which way, but bounces back to its original shape without a saggy butt or droopy knees. They wash like a dream, have no issues with the dryer.

Gradually, I stopped wearing anything else. My size hasn’t changed in years, so I have a lot of clothing, much more than I need. All of it fits.

Fortune has smiled on me. My best friend and I wear exactly the same size, right down to shoes. When my wardrobe threatens to explode, I can pass the goodies to the one person on earth I know will appreciate and like them. Did I mention we also have the same taste?

I need to visit her very soon.

Yesterday, I slipped into jeans. They fit well, even a bit loose. I wore them for almost two hours before I changed back into yoga pants. I guess there’s no turning back. Yoga pants forever.