Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Free People not for me

May 15, 2014

I’ve reached the point in my life at which 20-something employees at cool clothing boutiques assume I’m shopping for my daughter. This was all too evident this week when, walking through a shopping mall, I came upon a new Free People store.

I almost never, any more, wish I were in my 20s, but I wish it when I am in that store. Free People is Mecca for any girl with a floppy-hatted, hair-braided, I-always-look-like-I-should-be-at-Woodstock bohemian streak.

I was 9 and in Finleyville when Woodstock happened, but I never got over that concert. Maybe it’s the result of having to wear business suits and pantyhose for 20 years of my career and not really liking it, but my eye is drawn to boho-chic clothing these days.

So, I walk into the store and breathe in the rich smell of gauze and leather. A beautiful young woman approaches to ask if I would like some help. She is wearing a big, floppy hat and braids.

I thank her and make a beeline for a rack of see-through, embroidered frocks. The worker then moved on to greet a small group of women who obviously dressed for the shopping trip. The mom is wearing a flowy lace top, a short leather skirt and cowboy boots. Me? I’m wearing stupid jeans, a white tank top and a kelly green cardigan. To inject a less bohemian presence than mine into that store, Free People would have to go next door and hire the manager from Talbots.

So, I’m paging through the racks, thinking that there’s not a single thing here I wouldn’t want to own and wear: lace ponchos and flowy skirts and, my favorite, a white peasant top with a small, oval mirror embroidered onto the empire seam. I stood looking at it for a long time, picturing myself at, say, an Eagles reunion concert, swaying with the other middle-agers. I could pair it with that skirt over there, the one with the fringe, and maybe wear some of those scary open-toe boots.

I would, of course, look like the most desperate case Stacy and Clinton had ever seen on “What Not to Wear.” Besides which, I don’t really sway all that well any more.

Unfortunately, there are certain styles that just don’t work for those of us over 50: mini skirts, hot pants, low-slung jeans, anything feathered, and – worst of all – those adorable beaded leather headbands hanging from the racks. Some days what a girl wants most in the world is to wear a pretty strap across the center of her forehead.

Sadly, I’ve outgrown Free People. Beautiful and unique as the clothing is, I can’t pull it off without looking like the daughter of Janis Joplin and Cousin It. I put the peasant top back on the rack and headed for the door.

I probably won’t be back any time soon. On a recent trip to New York, I took my daughter to the Free People store. She, having not yet developed her bohemian spirit, wasn’t feeling it.

“Too kooky,” she said. But what does she know.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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