Thus I decided to buy an inexpensive long blue puffy coat, a new beret and black half-leather, half-suede winter boots. I wore green-and-black tweed suit on the plane, and packed a grey wool dress, some changes of tights and shirts to go with the suit, a dinner dress (just in case) and a pair of black flats. And behold! Warsaw was dotted with women wearing inexpensive long puffy coats and black winter boots. Younger women, however, wore toques (i.e. woolly hats sometimes topped with a pompom), whereas only older women--usually the oldest women--wore berets. Many of the younger women wore jeans or short skirts, of course, and only a minority wore those horrible black leggings with short jackets.
I kept my straightened-for-the-trip hair in a bun fixed with a spiral pin. I shifted between wearing my rather severe-looking glasses and my contact lenses until I had a sad contact lens accident. Then for a dramatic afternoon I wore a huge white bandage and a young woman gave me her seat on the tram. However, before then I maintained a strict, scholarly appearance, albeit with lashings of MAC Viva Glam II lipstick---until I lost the lipstick in a rare rock formation outside Kielce where people used to worship the Polish Wind God. Then I just looked scholarly--or (on Tuesday) like the victim of a horrible accident.
Wearing a suit every second day led to the provost of the religious house in which I was staying to ask if I were a naukowiec (scholar), which I found highly flattering. I did not at all mind looking older than my age (if I did), for it probably discouraged gallantry. There was a sudden outbreak of gallantry within five minutes of my alighting from a bus in front of the Palace of Culture and Science (at 1 AM on a patriotic holiday), and I was not interested in any more. Twenty years ago, being found interesting by local gallants would have been enjoyable, but I haven't the patience or the time nowadays for the inevitable questions after the booze has worn off regarding my actual age. Besides, I'm married. (Just thought I'd let you know I remembered that.)
The desirability of dressing old may be a novel concept, but I recommend it, especially in societies where younger people still give up their seats to older people and where young men still think it manly to show an exaggerated interest in women.
I didn't pay very much attention to fashions for men, except at the Independence March, where the most chic garment was a hooded sweatshirt with "GOD, HONOR, FATHERLAND" written in Polish on the front and "DEATH TO THE ENEMIES OF POLAND" written--again in Polish, naturally--on the back. I considered purchasing such a garment for B.A. for about two seconds and had a good giggle.