Nancy Roman


I was a really skinny kid. My knees were the biggest part of me. Big bony joints set in the middle of some weird twigs.

It doesn’t matter so much when you are eight. Everybody’s knees are scabby wonderlands anyway.

Miniskirts were popular when I was in high school in the sixties. I was still skinny everyplace except my knees, but I could cover them up with tights. Not that yellow tights make your knees look smaller, but yellow tights certainly spread the visual interest, so to speak.

Yellow tights

Ah, the college years!  Bell-bottom jeans and maxiskirts.  Problem solved.

Of course a few years have gone by [forty]. In the ensuing years I added a few layers of dimples and pillows to my big knees. But on the upside, they aren’t bony any more.

My knees haven’t been a big deal. I’m an accountant. I work in an office. Behind a desk. Which is so much better than being a movie star  (which was my second choice).

This year my company had a contest to try to get the staff a little healthier. Lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks and get $100.  I’m not significantly overweight, but technically I qualified. So why not?

And I did it!  Of course, it took fourteen weeks, so no hundred dollars. But I’m ten pounds lighter. As a matter of fact, since I had also lost ten pounds a few years ago for my high school reunion, I am the thinnest I have been in fifteen years.

Time to celebrate! My first inclination is a big bowl of coffee walnut ice cream with hot fudge sauce.

But then I had a better idea. Well, actually the same idea I always have – SHOPPING.

We’ve had a really hot summer, and I’ve had a  yen for a sundress. And now I have a sundress body, so I went online and ordered two. I didn’t really want two; I wanted a choice. Keep the best, return the rest – that’s my motto.

This was a good strategy in theory. Until I got the shipment. These two sundresses were in a manila envelope. Both. The dresses were purported to be made from t-shirt cotton. I’ve seen this lightweight cotton described as ’tissue cotton’. That’s appropriate, I think, because they were just like Kleenex. Single ply.

So those went back and I went out to shop in person. Only most of the sundresses were just like the ones I ordered. Very thin material. And also – very very SHORT.

I don’t want a long dress. I wore those in college. I was a hippie. But I am not a hippie now. (Not even ‘hippy’ with a ‘y’, thanks to the contest.) But it seems there are only two choices when it come to sundresses – down to your ankles or up the wazoo.

And so my knee dilemma returns. With an added complication. Even with great knees – and perhaps someone has some, but I’m not sure –  how short can you go if you are in your sixties? Is there a forbidden zone that kicks in at a certain age? Am I there?

I found a sundress that’s not too see-through, not too bare, and only a little bit shorter than modesty might indicate. I believe strongly in age-appropriate dressing. But I figure when the weather is really hot, semi-appropriate might be acceptable.

Of course, the saleswoman (who was about nineteen) told me it was fabulous. So I asked a fellow shopper who was more like forty (and trying on a maxi-sundress) if she thought the dress might be too short for ‘someone my age’ – without actually defining what that was. It was unfair of course. This nice lady could hardly say, “Go cover up, you look hideous.”

What she actually said was, “Not at all. That’s a beautiful color for you.”

I’m aware that she changed the subject, which is not a good sign. But I focused on the ‘not at all’  part and bought the dress anyway.

And yesterday, I happened upon this unfortunate Facebook mistake:


Yes, it’s kind of a shame, albeit an amusing shame, if you have a knee that has a little face in it. But it’s also sweet of Facebook to want to give your knee a name.

If I had to name my knees, I guess I would go with Lavina and Agatha. Because I have my Grandmas’ knees.

Lavina on the left; Agatha on the right.


  1. Bonnie

    Oh, I hate, hate, hate those Kleenex fabrics! I posted about Kleenex Tshirts last summer. I get that the fabric is supposed to be cool in summer, but you have to wear such heavy underpinnings to stay, um, modest that it kind of defeats the purpose. I think a shirt with a little more heft, and a bit looser, is actually more pleasant in the summer.

    And while I am on my Kleenex fabric rant, why are all the shirts for little girls made out of totally form fitting Kleenex??? My daughter is 6, doesn’t have any shape to flaunt, and is very hard on her clothes. Those shirts last one or two wearings, max. Plus, I don’t want her out there flaunting her non-shape. She’s only 6.


    • Last year I actually bought a tissue tee (on purpose, even). I loved the lightweight feel of the tee. But every time I put it on, I think “wrong, wrong, wrong” – and it goes back in the drawer.


      • My tissue tees have ended up as nightdresses. My husband finds them alluring. Only I’m not sure he remembers what alluring means…


  2. I love the tissue cotton, layered about 6 times or maybe 16 times. I have a great dress made of it, layered several times I wear a tee under it.

    I love maxi dresses, maybe it is me but I swoop them up and wear them constantly. Backless halters that hold the girls in place and made of wonderful fabrics make me happy! Remind me of my hippie days; sans long braid and dirty feet.

    As always you have made me laugh. I do not believe for an instant you can’t wear a dress that shows some knee! I suspect you look marvelous and are simply stressing over nothing.


    • I’ll be wearing a dress that shows some knee, all right!


  3. carolcovin

    It shocked the heck out of me in my 40s when I looked down and saw my Mother’s knees. It’s not a weight issue, but they just looked different. Maybe because I wasn’t climbing over fences anymore:)


    • Do you think if I start climbing fences my knees would improve?


  4. Naming your body parts? I thought only men did that for their male parts. Do your grandmas know you have given them such a wonderful honor?


    • My grandmas would be about 110 if they were alive today. But their knees were already about 110 back in the fifties too.


  5. my knees are to me what Nora Ephron’s neck was to her


    • carolcovin

      My daughter-in-law, who does some portrait photography, says that 75% of her subjects don’t like their neck!


      • my neck is till holding out – it is some of the other parts that are not where they are supposed to be


    • Oh yeah… I hate my neck.


  6. Age is just an arbitrary number. I prefer to ignore “age-appropriate” dressing and go with “appropriate” dressing – if it looks good, feels good, and suits the occasion, wear it! And if it makes you happy, wear it no matter what. 🙂


    • That’s very good advice! I will wear the sundress and ignore the snickering.


  7. Knees get very upset when you tag them in Facebook photos. They are notorious for setting the privacy settings at “maximum.” And thank you for taking on issue-thin fabrics! This is one of the fashion industry’s many crimes against humanity (followed closely by lack of reasonable hemline choices).

    As for your question of whether there are any “knee rules” with age — not that I’ve heard of, though I do remember reading something in a style manual about women over a certain age (40? 50?) often not wearing shorts because “things happen to their knees.” But hey: it’s summer. Wear your sundress and enjoy it.


    • That’s probably why I haven’t been able to ‘friend’ that knee.


  8. Susan Ritchie

    Granma would be honored! Although, with the dresses she always wore, I don’t ever remember actually seeing her knees!


  9. I’m not a fan of my knees either and am very thankful maxi dresses are all the rage. In the winter, I use leggings under shorter dresses, but that’s impossible when it’s 90 degrees. I think after a certain temperature, everything shorter, thinner, and lighter seems ok. At least I tell myself that. 😉


  10. Me? I’d go with the maxi skirts — and I’m a proud-to-once-have-been-a-hippie sixty-something!! Still love those maxis. (Could go without the flowers in the hair, though….) And about the knees — I just figure most people are paying more pity to my once firm and uplifted butt, now sagging and flat, than they are to my knees. Oh, if they could only see the pencils with erasers on the ends that now pass as boobs…..


  11. I think I had the same stripped dress. In fact, it’s probably still in my closet as I haven’t thrown an article of clothing away since the first time I saw the Beatles.


  12. Ha! I love the whole naming the knee concept. I would name mine “partially shaven” because I’ve never been able to shave my legs without leaving 6 to 7 hairs protruding out of the knee.


    • with a few hairs, there are lots of good names: Zero & Mostel, Fred & Astaire, Charlie Brown and Linus.


  13. At my age, knobby knees are the BEST part of me, and when I ask the salesgirl what she thinks, the answer is, “Oh that’s so cute. My grandma bought one just like it!” A great post as always. 🙂


  14. I know what you mean. I’m just glad I can’t see my elbows.


    • Shit…. now you’ve given me two MORE body parts to worry about.


  15. well, now i am obsessively looking at my knees trying to determine if and how they’ve changed and what i could name them. so, thank you?


  16. Your knees are fine. Probably. I just watched the movie In Time with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, and her knees are a nightmare! It is like she has two knee joints one above the other. My husband thinks I am a freak for noticing it, but in the first shot of the two of them in a limo her knees are screaming, “For the love of God, look at me!!!!” Otherwise she is young, slim, beautiful, all that. So what I am saying is, find a dress you love and screw it (not the dress, the worries that come with the dress.) I have a strapless empire dress cut well above the knee that is hideous when fitted up on my boobs, but makes a pretty serviceable skirt pulled down and with the top rolled down over my hips. Sure, it emphasizes my cushy love handles, but it is a fun, colorful fabric, and as a skirt is a workable length. Yes, skinny little girls, these are hips. I have earned them by living.


    • I am delighted that Amanda Seyfried has horrible knees. And good for you – that you like your hips. If only I could like my knees.


      • “Like” might be a strong word for how I feel about my hips. Let us rather say that I am feeling more lenient toward them than I used to: “Ah, well, girls, what can I say? A little more of you to love…”


  17. I think that dress is adorable.


    • The dress IS adorable. My knees – not so much.


  18. Last summer I went looking for ‘age-appropriate’ shorts (I, too, have ugly knees but if I stand up really straight and look down, ‘other things’ block the view, so I can pretend my knees aren’t too bad looking). Anyway, a decent pair of summer shorts was impossible to find (almost every pair were what we used to call ‘short-shorts’). When I finally asked a sales clerk (at probably the third or forth store I’d been in) where I could find decent-length shorts, she replied (I kid you not): “Women your age usually go for capris.” Personally, I hate capris, but I bought two pairs, cut them off above the knee and hemmed them. Voila – shorts! I honestly don’t think ‘women our age’ are even on the radar of most clothing manufacturers! I do like maxi-dresses, though – I occasionally put one on before dinner and feel quite elegant! As for tissue tees – I’ve relegated them to the ‘gardening and painting clothes’ bin.


  19. Oh jeez, that Facebook thing is too funny. You look great in the yellow tights photo, but why are you sitting in a garbage can? Some kind of war protest/sit-in happening?

    I don’t know how old is too old for some styles of dress, but we all know it when we see it, don’t we?


  20. Why oh why is everything see-through nothingness? I am not 16: why treat all women like she is? What has happened to the garment industry anyway? Did someone forget women over forty were actually over eighty and still liked to leave the house LOOKING GOOD?

    As always, imaginative and timely post, Nancy.


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