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Weird Barbie and My Orange Corduroy Pants

By Maggie Marangione October 16, 2023 Mindset

“I can’t believe you’re wearing orange pants!” My daughters’ eyes were wide in mock horror – or real horror, I was not sure.

I love my Jones of New York orange pants, which I had found in a Goodwill. I wear them in autumn with an ivory, yellow and orange camisole and a little white sweater.

“Can you walk over there?” She was laughing and smiling at me. I was laughing and smiling back as I ran after her and she tried to get away from me.

While my clothes’ choices might not get me a slot as a contestant on Golden Bachelor, old age has freed me from dressing and trying to look like Barbie, the archetype that haunted my teenage years in the 1970s when models on Seventeen magazine were blond, tan, skinny and blonder.

For many years, I succeeded. I was a size five, sported long blond (highlighted) hair and bought clothes or outfits, that made me a contender for a spot in the Spiegel catalogue.

Weird Barbie Is Me?

While I still dressed for myself, even back then, a combination of southwest style and Ralph Lauren tailored, I would be lying if my peacocking was not to attract the gaze of men – for if not for them then for who? Certainly not for my mother or my girlfriends.

Perhaps my clothing spells worked too well for it resulted in an incident that turned me into Weird Barbie – the Barbie who has been ill-treated, or, if we are being woke, has experienced her inner don’t give a Damn.

Cutting off my hair, spiking it and dressing like a punk rocker freed me from the gaze of men after I no longer wanted to attract a man’s gaze; I was going to do what I could to be as ugly as possible. But I was not a happy Weird Barbie. It was an attempt to give a middle finger to men and maybe myself and my vanity.

Yet, I do feel that I was also a product of a time period when women had the pressure of looking like Christie Brinkley, getting married but also fighting for equal rights and working. What A LOAD!

Semi Weird Barbie

Time heals all wounds and clothing choices, and I eventually swung between navy blue suits (that my government job required) and my Levi’s on weekends. When I jumped off the corporate ladder and became a farmer and professor, I was suddenly free, older, with less societal pressures to fit anyone’s stereotype of what a woman should be or dress like.

It was in my 50s, as I slowly embraced my grey hair, my collagen deprived face and aging body, despite working out and applying face creams, that I finally became free. I was not the damaged and defiant Weird Barbie of my youth – the one whose body parts were bent in impossible directions, hair chopped off, makeup added with bright colored markers. I was Kate McKinnon Weird Barbie who so many women recognized; Mattel made her a new type of Barbie Doll.

McKinnon’s Weird Barbie is more than her impossibly split legs and crayon colored hair. She is authoritative, confident, laughs at the absurdity of blond Barbie and in no way wants to be her. In fact, her Weird Barbie lives in a super cool tree house in a home way above Barbie land, like a goddess. And just like an oracle, people come to her for her wisdom and grace.

Aging Is Orange Corduroys

Old age is sort of like that. While my arthritis often makes me feel physically like the Weird Barbie body contortions, I am also free from the physical expectations of beauty, and the cultural demands of womanhood.

I love corduroys in the fall and winter, and I am drawn to bright colors because they make me happy and joyous. My daughter does not own a pair of corduroys, and she seems to be drawn to the color khaki green. I am as baffled by this as she is by my bright orange pants.

Many of the women characters in my novels and short stories are Weird Barbies. These are not the heroines of Elin Hildebrand’s novels – middle class, normal, recognizable in their ordinariness.

My heroines, like Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter, are fighting against issues that they refuse to be shaped by, triumph against adversity and the perverse challenges of fate and free will. Like Hester Prynne’s beautifully embroidered A that she wears proudly on her breast, all my heroines would choose orange corduroy pants.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What kind of pants would you wear if you could only have one pair? Have you swung between blond Barbie and Weird Barbie? How have your expectations of living and being a woman changed as you turned 60?

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I chopped off and embraced my silver hair (think pixie 2.0)10 years ago and have never felt more beautiful or confident (in my sixties). There is no ugliness in being who you are – there is only beauty. :)

Lynne Stevens

In “real” pants I like jeans. Here in Alaska where warm and dry dictates everything, my normal wardrobe consists of tee shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants (at home) and jeans (in public). I have a great collection of sweatshirts. I like bright colors and wonder why everyone seems to live in (or drive) gray, white, beige or black. I have other things too, of course. Tank tops, sweaters, dressier pants, but my day to day preference tends toward comfort. I have one black dress for emergencies. I loved Weird Barbie (Kate); have gone to the movie twice with my kids and grandkids. Even my 18 year old grandson saw it twice.

Eileen Johnson

I’ve mellowed out in my fashion with aging. Back to the basics of jeans and solid colors. I do add flair with must have earrings and a fun hand sewn patch on the tear in my pants!

Lynne Stevens

Yes, definitely earrings.


Weird Barbie was my favourite character in the Barbie movie. She didn’t follow the herd and I’ve always been a bit like that, I like to walk my own path. Sometimes I’ve taken the wrong one, but that’s ok.


I’m 74 and I wear a lot of knit sweatpants. I call them cozies. I don’t give a damn what others think but I will give total strangers a compliment because we women are all sisters. We are all we have! Don’t be jealous. Love and admire each other! Carla


Agree with you a hundred percent. I was that one who dressed to please! I had a hard time with pants because my butt was bigger than my waist. It was a real problem trying to get the “cool” pants look good on me.
And now, I’m in my late 60’s and I COULD CARE LESS NOW!!
I tried a year and a half ago and I’m free from the stress and worry. Now, I wear whatever. I like my Lularoe pants that I bought yrs ago. They don’t bind or pinch. I have lost about 12 lbs since retirement so I can fit into my jeans comfortably.
I’m dressing for me now!!

The Author

Margaret S. Marangione is a Professor of writing at the University of Virginia and Blue Ridge Community College. Her novel, Across the Blue Ridge Mountains, has been submitted for the Pen Faulkner award. Additionally, her short stories, essays and poetry have been published in Appalachian Journal, The Upper New Review, Lumina Journal, Enchanted Living and Sagewoman magazine.

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