Should I Dress for my Age?
I went to a comedy gig on Friday, and when I was ready, I asked my husband if what I was wearing was appropriate.
He answered with ‘perfect’, but then I thought about my question. I hadn’t asked whether it was a good outfit, or attractive, I’d asked if it was ‘appropriate’.
What the Hell?
I knew I wasn’t just asking if it was right for the venue and the event, I was asking if it was appropriate for my age.
I spend a lot of time and energy rallying for the middle-aged woman. I refuse to accept the diminishment foisted on women of our age and believe that we have more wisdom, strength and potential at our stage in life, than in any so far.
So why on earth do I still feel the need to dress in a way the world tells me is acceptable?
To give this context, I was wearing a sheer shirt over skinny jeans and a black leather biker jacket. Looking in the mirror, I saw rock-chic. I wondered if someone else might see wannabe.
Wannbe what? Wannabe young enough to carry it off?
This was my fear. It is often my fear. My sense of fashion hasn’t changed in the last thirty years, but my body has. I’ve been lucky enough reach almost fifty, with a body that works, but it still niggles at the back of my mind that I might be making a show of myself when I wear the things which appeal to me.
The late Alexander McQueen said:
Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.
But I worry the low-cut neckline may have slipped from sexy to matronly. The cinched in waist demands a waist (where has that gone? I swear I had it a minute ago) and I’m so over the industrial-strength underwear required to create a silhouette more Jessica Rabbit than Nora Batty.
But I’m not ready for the A-line skirts and Aztec shawls the advertisers splash on the timelines of women my age.
And why should I be? Who is it telling me I should be dressing a certain way now?
I think it’s me. I think that years of media prejudice and indoctrination have poisoned my mind and left me feeling self-conscious about something that should be a joyous form of self-expression.
One of my all-time favourite poems is Warning by Jenny Joseph.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter
I love the anticipation of carefree abandonment allowed when we are bonkers old women, but wonder why I struggle with allowing myself that freedom now?
I’m unlikely to exchange my long blonde (ok, bleached) hair for a short, curly perm any time soon. I’m not going to dump the skinny jeans for elasticated slacks, although I am prepared to admit that elasticated waists and pockets are the things that dreams are made of.
My heels have got lower (only ‘cos I snapped my Achilles dancing at a wedding, don’t tell me I don’t know how to party) but I’m still rocking the biker boots and converse.
I dress for me, despite my concerns, and other than the odd disparaging comment from my teenage daughter (naturally), nobody seems to be judging me. In fact, I don’t think anybody really cares, or, dare I say it, even notices.
We are all having our own little disco of insecurities, where the mirror ball highlights all our perceived faults, leaving everyone else’s behind the billowing dry ice.
I think, instead of worrying about being age appropriate, I’ll do what Jenny Joseph says:
But Maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Featured image by Alyssa Strohmann on Upsplash
You hit the nail on the head once again. “Disco of Insecurities”.. What a perfect phrase.
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I ponder this all the time. Dress for you. But understand the motivation. If you’re wearing clothes that make you feel good, then rock on. If you’re wearing clothes because you’re trying to recapture your youth, beware. Accept the age you are, and don’t try to turn back the clock. Also, if you’re wearing something on the trendy side, you have to spend more money on clothes. Forever 21 clothes are not well made and therefore really expose the flaws that an older body can’t help but have. My friend has a killer figure at 55, but she has veins in her legs and saggy skin on her chest….is a skimpy tank and mini really enhancing her, or exposing her? As long as you’re comfortable it shouldn’t matter, but just make sure you’re showing your best you, and you feel confident and beautiful when you walk out the door.
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Wise words indeed.
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love it – I sometimes wonder can I get away with a full sheer shirt and tiny vest top – I think if you have the figure to pull it off then go for it. Striking the balance of sexy over slutty is surely a quandary for the twenty-somethings as it is for the forty-somethings!
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