Lovely reader Jori sent me this request by e-mail:
I am in my early 40s but fairly often find myself at concerts where the average demographic is early 20s and the standard attire seems to be jeans and graphic t-shirt or sweatshirt. I am not musically hip at all myself, but my youngest brother-in-law (age 26) is in a rock band, and a friend who is my age has a longtime boyfriend who is a local music producer, so I will go to concerts with her.
My problem is that I never know what to wear to these events. I can pull off jeans, but most t-shirts and sweatshirts make me feel shapeless and frumpy. I like to get dressed up when I go out, but I don’t want to overdo it when everyone else is so casual. And my biggest fear is looking like somebody’s mom who’s trying too hard to fit in. (I’m not actually a mom, so this fear is purely fashion-based.)
Nobody wants to go to a gig looking like a poseur, regardless of age, so the main thing to keep in mind is this: DON’T buy a bunch of clothes specifically for going out unless they resonate with your personal style. Nothing will make you feel more out of place than wearing what everyone else is wearing, but feeling like you’re in costume.
Luckily there are plenty of ways to utilize items that cross stylistic boundaries to create outfits that are chic, classy, and structured. Throw a dash of hipster into an otherwise sophisticated mix. Let’s take a peek.
This set shows three potential outfits for a late-night rock show at a dive bar, so there’s plenty of black and a few rocker-ish details.
The first outfit features the aforementioned graphic tee, though you’ll notice it’s a pretty arty one. Throw a black blazer over that too add some structure, add some dark wash bootleg jeans, and tack on a pair of Frye harness boots. For even more funk, roll the blazer sleeves up and pile on some bangles.
The second outfit is much more “out there,” in my opinion, but still do-able for an early 40s rock-n-roller. Start with a brightly patterned dress, preferably something abstract or geometric for sophistication’s sake. Toss on a black leather jacket – I’ve got a motorcycle style up above, but a bomber or even a tailored leather blazer could work just as well. Then add some classy, comfy black pumps. If it’s a standing show, swap those for black flats, but try to find some with cool detailing: Studs, zippers, or trim.
The third outfit is centered around an artfully draped top. Pick something black and fluid with batwing or dolman sleeves, asymmetric detailing, or interesting ruching. Pair it with a dark wash denim skirt that hits at the knee, and add a funky belt. Slip on some black booties and add some layered chain necklaces as a finishing touch.
This set shows three potential outfits for a more subdued show. Think folk-rock in a cafe, or quality pop in an intimate club. The looks are more casual and earthy, but I’ve used many of the same staple pieces.
The first outfit ALSO features a graphic tee, this time a little quirkier and covered up by an arty cardigan with short sleeves and adorable oversized pockets. Add straight-leg jeans, desert boots, and some bangles to complete the look.
The second outfit is dress-based, and also relies on a bright, geometric pattern for interest. A cropped denim jacket keeps the vibe casual and a lightweight scarf lends a trendy flair. Bright pumps or flats are the perfect finishing touch.
The third outfit utilizes that dark-wash denim skirt, but pulls in a floral patterned sweater and tall brown boots for a very ladylike cool. Adding a studded bracelet and statement-y necklace give this ensemble some edginess.
Any of these outfits could substitute flat shoes or boots if the gig in question requires hours and hours of standing in a drunken crowd, but I always recommend closed-toe shoes. If I’m playing a gig, I might risk a pair of sandals … but when I’m in the crowd, toe protection is a must. You never know who’s gonna stomp on your tender tootsies or slop beer on your feet.
Ladies over 40: What do YOU wear to rock shows, when you go? Any of these outfits strike you as too young? Too stodgy? Which one is your favorite?