You’re Too Old to Have Fun with Fashion

too old for fashion age appropriate

Many style rules rankle me because they seem subjective, arbitrary, and confining. And now that I’m 35 and can see 40 on the horizon, I’m thinking more and more about age-related dressing maxims, and find them to be just as subjective, arbitrary, and confining as the rest. I’ve penned a post on age-appropriate dressing, and outlined some loose style guidelines for women over 40, but can’t say I’m happy with either piece. Even loaded with caveats, those ideas still reinforce the notion that older women need to watch what they wear more carefully than younger women do. That, after a certain point, wearing certain items will make you look foolish no matter your personality, style, figure, or profession.

The main message I get is that, after “a certain age,” you’re just plain too old to have fun with fashion. Your prime directive should be looking sophisticated, classic, elegant, refined. You need to avoid looking like you WANT to be younger, while also doing several costly, time-consuming, sneaky things to make yourself APPEAR younger. You must stop playing with clothes and be serious, damn it. Fun time is over. You’ve got wrinkles now. Style will be a deadly serious business for the rest of your life, whether you like it or not.

Of course, there’s eccentricity. The gal in the photo at the beginning of this post has likely gone that route with her duotone hair and avant-garde earrings. At a certain point in your life and style evolution, having fun with your dressing choices ceases to be “mutton dressed as lamb” and begins to be “zany.” I fully intend to be zany when I’m in my 80s: Loud, proud, and an embarrassment to my relatives. But some of us would like a middle ground between classic and eccentric. Especially since sartorial eccentricity is generally more accepted in women over 70, less so in younger women.

As I’ve said before, I think clothing’s ideal main function is emotional: Clothing should make you feel good. When you look good in your clothing, it’s easier to feel good in that same clothing. But it’s the feeling, the emotions, the swell of pride or jolt of confidence that really matters. And the style rules I read for women over 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 seem to focus exclusively on looks. You don’t get to feel creative or nostalgic or cutting-edge if you’re an older woman. You get to feel stately and composed, worldly and wise. Small, controlled emotions that befit your chronological age even if they grate against your internal age.

I get dignity. I get that dressing in sophisticated, grown-up, classic pieces as an older women reflects a certain dignity, and that it could be seen as a way of saying, “I know I’m not a girl anymore, and I’m just fine with that.” In our youth-obsessed culture, loving yourself as you age is a praiseworthy accomplishment. But I just can’t get behind the idea that any woman over 40 who wants to wear leather shorts is wrong no matter how great her gams or how perfectly she styles them. I can’t believe that any woman in her 50s who dares to wear an above-the-knee skirt is foolish, or that any woman pushing 70 should confine her palette to subdued neutrals.

Wear what makes you feel great, and feel free to tone down the colors and alter the hemlines if that’s what works best for you. But remember: You’re never too old to have fun with fashion.

Image courtesy Advanced Style.

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  • Given our culture, I wonder how long it will be before “look, women can be fabulous at any age” will turn into “you must be fabulous at every age”? How long will it be before the appreciation of the whimsical well-off New York women on Advanced Style turns into pressure and expectation? You already see it with women in their 40s and 50s being compared to mysteriously non-aging and well maintained “starlets” like Jennifer Aniston (can you be a starlet at age 43?)

    • Sal

      I think the pressures on older women that exist now – to look younger without appearing to WANT to look younger – are already leaning in that direction. But I can’t quite imagine our culture pressuring or encouraging more people to be whimsical. It’s not a trait that’s typically encouraged in adults, ya know?

  • Jen

    I am so incredibly blessed to have grown up with a style mentor in this area. I know I’ve left comments about this before, but it is so fitting today…my grandmother (who was 80 when she passed away) could have cared less what she was “supposed” to dress like. In the 80’s she had fabulous cropped tops, leggings and boots. I remember a maroon pair specifically that were heeled and scrunched at the ankles. During the 90’s she wore jeans that made me drool with envy. She never crossed into “I’m dressing like every high school girl out there” territory. Yet she borrowed from youth trends, runway trends, and her own vintage style. She never looked out of place and always seemed the best dressed lady in the room. On grandparents day at school every girl in my class would look at me with envy.

    She has been gone for almost 10 years, so I haven’t had the joy of shopping with her for years. But I can still feel her advice in my ears as I hit the stores. I’m not afraid to try new things and strike out from my comfort zones. I work in a junior high/high school, and while I would never dress like one of my students, I do see what they wear and “borrow” their fun sense of style and incorporate it into my own. Who cares what age is anyhow? As long as we feel fantastic in our skin, our clothing, our style we will be confident and beautiful!

  • Juli

    I’m “goth” and I’ve had a horrible time transitioning to my late 20’s because of the style rules and age appropriate dressing. When is too old to wear a black mini-skirt, chunky boots and colored leggings? If you’re pulling it off, you’re fine, right?
    The movement is so old that most of the original Goths should be older than me so…where are they? Not Texas.

    One day on vacation I saw a lady who was old enough to apply for a Senior Citizen’s discount rocking some very gothic clothing. That was the day I stopped worrying about being age appropriate and started worrying about becoming her when I grow up.

    • Sal

      Juli, any chance you’ve seen CorpGoth’s blog? http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/

      • Juli

        Yes, I’m a subscriber of hers too.

    • fala

      I’m 41 and have been dressing in a gothic way since my teens! My style has changed somewhat, from a more androgynous boy style in my youth, into a 1920’s vamp goth in my 20’s, and now into a Victorian sort of thing in my 40’s. I have always been an eccentric dresser, and I’m pretty sure if I suddenly started wearing “normal” clothes simply because of my age, I’d feel really uncomfortable. The style suits me and I like it. I’m glad you saw the light, Juli! (the dark? hee hee).

    • fala

      Ah, oops, I’m daft, I totally misunderstood your comment, Juli. I guess I’m that person you’re worried about becoming. Oh, well. I still like my clothes (but then, I also live in a city that’s filled with people who dress pretty oddly, no one pays me any mind.) 🙂

      • smibbo

        I’m 45 and I’m still dressing punk and goth, just toned down versions. I don’t have time or money to sink into looking truly awesome but my tastes still run in that direction. Have you looked into Goth Cruise? There’s legions of older Goths who all get together once a year on a cruise boat. Many of them older than me.

        Also, some goths kind of gravitated more towards RenFest style. Understandably.

  • I find it sad that as I age I gain more confidence in myself, yet society dictates what I should wear because of my age. I am more willing to try things that I didn’t have the self-esteem and confidence to try in my teens and twenties. I think that’s a big distinction.

    I don’t think men have to worry about things like this! Must be nice..

    Sharing this on FB and Twitter!

  • This made me smile and it made me think of my grandma. A few years ago (hmmm…maybe more than a few. I think it was 7), we were all sitting around talking and then I noticed that my grandma was wearing a couple of toe rings (which I still think are cute even though nobody wears them anymore, it seems)! And then I looked at the rest of her outfit and it was just very well put together. I said “Grandma! You are stylish!” I had never really seen it before. I also probably wasn’t as interested before that time, either, so that may have had something to do with it.

  • I am fully in support of “zany”. I did a post a while back covering this topic (as I am 37 and careening full force into my 40’s) featuring Iris Apfel and Betsy Johnson as examples of women who maintain their style and damn the number of candles on their cake. They’re my heroes 😉

  • Kate K

    I have a plan for dressing when I get into my late 40s and beyond. Around 45 or 50, I will channel Ina Garten and really be completely and live in button down shirts. I will wear them with pearls and cardigans and I will pop the collar of the shirt. I love that look now but stylistically, I’m not ready to really commit to it. And then once I get that out of my system, I will go full-on Iris Apfel. I’m going to rock enormous glasses and all of the fabulous jewelry I’ve collected over the years. More will be more!

  • My style future has zany written all over it.

  • Kristin B

    I totally agree with this. I am a fan of multi colored hair. In my late twenties, whenever I would dye my hair a different color my dad would say “Aren’t getting you too old for that?” I told him the only thing getting old is that ridiculous question.
    Life is beautiful, but it can be hard, frustrating, and scary sometimes. We need to be able to express ourselves the way that we want to contribute to the strength it takes to persevere. Now sure, as I am writing this I know I have it pretty good, but if I could only have brown hair and dress in plain, conservative clothing, I wouldn’t feel like myself.
    I think growing older grants the power, freedom, and luxury of being ourselves more and more each day, and growing more so into the person who we want to be. That includes physical appearance.
    One of my top style icons is Betsey Johnson. Not only the clothes she designs, but the woman herself. She is 70 and remains true to herself. That is power.

  • One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most – and I hope will continue to enjoy as I grow older – is not really caring so much what others think of me. I once saw a photo of an older (like, seventy years old) woman wearing jeans and a black t-shirt with a rockabilly-style doo-rag wrapped around her head and tattoos all over her arms and I thought she looked amazing. I aspire to be like her when I’m older. Shoot, I aspire to be like her right now.

    I do find it interesting that the range of “acceptable” behaviors shrinks as women get older, which is when women tend to become more self-confident and powerful. Just a thought.

  • l

    I have just turned 36, and have decided already to totally embrace this. I see other women my age, many trying still to look as fully classic and stylish in the ways they were 10 years ago – and of course they do look lovely! – but to me that just seems a burden I don’t want. I want my style and fashion to be something so organic and natural to my essence that is just seems to grow from me effortlessly. Is that a dream? I don’t think so. 🙂
    I honour my hair color/texture, let it grow as it will from my head, and don’t force it into being a certain image or certain particular styles. I want the same for my wardrobe and outfits which also adorn me in their way.

  • You’ve asked a question that’s near and dear to my heart, Sal. I’m closer to 50 than 40, and I feel very much the same as I did at 25. I’ve never been a flamboyant dresser, but I do definitely feel pressure — both from “society” and from my own internal voices — about what I’m “supposed” to wear at this age.

    For me, the biggest problem really is inside my head. I carry around these notions of what 50 looks like, and they’re generally images of my grandmother in 1970. Although she was always a very stylish woman, she was…well…a grandmother. Most of the 40-ish or 50-ish women I knew in my childhood didn’t work, or at least not at professional jobs. There weren’t many cute clothes for them. They looked old! And so it’s hard to kick that image from deep memory.

    My personal experience is that my 40s have been and continue to be an age of figuring out who I am and what my style is. Ironic because my teenage daughter is doing the very same thing. My time of life it very much like a second teen-hood. Many of the things I “expected” to do with my life have been done (go to school, have a career, get married, have a family). Now I get to do whatever the heck I want. What will I do? Who will I be? It’s really about re-invention, and that’s always disconcerting and challenging.

    I’m definitely having fun with fashion as I explore what works. I have to admit I could not go where the lady in your photo has gone, though.

    • Lynn

      I so relate to this! I’m 60, and in my head, I have a picture of my grandmother at 60 encased in rigid underwear and a frumpy dress. She felt and acted old even though she lived to be 80. I don’t see that person when I look in the mirror, but sometimes it feels as if I should. There are no role models in my family so I get to play.

  • Anne

    Wow, you sure had the timing down on this post! I had an interesting experience yesterday so I hope you will allow me to play devil’s advocate. A very dear friend invited me to a luncheon/fashion show at the fancy country club in our little town. It was for their women’s golf club and there was a very broad cross section of women, at least age-wise. The women 60 and older all appeared stylish, tasteful, and comfortable in their skin. (and shoes I might add) The women in their mid-thirties through 40’s in many cases were very bleached, blinged, and botoxed. They all had on very short dresses and very high heels. I even overheard two of them comparing boob jobs.

    I understand and applaud the idea of continuing to express your style as you get older and of flouting some of these age related conventions, but it made me sad to see so many women in my age group going to such pains to look younger. The older women drank champagne, finished their lunches and ate the dessert with relish. The other group nursed their drinks, picked at lunch and stared glumly at the cake. Is there a way to get to that place wear you can joyfully flaunt the rules and express yourself and still bypass the stage wear you try so hard to deny your age and cling to a youthful look?

    • Joy

      At 42 I’m in a stage of transition (peri-menopause) where I’m saying goodbye to the young woman that I once was and welcoming a new and interesting phase of life.

      I wholeheartedly believe that women are free to dress in whatever way they feel comfortable, whatever their age. And yet as Anne mentions above, “clinging to youth” — there’s something a bit disturbing about that. It’s kind of like watching Toddlers and Tiaras (not that I would actually watch that show!).

      Of course it’s to each her own, but if the corporate powers that be have their way, we’ll all be brainwashed into thinking that there is only one type of beauty and that is youth. But it’s a lie. I agree with what GingerR points out — I crave authenticity.

      Thank you for this post! There’s always such interesting conversations here!

  • Like many of these commenters, I had a great role model in my Aunt Anne. She lived in Florida, and I first met her when she was in her 60s. And what an impression she made: pink heeled sandals, a white mini skirt, a yellow blouse, dramatic black hair and bold make-up (it was the 80s). I said, “I want to be like her.” She had so much confidence – I know there was no doubt in her mind that she was rocking her look.

    I’m turning 45 this year, and I am definitely going be eccentric when I grow up!

  • GRL

    Great post, Sal!
    At 54, I have found that I can easily rock jeans, boots and a moto jacket. I just do it in a different, and slightly more polished, way than I would have 20 or 30 years ago. Fashion is all about fun, to me, anyway! “Age Appropriate” doesn’t have to mean stuffy. I think it’s more about refining what one loves about modern styles (clothes, hair & makeup) to a more mature body and outlook.
    Have a sunny day~

  • Look at Iris Apfel. She’s in her nineties and has more fun with fashion than just about anyone on the planet.

    I definitely support whimsy as a fashion choice for anyone.

    I do think that physiologically, we are “younger” at forty than women used to be–as a broad generalization. I should qualify that by saying that those of us who are privileged to enjoy high-quality nutrition and health care, appear more youthful than women of a similar age a few generations ago. The fact that we no longer spend our days stooping over a coal stove or scrubbing floors on our hands and knees hasn’t hurt either. It may be time to redefine “older.”

  • LV

    I actually look forward to the rules that come with getting older–my personal style is rather androgynous and tends toward stark lines and neutrals, and I was never very comfortable with the things I was supposed to want to wear as a young woman. I wasted a lot of time and money on frilly shirts and short skirts, trying to dress how I was “supposed to” for my age (the “why are you trying to make yourself look middle aged/like a guy?” comments wore me down). I’m really looking forward to the eccentricity that’s allowed with age (I’m also an Iris Apfel fan)!

  • Great post, Sal. You don’t suddenly feel like a different person at age 40 or 45 (or, in my case, 48) from what you were at 20, 30 or 35 (or, in my case 10). I still just want to look cool in a cool t-shirt. And I still like sparkly jewellery. And I always freaking will!

  • Jo

    I think part of it is that, traditionally, older people in the US are supposed to be a bit invisible, fading off the stage. Life is for the young! I already see that changing some as the Baby Boomers turn gray and the marketers follow them. And the Red Hat society has a definite foothold in zany.

    I’m a fairly conservative dresser, but life has gotten a bit more adventurous after I turned 40, and I’m hoping my style follows it. I just don’t know where to.

    • Jeanne

      So funny that you mentioned the Red Hat Society! I love what they stand for, friendship between women. But if I had to dress to match a group of people in the same two colors, I would feel constrained and lockstepped in a hurry!

  • Jeanne

    I LOVE Betsey Johnson, Iris Apfel and Lynn Yaeger’s styles; they are so right for them and I find these women inspiring. I personally think everybody should wear exactly what they want to, at every age. In my personal experience, and I just turned 40, I’m gravitating more and more strongly towards simplicity, cohesiveness, monochrome, and texture rather than color. My taste in everything – clothes, furniture, people – has become more refined the older I get. I also am so tired of trends and colors that don’t suit me and I’m finally strong enough to refuse to buy them even if my current clothes are on their last legs. Since I know I’m not particularly “special,” I’m guessing that lots of women experience a similar change in taste; maybe that’s why certain looks have become emblematic of “a woman of a certain age”? I’m NOT saying there’s a right and wrong direction to go in, obviously! Just conjecturing based on my experience.

    • GRL

      Jeanne, I would argue that you ARE “special”. 🙂

      • Jeanne

        Aw, thanks! *blushing*

    • I completely agree! Over the last few years my look and the things I’m drawn to has become much more focused and I feel like it’s something I’ll carry on forever.

      • Jeanne

        It’s kind of a relief to be able to say “no” to things, isn’t it?

  • My mother, at 75, pointed out that one of the nice things about being her age was that she is finally free to wear popular empire-waist dresses and tops without being asked if she’s pregnant.

  • ParisGrrl

    I have a word that I use inside my head when I’m shopping: “youth-ie.” If I try something on that just doesn’t look right for my age, I think “That’s too youth-ie for me.” It’s not that I’m too old for the garment; it’s too young for what I want to rock now. And speaking as a woman-of-a-certain-age who turned heads today in a body con minidress, I say the only rules that apply to what I wear are the rules I create!

  • Wonderful words, Sal. At 56, I admit I am weary of reading that I should dress more “classic” – that’s actually a look I’ve left behind. Now I dress more expressively, and with more joy. I just discovered Fluevogs last year : >

  • GingerR

    I look for authenticity.

    Someone younger who sort of has naturally colored hair might prefer to dye it all a more natural color and not invite speculation as to whether that’s her actual color.

    The woman in your photo isn’t pretending to have naturally colored hair, she’s authentic in her contrivedness.

  • In my late 30s, I started to fear “mutton dressed as lamb” quite a bit. I didn’t want to appear like I was trying to look like a teenager — esp. since I can tend to look somewhat younger than I am, due to being petite & having a round face, no wrinkles, probably good genes (my mom & I are often mistaken for being sisters; she looks quite young too). I’d prefer to look my age, bec., let’s face it, teenagers get treated like crap! If I’m out shopping or at a restaurant & wearing a t-shirt & jeans, people do treat me like a kid, & that blows.

    I started making a point of upgrading my casual wear, & I’m still working on it. I’m much better at office attire that mixes funky & appropriate. I’ll always stick with my goth flair, no matter my age (43 & counting!), but casual clothes have been tougher once I threw out the concert tees & such.

  • I can’t wait until my hair goes all gray–then I can dye it funky colors. I’ve had dark hair all my life and I don’t want to damage it by bleaching, but I’ve always wanted to try blue or purple hair. Someday I will be able to!

  • Lisa W.

    I LOVE that photo, Sally! As I careen toward 50, I must tell you young pups that you need to enjoy the body and wardrobe you have now. It will change (childbearing or not) but that’s not to be feared! Staying aware of trends and of what works for your life now, trying new things, being good to yourself— will all help you on your way toward naturally finding your fashionable/zany place as you age! Along with Betsey Johnson and Iris Apfel, I’ve long thought that Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame and Endora from Bewitched were some strong and stylish icons to emulate.

    • Anne

      Hip Hip Gin Gin just had a great Auntie Mame quote today: Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

  • Caryl

    Nicely said. It is funny that in other countries, there isn’t such an emphasis on youth. Getting older has its advantages. I love a quote about older women from a book I just read called “Bonjour, Happiness.” She says: “What she gives up in terms of a youthful, dewey-eyed innocence, she gains in elegance, style, sophistication, and wisdom.” So true. I think you should dress in what makes you feel good and what you are comfortable in. But it doesn’t have to go along with what society says. Be yourself.

  • My one rule is the older you get, the bigger your jewelry should be! MrB just showed me a recent New Yorker cartoon that said that and I was like, “Why is that funny? I’ve always said that!”

    BTW, I think you might like my latest HuffPost story. It’s all about a dress with meaning http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-brandes/nobel-prize-ceremony_b_1337239.html

    • Jeanne

      Wendy, I’m with you on the jewelry! Bigger, and better quality too. 🙂

  • I’m looking forward to being one of those old ladies who wears bright colors and crazy hats 🙂 And that’s not because I want to buck traditions and be a rebel – it’s because those are things I genuinely like to wear now at 27, and I suspect I will like to wear them even when I’m 80.

  • adrienne

    My 90 year old mother gets mistaken for someone who has Alzheimer when I let her dress in her kooky outfits. Perhaps if we lived in NYC this wouldn’t be the case. Dressing emotionally has it’s drawbacks because you will be treated differently by others according to their predjudices. At a work setting this may be counter productive at the grocery store not so. So to dress devoid of self editing has its consequences. I think the answer is to balance self expression with social decorum. There is always room for both despite your youth or apparent age.

    • Jeanne

      Adrienne, I’m irked on your and your mother’s behalf. But what a gift that your 90-year-old mother is going strong!

      Clothing is so much a social expectation thing, when I wish it was just a personal thing. I really wish I could tell the world that I don’t care what it thinks of me.

  • Well said. Somewhere in the past week I read something that suggested that dressing creatively as we age is one way to resist the invisibility the culture would like to impose on mature women. I doubt that the rules come from the women themselves, but from others who think they have the last word on fashion.

  • Hell yes, Sal! You know I can get behind this one. I fully intend to be an eccentric old lady as well.

  • My plan when I get older is to dress exactly the way I do now (dark neutrals, minimalist) but dye my hair all the colors I’ve ever wanted. Nails and hair will be the only color I wear!

  • Anne

    I am careening towards 60 and am undergoing a fashion reawakening! I have rediscovered my legs and I look and feel younger in shorter skirts – knee length. I have also discovered a youthful rejuvenator – a supportive bra! I found that I look better in scoop neck tops and fitted jackets. These are tips I have learned from other bloggers. But I refuse to dress in subtle, muted colors. I love oranges, turquoises, lime green, reds and purples. I love colorful accessories like scarves, necklaces and bracelets. I think the best thing about getting older is that you get very comfortable in your own skin. So you dress to feel pretty and happy, not to impress. Luckily my mother and grandmother felt as I do. Dress to please yourself and you know for sure that somebody is happy!

  • I have fun with a dark purple sweater, a pink cashmere scarf, and a loden green jacket. Doesn’t take much to amuse some of us:).

  • I’m not a fan of ‘shoulds’ and ‘rules’, especially of the ‘you’re old now so tone it down and fade into the background’ variety.

    At the same time, i’m a month away from fifty. I’m not the same person i was when i was 20. And i don’t want to dress the same as when i was twenty, either. I do wish there was more discussion/info about distilling your style as you go through life. Jeanne’s comment above resonated with me, quoting:

    “My taste in everything – clothes, furniture, people – has become more refined the older I get. I also am so tired of trends and colors that don’t suit me and I’m finally strong enough to refuse to buy them even if my current clothes are on their last legs. Since I know I’m not particularly “special,” I’m guessing that lots of women experience a similar change in taste; maybe that’s why certain looks have become emblematic of “a woman of a certain age”?”

    That type of refining, distilling, becoming more true to my own style and less influenced by wayward ideas from outside me – that’s very appealing to me. Especially as growing older gives you more time to find out about yourself and how you want to live.

    If you’re 40 – 50 or so, and you’ve been interested in personal style and clothes since you were little (like me), that’s a long time! I for one love having access to all that experience and history and time to practice. I just wish there were more discussions and resources about how to take it even further, once you’ve got a lot of the basics down (preferences for color, silhouette, proportion, and so on). How to plan your wardrobe if you know you have time scales of 5-10 years to work with, stuff like that.

    i hope that makes some sense!! steph

  • Although I’m 45 and write a blog especially for women over 40, I agree completely with what you are saying. I believe that you are never too old to have fun with fashion. In fact I do believe you need to add more colour, wear more outrageous statement pieces and in fact get a little bit wackier. I have much more fun with fashion now than when I was younger. It’s a very personal thing. Yes, there are some guidelines for women over 40 on my blog, because some women like to know when they look their best. Just as you will also look better if you accentuate the strengths of your body (as you always do yourself with your outfits) it’s the same thing for when you are older. Knees don’t look so flattering anymore and many women cover their upper arms. Noone HAS to do that, but many women feel better for it as they choose to highlight the strong points of their body. You can have a lot of fun with fashion while still looking very stylish at the same time by realising both your strengths and your weaknesses as you age. In the end though, only you yourself are the judge. Wear what you love and makes you happy. If you do that, who cares what everybody else thinks.

  • Katharine

    The difficult adjustment, for me, has been that honestly, most young people are attractive, and therefore they “get away” with crazy, objectively ugly, and therefore “youthful” styles because the general eye still approves them as attractive. An attractive older woman, UNLESS she still passes for young, is only appreciated as beautiful by those of discerning taste — those whose consciousness is awakened, so to speak.

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve come to realise that though I spent my life thinking of myself as homely, fat, and not attractive, I’ve actually relied very, very heavily on my acceptable pretty, in terms of the boundaries I’ve busted with my clothes, hair, and jewellery. IT IS HARD for me to shift to understanding that now, if I wear certain things, there are people who will just flat-out think I’m gross. If I wear a skirt, or shorts, that show the backs of my thighs, which have undisguisable cellulite and little spider veins appearing, for instance.

    I WANT to have the courage of an Iris Apfel or Vivienne Westwood, to continue to dress as I please, and be interesting to myself and others. But I feel very, very uncomfortable at the idea of being judged and found wanting — by, possibly, MOST people who see me. So sometimes the temptation to go quiet, to go classic, to fade, to ensure that I don’t draw attention in any way, that I am beyond reproach, is very strong. If I had a stronger identification with my looks, I think it might well manifest, instead, in a panicked desire to get injectables and nips and tucks, and so to look young enough to wear the things I’m comfortable in without feeling inappropriate.

    It’s hard. And it’s yet another reminder of how my — and other women’s — perceived value is always, always, always, above anything else, in our appearance, and to defy that is a subversive act. I wonder if that, more than anything else, is the root of our judgement of older women who don’t dress the way they “should”?

  • NotaMiss

    My big thing is people who call me “miss” rather than M’am. If I’m not a M’am, by this point, when is it ever going to happen? I don’t dye my hair, I am clearly old enough to be their mother, but they seem to think that calling me “miss’ is flattering, because I couldn’t possibly face getting older…. or something. I can’t figure it out. My clothes aren’t particularly “youthie” or refined. If anything, I am barely avoiding dumpy/dowdy due to some fitting issues related to menopausal weight gain/shape change.

  • I’m 42 and I definitely dress in a more fun way than I did at, say, 22. There are a number of reasons for that: I’m in better shape, more confident, have more sewing and knitting skills, and live in a less conservative area than I used to. At some point, maybe I’ll start feeling ridiculous in colorful prints and bright jewelry, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. When I picture myself wearing the elegant, dignified look of an “older” woman, I think I’d just feel like I was dressing up as someone else.

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  • smibbo

    and I don’t care HOW old and wrinkly I get; I’m never giving up my black stompy boots with all the buckles and straps. Or my Supergirl Boots. Or my lace-up dominatric boots. Or any of my boots.

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  • I’m almost 60 and I have two things to say about the photo at the top of the page. 1. That woman looks like someone I would want to have for a friend because she looks like fun. 2. The red hair keeps you from noticing her neckline so much…without the hair…that would be all you’d remember.
    Cheers,
    Tina Boomerina
    ps She looks European. I wonder if this photo was shot in France.

  • Here on 1/1/13 I’m just reading your blog on older fashion! I will turn 70 later this month and am only now coming to terms with what to wear. Years of working and wearing power suits made for a difficult transition. Thanks for the help!

    anita

  • Hear hear! I am 60 and having the most fun ever playing with my style!