For those of us in our 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond, developing and evolving our personal style has often meant factoring in what’s age appropriate for our cohort. But “age appropriate” has come to be a concept that like “chic” has a rather broad, subjective and divergent definition.
This wasn’t always the case. Up until the last couple of decades, the parameters of what was considered “appropriate” for women of a certain age were fairly clear. We were supposed to tone it down, cover it up, and fade quietly into the background. Yes, we were allowed a bit of “elegance,” and maybe just a hint of eccentricity, but trends, Fashion and the style limelight were the purview of the young. (As was dressing to convey any hint of sexuality.)
Those old rules seem to have been tossed out the window, and we women of a certain age are no longer accepting being relegated to invisibility. While it’s mostly for the good to shake off those shackles, it does sometimes leave us floundering. How short is too short? How trendy is too trendy? Do I have to stop wearing pantyhose (or “sheer tights” as they’ve come to be called) or risk looking dated? Can I still wear motorcycle boots? Skinny jeans?
And unfortunately for those looking for a clear and consistent direction, the answer is still a big fat, “It Depends.” But the silver lining, if you’re open to it, is that age doesn’t have to limit our choices any more than situation, budget, or taste do. In fact, I think that occasion or situation are far more important yardsticks to help determine what’s appropriate, regardless of age, and easier to gauge.
But being the kind of person who functions best with even a rudimentary roadmap, I’ll share some of the new “age appropriate”guidelines (very, very general and flexible guidelines) I’ve sussed out for myself over the last few years.
1. Don’t dress with the sole purpose of looking younger. You’ll only convey the impression of trying too hard. Rather dress to express your best and truest self, whatever your age. Maybe that’s a pair of skinny jeans with moto boots, maybe a full-skirted vintage dress, or a Chanel suit, or maybe something else entirely depending on your personal style and mood.
2. Conversely, if an item sings to you, or wearing a particular outfit gives you that “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” feeling, then don’t worry about whether it’s “too young” for you, just wear it and ROCK it!
3. Stay open to trying something new, but trust your own taste. I do warn against dressing expressly to look young (see #1 above), but keeping aware of and incorporating current cuts, colors, and a few select trends will keep your look fresh and up-to-date whatever your age. I never thought I’d wear mixed patterns, but I’ve really warmed up to the concept. However, I like it best in limited doses and couldn’t pull off a head-to-toe kaleidoscopic look.
4. Proceed with caution when it comes to literal interpretation of recycled trends. That expression “if you wore it the first time around, don’t wear it the second time around,” doesn’t have to be a hard-and-fast rule, but there’s a grain of truth in it. For example, many aspects of 80’s styles are back in fashion, but resurrecting your favorite big-shouldered, double-breasted, pleated-pants suit from that decade could create the impression you’re stuck in a time warp. Be selective.
5. Don’t give up on fit! You’ll look and feel more energetic and vibrant in clothes that fit your body, regardless of size or shape. You don’t have to sacrifice fit for comfort either. Baggy, shapeless clothes will make you look tired, frumpy and older than your years.
6. Most important: have fun! Style can be a wonderful form of self expression, and one that we can enjoy at any age.
Image courtesy Advanced Style.
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Already Pretty contributor Une Femme is fifty-five, married to the same wonderful monsieur since 1995, the mother of a special-needs teenager and two hooligan dogs, a full-time administrative professional, a coffee-holic, Paris-obsessed, native Californian, and a petite and curvy femme d’un certain age. She believes that personal style is an essential form of self-expression, and started her blog, Une femme d’un certain âge, in 2007 hoping to start a conversation about style for women over 50.