Monday, 20 August 2012
What the Hell is Age-Appropriate Dressing, Anyway?
All photo credits: Advanced Style
Today I'm musing an expression that's heard a lot in the media today with regards to fashion for ladies of a certain age: age appropriate. I guess it's meant as a term that's there to make older women feel reassured that they're doing the right thing, that they're dressing 'correctly', as society is expecting them to do.
Unfortunately, as with many of these terms, I always feel they create the exact opposite effect; that is, to deem unacceptable any diversity, creativity or freedom of expression that may be already present or ready to burst out of the average woman. Not least because older women tend to be more confident, have lived life a little and often have less concern about trying to "fit in" - not a good time to try to deny them some of life's pleasures. Like the term real women... talk about a Goldilocks principle in action: it makes you feel abnormal if you're not what society deems acceptably curvy. Not too fat, not too thin - you're only healthy and beautiful if you fall perfectly in the middle.
So I've made a firm decision, though it's been mulling around my head for a while: The older I get, the more I'm going to dress crazy/stylish - think Zandra Rhodes or Vivienne Westwood. I want my age to be directly proportionate to where I am on the dressing bonkers* scale. The term "age appropriate" isn't going to stop me. I mean, there's no pressure from friends to fit in with them like you had to during school (thank goodness), or children I might embarrass at the school gates (though I'd like to think this still wouldn't stop me).
My reasons? As you get older you're less tied to fashion, plus you have to get more creative with where to shop - your choices do get limited. Also, life's too short not to have fun, as long as what you do doesn't genuinely offend or hurt anyone.
Source: Advanced Style (and believe me, you want to click on this link to see more)
I think it's because I miss being a kid and literally being able to run round all day till I can't stay awake anymore. I may not be able to run round all day (I do give it a go but get tired so much more quickly than I care to admit), but I'll have fun with what I wear instead. It does seem probable that we lose our inhibitions as we age - much like children - so to me old age seems the best time to go all out on the dressing up front, and what we wear should surely depend on where we're going and what we're doing.
Which brings me onto what I consider so much more preferable and practical than age appropriate: Occasion appropriate. Why should age dictate what we wear? Shouldn't we wear 1. What we like, 2. What makes us feel good, and 3. What is appropriate to the occasion...?
To that effect, no-one should turn up to a formal church wedding in jeans and a leather jacket - that's just disrespectful whether you're 18 or 80. Likewise, I'm sure if you have a corporate job you'd be ill-advised at any age to wear mini skirts and spaghetti straps if you want to be taken seriously.
But if you work in the city, why shouldn't you let you hair down at the weekend? Wear a vintage leather jacket if you're over 50? Why should anyone care if the leather jacket is "age appropriate" or not? If you're the kind of person who wants to wear clothes that are deemed "too young" for you but the occasion is appropriate, then I say go for it.
Source: Advanced Style
I still believe, however, in wearing fabulous clothes that flatter and highlight your best bits. And if that's wearing patterned tights with high-tops whilst out shopping to show off your enviable pins (above), then who's to say no - even if you have reached your sixth, seventh or even eighth decade.
So dressing age-appropriately is nonsense, if you ask me. Really, the things women of any age should consider when dressing are:
1. Do I like it? (If you can't say yes to that you need to question why it's in your wardrobe).
2. Does it flatter me and draw attention to my best features?
3. Is it occasion appropriate?
Following those three guidelines should help with throwing the age appropriate notion out the window. It allows women to be classic, trendy, edgy, outrageous - whatever they want to be. We don't want more rules as we get older.
In July this year, Seth Ari Cohen of Advanced Style asked the fabulous Isabel about her style and she responded:
I couldn't have put it better myself.
*I mean crazy and bonkers in a good way
Top picture source: Advanced Style