I’ve been looking at my wardrobe lately and wondering when I turned into a dowdy middle-aged woman with ‘affordable’ clothes in three colours. Ok, I exaggerate – in addition to the grey, blue and black I own – there is a smattering of white and cream and I have one yellow and two lilac/purple t-shirts. There is plenty of everything. Yet somehow it still isn’t enough.
My monthly canter through the fashion mags has been causing a lot of outfit envy of late. More than usual. A whole lot of wishing I had the guts to spend $1400 on that perfectly cut Rykiel denim shirt or hip bone grazing Celine cardigan. To casually drop $900 on a pair of Miu Miu heels. I’m tired of trying to source the right rip offs in the latest Zara collections. Tired of making the reinterprets at Country Road ‘work’. I’m 55 dammit – I want the real thing.
This sends me to sites like Net-a-Porter where I click all the buttons and promise that I am going to treat myself … only to start the usual round robin of self-argument seconds later. “I’m doing it. It’s a classic and gorgeous and I am sure I would wear it for a long time…” is swiftly followed by: “But what if I die before then, I’ve wasted the money. Well if I die it’s not going to matter is it? True, I guess they could bury me in it. But I want to be cremated so it would get burned. God, that’s a horrible thought – it would be like burning $1000. What a waste. I’m not doing that.” I dump the shopping basket and click back into the Zara website: “Hey wait … that looks pretty close to the real thing”. No it doesn’t. It never really does.
I am tired of my style, frankly. I want to look effortlessly elegant. I want to look like I have a well curated wardrobe of classic staples that moves seamlessly from day to evening. From season to season. From yacht to corniche. The fabrics should be expensive and scream: “she cares about herself, this one does”, and the pants should be cut to suit my frame rather than my cloth.
The reality is that I live in, and have always lived in, denims and baggy trousers – topped by long-sleeved v-necks in winter and short-sleeved v-necks in summer. If there is an event happening, I up the ante with a black top or a few sparkles and some heels. And maybe even a jacket if I am really pushing the boat out. That’s what works for me. That’s what I feel comfortable in. That’s what’s so boring. That’s the problem.
“You are over 50 for fuck’s sake. Wear whatever you want,” this from Michelle Combs in her hilarious article for the seldom hilarious Huffpo. “One of the best things about getting older is realizing that we don’t have to spend our energy worrying what other people think and we get to be comfortable in our own skin with our own freak flags.”
Would Michelle categorise my four grey v-neck pullovers as freak flags? Or the two identical pairs of Citizens for Humanity jeans I tracked down in an online consignment store and had camparigirl mail to me last year? Adding them to the pair I already have. Or how about my identical Cos cashmere sweatshirts, separated only by the merest smudge of colour – one wheat, the other gravel. Or the two pairs of black parachute trousers. I could go on.
Am I trying to hang on to my hip quotient, already long dissipated when I crested the hill at 50? I really want to keep myself looking vaguely on trend. For my sake, not for other people. Because, while I was out shopping the other day I saw a vision of the sofagirl of Christmas future. She was wandering around a shopping mall in a pair of baggy white pants and a flowing black silk shirt. Flip flops, unwashed hair, no make up. It was so simple, it should have worked, but it didn’t. She just looked messy. As we passed in the passage, I realised it was me reflected in an open glass door. I obviously need some work.
S.A. has all of the brands, but only a small edit. Occasionally I take myself into the one or two expensive shops around town only to be reminded that they are stocked and priced for ‘poppies’. Girls who have kept their good legs, flowing blonde hair and husbands. Women who dress to be looked at. That’s not me.
I don’t get it. Where are the affordable, quality clothes for the rest of us? The ones who invented high-street fashion and high/low dressing? Why aren’t more designers engaging us – we have the money. We have the time. We have the interest. We don’t expect miracles. We just want to look like a slightly older version of our original cool selves. Why have most designers consigned us to the 3/4 length pants with matching crocs bin?
Michelle Combs doesn’t suffer from style confusion at all. Instead she took a long hard look around her at what middle aged women were wearing and came up with more pragmatic advice. Her list made me laugh at myself.
So ladies, according to the straight spoken Combs, after 50 we should no longer be wearing:
1. The weight of the world
2. Shame and regret
3. Rose-colored glasses
4. Too many hats
5. A Stiff upper lipHah! at least not all of the time. I was at an event recently where a man actually turned his back on me in a three-way conversation so that he could talk with my companion. A stiff upper lip was required. That and the fishy dressing from my plate of ceviche, generously drizzled down the back of his brick-coloured sports jacket. Wear that sucker!)
and finally, my favourite tip … no more
6. Resting bitch face: aka Stinkface. What the sweet young things at Atlantic used to call my “listening” face. Complete with finger quotes. They said it terrified them. I was completely unaware. But then Combs adds “Hahahahaha. Just kidding. Wear that one all you want. Although, it wouldn’t hurt if every once in a while, you had a welcoming and kind look on your face. At least that’s what I hear from other people.”
Love it – so I guess middle-aged style is all in the attitude. And positive works in any wardrobe. Just like navy blue. And grey.
(Read Comb’s whole article here.)