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Fashion and aging – from Stacy London to me

Posted in fashion, and Style & Travel

50s knitwearPeeking through the curtain of the dressing room, the 25-year-old sales assistant at Intermix hands me a pair of jeans she insists would look great on me. I am dubious but too polite to refuse.

Every Summer, when my mother comes to visit, she drags me clothes shopping – despite my full closet, she is under the impression I haven’t bought anything in a while. And she is not entirely wrong. We tour the usual haunts: J Crew, Zara and, for a few years now, Intermix, which is a fabulous store where I can’t afford anything, unless it’s on sale.

I eye a pair of slightly high-waisted jeans, skinny on top and flared at the bottom (50% off) but this girl insists I try her suggestion. I do. I walk out of the dressing room, in the harsh Summer light.

“You look great” she coos. I don’t even bother looking at my mom.

As 3 am won’t find me in a club, on my fourth cocktail, looking for a hook-up but, rather, airing my sweaty body in bed, I have no use for distressed denim, torn at the knee.

“I don’t think so” I murmur.

The girl looks deflated. “I am too old for them” I tell her. I don’t know whether she mourns her loss of commission or my defeatist attitude more.

When I leave the store, with my original jeans’ choice and a demure cotton top, I wonder if I didn’t judge myself too harshly, and, more broadly, what I am trying to convey when I get dressed.

As women, we hold the privilege to dress for ourselves, for an audience, for comfort, for fun, for laughs and everything in between. And I have. My wardrobe is probably not terribly conservative but a hundred miles from the bold choices of a couple of decades ago. I think dress  my age – whatever that might mean – by taking into consideration knees that have no business being flaunted anymore, cleavage that needs covering and all those little bits and pieces we feel more comfortable not showing the world at large. I still have fun with fashion but I don’t think I ever veer towards the ridiculous (but if I did, would it matter if I felt good about it?).

Then I read a piece by Stacy London, the former host of the UK tv show “What not to wear” who, at 47, is justifying to herself and to her audience her newfound passion for monochromatic suits.

Stacy London
Stacy London

What’s so bad about growing older when it’s revered in almost every society except ours? (All of you who hate my grey streak because you say it makes me look “old”? I don’t see why that can’t be a compliment.) Of course we want to stay strong and healthy as long as possible, but young? Why don’t we embrace age for all of its positive attributes? Because to value those things above youth and a particular kind of beauty requires a change in thinking (and seeing) much like changing the way we perceive a woman like me. You don’t need to ask me about my feelings on marriage or children. You can invite me over to dinner parties, even when it’s just married couples. (I have a boyfriend, but even if I didn’t!) Really! It’s okay! You can ask me about politics, the stock market, the best movies of the 1970s, what I think of this election, and of course whether or not you should keep the dress you wore once three years ago. (The answer to that is OF COURSE NOT.) I don’t want to be defined by my age. But I consider it to be a great asset. You can ask me about heartbreak and disappointment, about triumph and fear and courage. I’ve had more experience with it because I’ve had more TIME to have experience. And I want my style to reflect that experience. “

I want my style to reflect that experience. It resonated with me. I have over three decades of experience, knowing what works and doesn’t for my body type and my coloring; I have a point of view about virtually anything, including what clothes make me feel good and I suppose who I have become shows through the choices I make. Even those related to fashion.

I realized that my wardrobe picks, every morning, are dictated by circumstance, work, occasion but, also, by how I feel on any given day. If you see me wearing bright colors, I probably don’t feel so hot but if I am wearing black, I am definitely at peace. Navy makes me feel sexy and jeans playful. Long dresses underline a romantic streak and if you see me out in sweats, better leave me alone.

Clothes reflect my moods, my experience of my moods and how I want to be perceived. But mostly how I perceive myself on any given day. They have very little to do with what is in fashion, what designers think I should wear or what conventions for a woman my age dictate.

There are mornings when my mother disapproves of my choices, or asks me “why don’t you wear x or y”, and all I can say is that I am not in the mood for it. I don’t want to be defined by my age either and consider it a great asset: I rarely doubt myself anymore, whether it’s in matters of distressed denim or life choices. What you see now, is definitely what you get, inside and out.

Many thanks to Fiona McQuarrie of All About Work for sending me the article.

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. Ellie
    Ellie

    Great article and great comments. As a little girl who looked much much older for her age, I can’t quite figure out when I felt my body matched my age. When I was 12, I could get served alcoholic drinks in a pub and remember adding 3 years to my age to tell 20 year old guys I was 15, so they wouldn’t feel so bad for chatting up an underage girl. If I’d dressed provocatively I would have been in real trouble. (There weren’t any advantages – unless you count boys asking me to play football because I was tall and could be a good goalie !!!) I would have looked silly dressed as a 12 year old looking like an 18 year old. So I suppose you could say I had to dress according to the shape of my body, not according to my age – and I still do. So I feel that despite age rather than because of it, we should wear what we feel most comfortable in – and that’s probably what makes us most attractive, because it gives us confidence, which is the main ingredient. I think this is true freedom and a real achievement both for men and women.

    September 13, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Much more than men, women come in so many different shapes, from an early age, and your comment made me realize how much earlier we get involved into the business of clothes, whether to hide or enhance some features; to look younger or older; to deflect or attract. In the end, it is more fun but, at the beginning, a pair of jeans and a sweater are such easier uniforms to blend in.

      September 13, 2016
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  2. Stacy London knows her stuff! I think it’s more than time we stop revering youth and start giving every age its importance. When she talks about 45-year-old women needing to look 25, I immediately thought of Madonna – a woman who is definitely past that mark, and yet still feels the need to sexualise herself in order to look attractive. Why? What and whom for?

    While I don’t agree that knees need to be hidden after 30 (I remember you saying that!) I also agree we might have to adjust how we wear throughout the years. I’m sorry to say my corsets don’t come out as much, since I wore them with tule skirts and striped knee-high socks… However, I can still rock a punk, distressed look like them best, and will do so until I stop feeling right – and that will be, I hope, up to me and not society.

    September 13, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I had such high hopes for Madonna and I feel betrayed. I get her thoughts that a woman could still be/feel sexy at 60 but the way she is going about it is a bit disturbing.
      There is nothing much wrong about my knees but I just feel that an older skin just looks….older. I still have a flat stomach but I wouldn’t dream of wearing a mid-riff without feeling ridiculous. Although I might borrow the tulle skirt idea with knee-high socks. Love it.

      September 13, 2016
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  3. Meri Mastro
    Meri Mastro

    Another wonderful article engendering so much to say on such a meaningful topic, but first, a tip of the hat to you in general for your many thoughtful, provocative comments throughout the year. I enjoy your widespread range of subjects, your honesty in telling it like it is and your inclusion of fascinating snippets from wherever, especially Stacy London . . . just a terrific blog! Many kudos to you. OK, now on to the subject of dressing your age . . . I have always dressed for myself with these factors uppermost in mind–comfort, function, my body type and does it look on me. I have my own style and it hasn’t changed drastically in years, and it works, Still comfortable, flowy and attractive, and I must say, frequently imitated, so that means something. I love it when women find what works for them and then “work it”.

    September 13, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Copy is certainly the nicest form of flattery. And you are such an angel. When Sue and I started the blog, it was because we felt we weren’t reading anywhere what we were going through, and wanted to make real and relatable what it feels like to turn 50 now, as women who have gone through feminism and a lifetime of independence and don’t feel ready for pearls and twin set just yet. In a way, Stacy London’s piece reminded me of how I felt at 47: I am not over, I am still relevant and what I did up to here matters. It was very much a transitional period. I feel more settled and more at ease with the process seven years later.

      September 13, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you!

      September 13, 2016
      |Reply
  4. I’ve never been one of those people who followed fashion. Even as a teenager my pocket-money was spent on books rather than clothing. I went from being a penniless student to a poorly-paid backstage worker wearing only practical clothing six days a week – jeans and cotton T-shirts, mostly black. In the last 15 years in South Africa I ditched the jeans in favour of cargo pants because I lived in a humid climate. On my days off I always had a yearning to wear flowing, floaty skirts and scarves, possibly because they were the complete opposite of what I wore for work. These Bohemian-style skirts and scarves have become my trademark, but I’m also more comfortable in jeans now that I live in a cooler climate.

    I loved the article on Stacy London – what an insightful lady she is!

    September 13, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      In my life, jeans still rule. And you can’t have too many pairs.

      September 13, 2016
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  5. That article was FABULOUS! And I couldn’t agree more with Stacy’s thoughts. I’m the kind of customer that salesgirls despise…because when I look at an outfit or piece (usually something pretty dreadful and by holding it out must seem like I’m contemplating it on me), I nearly always respond to their “Oh, that looks great on!” comment with the classic Rita Rudner quip, “On what…on fire?” They generally leave skid marks at that point which makes me happy to be able to browse without the stick-like-glue hovering. It still cheeses me off though that “women age but men seem to get distinguished” in the later years. *sigh* But then maybe I should remember Stacy’s adage regarding the content of her trouser pockets! 😉

    September 13, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I tried to picture you in a store, holding a dress and making that comment. It sure beats my “just looking”.

      September 13, 2016
      |Reply

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