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.
“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.