I was quietly flicking through an Asos catalogue admiring the clothes, I could never afford and probably never fit into, and I stopped to point out a picture of a body con top decorated with sequins and rivets.
“That’s cool, don’t you reckon?” I asked my Englishman.
“That’s a bit young for your age, isn’t it?”
Yup. He actually said those words.
And amazingly he is still alive. He walks with a limp now after I inflicted behaviour modification treatment but he is still alive, and testament to my ability to remain calm and not carry a grudge.
Is it really possible to dress incorrectly for your age? I thought that kind of thinking had died out. With the old people!
And what is it exactly? This dressing appropriately for your age?
I always thought you should dress as old as you feel, or in my case, as old as the man you feel. (Which is only 37 after all!)
Apparently, not so.
So I asked some friends what they considered appropriate clothing for a woman of our age is. They weren’t sure, but suggested that the tie dyed pinafores and holey leggings with muslin blouses and ear studs we wore when we were at uni, probably isn’t en vogue any more. Though interestingly, looking around our town (where mullets go to raise a family of baby mullets) it seems this rule of thumb does not apply to the guys our age. They still sport ponytails and Duran Duran tshirts as if they were still Duran Duran roadies.
So, is this dressing your age, a particularly female thing?
I looked online for inspiration from our cultural role models. I found Kylie, she’s the same age as me. What does she wear?
Hmmm. Kylie love, you seem to be wearing your underwear on the outside. And is a fur wrap really appropriate for the supermarket?
But it’s not just Kylie showing her undies, look at what then 45 year old Helena Bonham Carter wore to the 2010 British Film Awards.
A theme is developing.
And as that theme appears to be showing off beautifully made and fitted lingerie, I needed to drop this theme and look for another. So I started looking closer to home to see what normal women doing their thing, working, raising kids, terrorising husbands, wear on the day-to-day. I have the answer. It’s funereal.
Women my age wear clothes to flatter their shape, and hide the sins of lives well lived. In other words, they wear clothes in any colour, as long as it’s black.
What’s even more surprising, is that I noticed that women older than me in provincial Britain appear to hit their 50s and chop all their hair off! It’s like a ritual. Why do women do that? Are they mourning their lost youth? Are they celebrating menopause? Does shampoo and conditioner become too expensive, the older you get?
I’ve never noticed that before, is it an English thing?
But then, I’ve never been 44 before, as indeed most of my generation haven’t. Which makes the whole dressing thing so difficult. My generation doesn’t feel old. We don’t feel we need to cover up our varicose veins with long skirts (what varicose veins?), and we don’t need to hide our laughter-lines under layers of makeup. If we did, we’d probably use Botox.
My generation of women don’t want to reach their 40’s, their mothering years, and fade off into respectablity, in our twinsets and pearls. After fighting to be treated seriously in the boardroom and the bedroom, we want to celebrate the women we’ve become, not dress as if we’re pining for our rosy cheeked youth.
And dammit, we will!
I’m wearing my long hair until I die. It’s a part of me as fundamental as that birth mark on my hip. And bugger it, I’m colouring it whatever colour I feel like. I’ve earnt the right to visit clients in smart casual clothes, and still be taken seriously, just as my male peers have with their Steve Jobs-esque jeans and black turtlenecks.
And if my dressing to kill, means death by heart attack, tough!
Now, can anyone point me in the direction of a decent pair of jeans for a more ‘mature’ figure? I hear NYD jeans are pretty good…
PS/ There must be something in the zeitgeist water! I’d just pushed publish on this post when @thedailymum mentioned she’d written about this very same subject! And she’s a fashion journo and everything. GO see her post on her fashion journal! so you can verify my hip and trendyness.