Women of a Certain Age: Sartorial Challenges (Or What Not to Wear)
Women of a Certain Age-- What's that all about?
Well, we would just say that if you are asking that question, you might not have reached the point yet--that you can "enjoy" the experience first hand. But trust us, it's coming, and if not you, without a doubt, you will know someone who will knowingly shake her head upon reading this title. The word "enjoy" is chosen a bit tongue in cheek, because some of this rite of passage (into Lord knows where) is excruciatingly uncomfortable. Yes, the physical pinch, chafe, and wrinkle, along with a dose of self-consciousness and self-confidence (!) aptly represent both the physical and emotional aspects of reaching this seasoned, and dare we say, "mature" point in life. In Women of a Certain Age, we will be laying it all out there for you to experience with us. Janet Greenfield, with her aware sense of self and irony, is leading us through.
SARTORIAL CHALLENGES (Or What Not to Wear)
Age brings with it many challenges and recalibrations, and it merits mentioning the challenge of getting dressed. Certainly this is an issue on a relatively trivial plane compared to the daily litany of sexual predators and presidential disasters, leaving me reeling before I have even finished my first cup of coffee, but nonetheless, it bears being addressed.
One often reads that it is best to dress in an age appropriate manner, but what exactly does this mean? My personal interpretation of this rule of thumb is to avoid looking ridiculous, but even this seemingly straightforward caveat is subject to interpretation and nuance. It’s often obvious when the line has been crossed, as is the case with a woman I know who is in her 70s and is partial to leather leggings and stilettos. Another woman, in her 80s, whom I see around the neighborhood has a preference for mid-thigh skirts and copious ruffles (the latter is a look I like to refer to as Little Bo Peep’s grandmother). But these are extreme cases…
One recurrent problem I encounter is the fact that I am 60, but my taste has basically remained unchanged since I was 19. I gravitate towards bohemian ethnic clothing (in college, my entire wardrobe came from India and Mexico). Here I think I run the risk of looking like an aged fortune teller. At the same time, l balk at the usual advice to select “classic” pieces, since I have never been a fan of button down shirts or navy blue. On principle, I refuse to wear elastic waist pants.
There is a frequently held assumption that after a certain age, one shouldn’t wear sleeveless shirts. I struggle with this as well. What if it is 95 degrees outside? Am I knocking myself out at the gym three times a week to attain those Michelle Obama arms for nothing?
( PARTIAL SELECTION OF MY OVERLY ETHNIC , FAUX PEASANT WARDROBE) Click to enlarge!
So, where exactly does this leave us? At a certain age, do we have to abandon all hopes of looking attractive and just aim to look “interesting”? Weird glasses and huge tribal jewelry? I’ve always known what I’ve liked, but lately I find myself accosting young sales women and asking them, “If I were your mother and you saw me wearing this, would you cringe and tell me I’m too old?”
Alas, I have no role model to guide me. My own mother, whose version of binge shopping is splurging on two pairs of slacks (grey and black) is certainly not much help. I am on uncharted territory. I recently said yes to a black leather motorcycle jacket... but I’m staying away from tiny sweet floral prints. I’m making up my own rules. Hopefully, I’m avoiding the ridiculous.
We invite your comments below.