Tuesday, July 23, 2013
All In My Head, or Why We Shouldn't Ignore our Ages in Considering Style
“Women want to wear what they do because of
what goes on in their heads.
Their size and shape have practically nothing to do with it.”
― Elizabeth Hawes
That is so the case for me. Elizabeth Hawes had it right. (If you're unfamiliar with this prolific American designer and writer - as I was - look HERE for a brief biography.) I've always admired a style that is best suited to a much taller, thinner woman. But I've also always been aware that along with the rest of my other unattainable ideals, all my realistic style aspirations and choices start with something I'm thinking about. Whether its a yearning to be tall and cool, or being taken with a color, or a referential bit of narrative, or a silhouette, it is really all starts in my head and in my mind's eye.
Riffing on Hawes' quote, I'd say that "What I wear shows what's on my mind." My ideas and world view have changed as I grow older, and they also have and do influence my style choices. Clearly and happily, I'm not alone in that, as all the style blog-world attests.
If Hawes was writing today she might have added age to "size and shape". We are all learning to dress to flatter our shapes rather than consider age-appropriateness first. But it's still on our minds.
Of late, I've seen a lot of stuff about age-appropriate dressing in the corners of the Blogosphere where I graze. And some of it is about resistance to the idea of rules about what is or what is not age appropriate. Over at her blog, Vix, the always fascinating and ever colorful Vintage Vixen , recently gave vent to a concise and sensible rant HERE about being inundated with rules for dressing, and particularly dressing specifically for one's age.
One of the world's best over-40 bloggers, the amazing Bella of The Citizen Rosebud has, in a thoughtful and touching post HERE , challenged older women to remember to value their bodies and sexuality by posting their own pin-up style photos of themselves. She featured a professional nude pin-up, aged 66, as an example of her point ( but I'm pretty sure she didn't expect any of us to turn up nude on our own blogs.) Bella rose to the occasion and posted a lovely (clothed!) pin-up of herself. That's a brave thing to do, and I see the value in the challenge. I strongly recommend a trip over to read the post, but please don't skip reading the comments. What you'll find is a huge diversity of really well considered opinion on what is sexy and how we all deal with the presentation of ourselves as we age.
For women especially, aging and sexuality are intertwined issues and we've been talking about it publicly for decades. There are massive libraries full of material written about the objectification of women as sexual objects, and probably similar numbers of articles and books written about freedom to express sexuality through style and self-presentation at any (legal!) age. But those ideas are still changing and it appears that there's more to be said.
Over the last half century or so, we've become comfortable with the idea that the desire for love, sex and self-understanding is not just the province of the young. Most of us no longer view sexuality and sensuality as restricted to child-bearing years. And we've also learned that "being sexy" has less to do with dressing in overtly provocative ways as it does with what's going on in the old noggin. Ideas about all this are evolving still, affecting what we think, do and wear, and we seem to still need to talk about it.
And as the aging population increases, and we continue to speak and think about sex, changing bodies and style, there are issues we haven't even addressed much yet. One of those things is the freedom that age brings for a lot of women. I personally am reveling in being way beyond an age where I give any thought to being seen as nubile, or fertile or even youthful. We no longer need those qualities to feel valuable and still vital and attractive as a woman.
This has nothing to do, by the way, with being happily married, unattached or somewhere in between. To a large degree, this has to do with an appreciation of no longer being either consciously or subconsciously driven by the biologically hard-wired imperative to mate for reproduction purposes. I'm especially happy to be beyond menopause; that transitional time of life when biology and social pressures send the body and mind into a hormonal tizzy, firmly and dramatically signaling the end of the reproductive time of a woman's life.
This freedom is bound to change your attitude, one way or another, and it will affect what we think about and wear. Frankly, I think that's going to be one of the most interesting age-related conversations ever!
And as an aged woman who lives in a particularly restrictive shopping environment that is focused on a much younger demographic, I have my own issues with age-appropriate dressing. I really do care if I appear to be "dressing as lamb." The reason that I care is because I really don't particularly need to be seen as younger than I am, nor do I wish to be seen as stogy and out of touch with what's happening out in the world beyond my little patch. But I especially don't want to be seen as hanging on to youth with both hands in what is already a battle lost. Too late. I'm already old. But that doesn't mean that I want to be completely defined by my age, either.
What I want to do is to dress so that my age is irrelevant. That even seems a tall order to me, and probably requires some serious thought and consideration. Some supporting information seems in order. And I'm most likely to get it from my peers.
So, I'm interested in discussions of what may or may not be appropriate concerning the age-appropriate. I read that stuff, to increase my understanding of how age and style work together. I'd like to be confidently aware of what works only for the young and what is merely youthful and can be more widely used. But more than that, I want to decide for myself if an age-issue dictum is valid or just what some twenty-something editor happened to pull out from where the sun never shines.
Case in point: I don't believe in the current style myth that if you were old enough to have worn a style the first time around, you shouldn't attempt it in revival. That's the biggest steaming crock of ageism that I ever saw presented in print. What complete nonsense! Who can do it better than someone who already knows first-hand how it was done originally? And who says that we elders don't have the taste and style to keep it relevant and adapt it contemporarily the second time around?
So, I'd hope that along with the other kinds of ageism that is applied to those of us who are no longer young or even youthful, that we shouldn't be discouraged to address these concerns among ourselves. If there's one thing the Over 40- 50- 60-70-80 Plus Bloggers are good at, it's accepting diversity within how we display our personal style, and providing support for each other in the doing of it. The discussion of age, aging, and age-appropriateness and how they affect our personal styles is something I want to hear more of rather than less.
Just without making up a bunch of rules around it. 'Cause that's how we old lady bloggers roll.
This is a more or less obligatory outfit photo, and you've seen the bottom half before. Both top and bottom are pieces from a junior department, though, and I think they work anyway. ( I just love this little top!)
I'm sashaying over to join the In-The-Pink Patti's Lovely Ladies at Visible Monday .
Come over and see what we're up to!