Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Casual Essay on the Manifestation of Badassery in A Very Mature Woman

From the Urban Dictionary and the entry for badassery : "Engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck."

From the on-line Oxford Dictionaries: "Behavior, characteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive: few of us can attain her level of badassery "


Badassery. Isn't that a great word? It just rolls off the tongue and flips up a slide show on that big screen in your imagination, doesn't it? I've been playing with that word and all that it can mean for some weeks now, ever since I watched for the umpteenth time how Helen Mirren got her womanly badassery on with such elegant professionalism in the film Red 2. It wasn't the guns, truly. It was the clothes and the serious, serious attitude about the work at hand.

I am easily influenced.

We can all conjure instant images of popular culture badassery. With the young men, it's easy to come up with a quick short list of anti-heroes and super tough guys. Interesting how we've allowed a lot of these guys to continue their badass careers into late middle age and beyond; Bruce Willis in almost every film he's ever made, Samuel L Jackson in absolutely every film he's ever made, ditto for a more cerebral Morgan Freeman ... the list goes on. 

There are probably fewer on the women's list, but I'll bet if you are reading this post, you are already pulling up your own. From film and fiction I think of the characters Scout Finch, Ripley, Lara Croft, Hermoine Granger, Lisbeth Salander, both Carries (Stephen King's and Homeland's) and lots more, but all of them had that kind of toughness of mind, body and/or spirit that is most often exhibited by the young and fit.

Happily, because we are all living longer and more productively, we are allowing a few of our cinematic heroines to rock on into seniordom. My friends across the Big Pond really have a handle on how to do this with style; Dame Helen Mirren, of course, and Dame Judy Dench. Was anyone more badass as M to Daniel Craig's James Bond? And there never was a more terrifying Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

But my all time favorite Lady Badass is Dame Maggie Smith. Whether she was wielding her lethally badass wand as Professor McGonagall at the Battle of Hogwarts or upstaging the entire cast of Downton Abbey as the adorably cynical Dowager Countess of Grantham, Dame Maggie is indisputably badass in dove gray lace. When we add all of Shakespeare's women to the mix, the tradition is set for us. All three of these women have portrayed the extremely badass Elizabeth I, and one of them Elizabeth II (who has had her own moments of real-life badassery.)

It's easier to reference pop culture badassery icons than it is real world women. There are plenty, but it is the nature of the real badass woman that she'll offend someone because that's sometimes what she does. Often she manifests her badassery by telling her understanding of Truth to power, and since there has never been a greater divide in opinion regarding the great Truths, at least in this country, I'll leave it to you, Dear Reader, to choose your favorites. Love them or hate them, we have powerful women on both sides of the political aisle. In only nominally more neutral territory, our three Women Supremes among the old boys on the Big Court, Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, clearly exhibit judicial badassery in their professional doings. The three branches of our government are chockablock with women who put out a singularly powerful kind of badassery. And not just in this country, as we see. There are women leaders worldwide, badassing all over the planet these days.

So many ... nay, most ... of them are mature, or very mature, and some are perfectly mature. I'm just very mature at 64, so I still have some badassery to aspire to, or at least appreciate and try to emulate, even if it only works a little. And that brings me to why I'm contemplating this notion at all.

As you read this, fall will have just become official, and that time of year brings out the deeper, darker, richer colors, more substantial fabrics, and leathers and furs, faux and real. We are heading toward the dark of the year, and as Ned Stark noted, "Winter is coming." I take my fall wardrobe fantasies very seriously. I've been looking back at my blog photos from the last year or so, thinking about what works and what doesn't. I tend to be an aspirational dresser. I take on new and old ideas, shapes and silhouettes that I especially like and try (successfully and NOT) to make them work for me.

The pieces that work I love and go back to, again and again ... the pieces that make me feel the best when I walk out of the house ... the pieces that feel the most authentically my own, and pieces that might well belong to some other woman I like better than myself ... all of them have at least a touch of the badass.

And I've learned that there is no particular genre of dress that lends badassery. It's not only found in biker chic, or punk, or grundge, or boho, ladylike, vintage, retro, minimalist, menswear or architectural. But it can be found in all of them. (I don't think you can find it in Normcore. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.)

Badassry is found and on display when what you are wearing makes you feel badass. Simple. Who knew it is all about confidence and serendipity? Some days it all works; hair, clothes, makeup, accessories, and you walk out the door with the complete confidence that you can demolish whatever dragon is on your day-planner, slated for slaying. And that you'll smell really good while doing it.

The items that make me feel particularly badass are often the most obvious; leather anything, including boots and booties, moto jackets and dressy leather pumps with a satisfyingly high stiletto heel, Also a perfectly fitting pencil skirt, an ear cuff, a minimalist silhouette. But I guarantee that I will feel completely badass when I wear my pink wool coat for the first time this winter.

My most often used pieces that lend a classic badass finishing touch to my outfit are my Ray-Bans. Dan and I spend considerable time in the car, driving sunward coming and going, as it always seems. I've saved up for my little collection of Wayfarers (black and tortoise-shell, larger frame) and classic Aviators (an all black pair and a pair of gold frame ones that are from Dan) and Dan's properly sized black Wayfarers for his huge head. We get in the car, fasten our seat belts and put on the sunglasses. He looks at me, I look at him. We grin. Yup, we're cool. This is our badass.

Go forth. Find and embrace your badassery.
I just know you have it in you, and its manifestation is already in your possession.

Just a little badassery from the leather-ish top. A favorite work outfit for this still-warm time of year.


This post is dedicated to the Wonderful and Ruffly Patti, who hosts Visible Monday for us all.  Thank you, Patti.  Are you sure you aren't just a little Badass?


  1. I most definitely will add badassery to my vocabulary. Of course I feel bad ass in leather and denim, but I also feel that same power and mischief when I'm wearing an outfit that is oh so feminine and makes men feel weak in the knees. Being in touch with ones sequel prowess can be intoxicating to the male species. On that note, I find Angelina Jolie to be a major bad ass, as well as the brain power and confidence of Michelle Obama.

  2. What an amazing storyteller you are, Jan. Loved this post! My favorite part had to be the happy ending where you and Dan look at each other in your cool shades and acknowledge one anothers badassery.
    Fabulous mixture of outfit pieces.

  3. WOW...love the leather and lace look!!! You look fabulous. I love, love your post. I get that feeling from my Harley-Davidson motorcycle boots. Keep in mind I've never been on a Harley...BUT I love my boots. Me in my boots and you guys in your Ray-Bans, Oh we are feeling it! Debbie @ ilovemylemonadelife.com

  4. You sure a a badsassery Jan! I love this mix feminine lace with the tough bad ass leather! I love Maggie Smith in Downtown Abbey - her character just makes me laugh.

    As always, thank you so much for writing such great posts and enjoy your week!


  5. Love the leather badassery on you. I'm going to try and copy this look!!

  6. I'm crowning you Queen of Badassery. Anyone with your kind of attitude towards life and the way you Always present yourself is definitely baddassery. Oh, I'm quite liking this word, think I best be getting my own Badassery attitude going. Thank you for the fun motivation.

  7. Ding! Ding! Ding! Bingo! Jackpot! Me jumping up and down at your badass post! I whooped at Lara Croft...high-fived ya at Dame Maggie Smith...and finished another stellar Fort Smith Stylista read with an 'I really get Jan, and I think she might just get me!' Um, did I say I loved this post? I don't know that I've ventured into badass territory since the early eighties, but you got me seriously tempted. Who knows, maybe this curlyhead, polka dot lovin' Pollyanna can give it a go! You certainly look badassery with your smokin' leather top Jan! Love you!

  8. Oh, yeah, you've got a handle on badassery here, definitely! Love that. I'm with you on those Brit women bassasses. What's gotten into them? - I want some. Badass women in Canada? I'll think on it. I get my badass-on often through my shoes or hat, but you are so right about leather and shades - and pink coats!

  9. Jan I enjoyed reading this post so much. I think its about time you wrote a novel, it will be a best seller for sure. Lovely take on your badass outfit. xoxo

  10. Oh thank you for this badassery Jan! I love it and inspired to add a little in my closet somehow ... x

  11. I love leather/fake leather, and that top is great! And the lace in that skirt is just beautiful! Great look! :)

  12. I honestly would have never thought you were 64. Leather!!! Yes plz! I love Wayfarers, too. They look beyond terrible on me so I am jealous of anyone that can rock them

  13. Love your badass self! Leather and lace...you are after Stevie Nicks heart I think.


  14. I'm all for a bad ass! I can't be doing with Disney princesses and simpering girly girls! Give me the wicked stepmother or the vamp who does a runner with the boyfriend any day of the week.
    Loving your badassery - leather and lace look so good on you in a bad ass way! xxx

  15. What a lovely badass look, tough and feminine at the same time, and the story about your husband and your cool sunglasses was great...
    I think all women need a bit of that badass attitude, and we sure need role models, both fictional and real-life examples. One of my favourites was always Sophia from The Golden Girls, and my own grandmother, of course. Badass women are quite typical in my native culture: Finnish women are considered tough and independent, sometimes too much so... and there are lots of these badass archetypes both in mythology and literature as well as real women who do their own thing. I guess you could say that Nordic women in general do not exactly match the image of the delicate, feminine girly girl...

  16. Can I just say that this is a masterful display of voice? And it's also more proof that quality trumps quantity. Because I'd rather read more writing like this every week than waste my time on hapless drivel every day. You inspire me to write, my friend, and that is no small feat. You are a badass in word along with dress and the former is infinitely more impressive. Thank you for an epic read and don't be surprised if I use your "casual essay" - casual? snort! - as an example in my classroom one day. With your permission, of course.

  17. Oh, I agree!! Awesome comparison ;-)

    Monica, www.pear-shaped-gal.com

  18. Wow, this is SUCH a pretty outfit- the skirt is so ladylike (as well as being bad-ass teamed with the top!) I love Maggie Smith- she comes from my home town,though of course, many years before me!!!

  19. I loveyou being badassery. And that leather top on that perfect skirt is such a good example of badassery. It is also a huge inspiration for me as I own a similar skirt which ai could not style. It always was too conventionalin my styling. Now I know: leather on top.
    Thanks ever so much.
    And I love Downton Abbey and Maggie Smith.
    PS... you being 64 is something I would never have guessed.
    54 perhaps but likely to be less.
    64? Never.
    You are doing pretty darned good lady.

  20. My badass inspiration is .... YOU! Badass blog, badass sense of humor, & a badass sense of style!

    What a cool leather and lace look. You just ROCK!

    Oh, and the thought of Scout Finch always makes me smile. :)


    Dawn Lucy


  21. Clothes can definitely make us feel like a badass! You look amazing! I think you will be my badass inspiration :)!

  22. Badassery is not in what you wear, darling. A badass can make a tutu look fierce.
    You know who said that? I did ;-)
    I love most of the ladies you've referenced (Lisbeth Salander is my hero!) and, of course, you know I love your outfit. Enjoy your lovely Summer wardrobe while you can. Temps are dropping quickly here, so this Winter may be a bad one.


  23. Ohlala!!! You look stunning!!! And bravo for your post. Americans all too often seem to equate youth with badassery (and sexiness). I'm happy to report this is not the case in France. The French attitude towards sexiness and aging is very different. Badassery abounds over 50...Catherine Deneuve (70), Isabelle Adjani (59), Fanny Ardant (65), Isabelle Huppert (61)...are all French actresses that STILL look great and are STILL being given sexy roles in films. And I didn't include the under 50 because there's scads of them. And she's not acting anymore, but I saw Bridgette Bardot on a program last night talking about her life and causes she believes in and she's still (at 79) a Badass extraordinaire.

  24. Women In Black here we come, just slip on the Ray Bans and flash your flashy memory zapper...voila!
    I always love nude under black lace. You look fab, and stagger, never 64! I totally had you in your 40s!!! I hope you take that as a compliment, and not me commenting on your lack of wisdom and maturity :-) Isn't it interesting that we still think it a compliment if someone slashes a few years from our age?
    However, lovely post. I'm afraid I don't know all the references but definitely love Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. xo JJ

  25. The soft lace and the leather top is a dream, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    You always make my heart feel soft, and that my dear friend is priceless.
    Tons of love

  26. You look so elegant and beautiful in this outfit!!! And even a bit "gothic" :) In the past, I hated black, but now I often choose this color. I don't know why... I have many black dresses which I plan to wear this fall and winter :) I didn't know you're a fun of Games of Thrones! Me too! Have a wonderful week!

  27. You took badassery to a new level with the leather top and yey, for wayfarers! I still need to look for one that wouldn´t slide on my face. ;)


  28. This is one bad-ass essay and you're looking very bad ass indeed! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  29. Oh Jan...you look absolutely badass in this outfit!!!! LOVE this leather top!!!!!!


  30. This outfit no doubt leaves me awestruck, you look fabulous! I am clad in Black today head to toe, but no blog post due to rain! I don't know about you, but I feel as if I can conquer the world when I wear Black! It is such a powerful and dynamic colour, no wonder it's canvassed in the board room! You will certainly assert yourself in whatever you wish to achieve today!

  31. Love your badass look. The skirt is fabulous, I love it.

    Joly Look

  32. For sure you found it! It is always a mix of style and nonchalance, i think. And you got it.
    Your outfit is amazing. Leather and lace, I tried it last Sunday too. But I even more like your top and your skirt. You look absolutely fabulous dear Jan!
    Sabine xxx

  33. Although you have named a few young badasses, I am inclined to think a woman can't get past thirty without developing at least a little badassery. Life brings it unless you are living some sort of highly sheltered and pampered one and are not remotely inclined to find that boring. YOU look fantastic in your badass outfit and it is officially now one of my favourtes of yours. Did you know that Maggie Smith and Judy Dench are good friends? I find that quite pleasing to know. I loved the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in which they both star. I usually get that title wrong but I think I've gotten it right this time.
    Thanks for a wonderful read, as always, Jan!
    Have a lovely weekend. xoxoxo

  34. Bad Ass and classy. What coup! I'm inspired.

  35. some leather and some lace : such a chic combo ! Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog ( I'm back ! )

  36. You know, I was utterly convinced I had commented on this post, but apparently not... My memory is not so much badass as just plain bad.
    Anyway, it's a fantastic outfit, Jan - all Downton Abbey below and Rock Chick above, a wonderful combination! xxxx

  37. I already knew you were 64 Jan, but it's still hard to believe. You are so youthful and fun-loving!!

    ♥ carmen


  38. In FLOTUS' case, it IS the "guns" ... that woman has the best arms on the planet. And every other virtue, in my book. A personal hero, Ms.Obama is for me, and is absolutely a badass in the classiest possible manner. I always watch the State of the Nation addresses, and of course I listen to him, but I just wait to see HER in the balcony with the inspiring personal guests that the Obama's invite. She just rules the room.
    Angelina, of course. She defines it. And she ups the ante as a married lady, now, doesn't she?
    You are, of course, frequently possesed of your own badassery ... a model for us all!
    Thank you for all.

  39. Thank you, Lisa! He was so pleased to be mentioned. Really, Dan is a badass feminist to his core, and it's always a pleasure to know he has my back.

  40. Hey, Lemondade Lady! Harley-Davidson moto boots ... yes, that's it. Definitively. You get it.
    Thank you for all, Debbie.

  41. Thank you, Alice! This outfit looks so much better in real life, I swear. Glad you liked this very long post ... I edited out a bunch of it! So happy to hear from you, always.

  42. I want to see you in a similar look ... I'd think you'd rock it so well! Please make sure I don't miss it when you post it, as you really should! Thanks,Neti, so much. So happy you had a comment for me!

  43. Trina, you have ladylike badassery wrapped up with a bow. I hand the crown right back to you. I'm feeling like my badassery this week is to be found on my backside, about three inches down from my waist. Glad it's Monday, and although I'm already behind, I'm enjoying the fresh start to the week!
    Thanks so much, darling girl!

  44. So happy you liked it, Sue ... yes, I'm clear that you enjoyed it! I can see you a bit badass, young lady. Badasses wear color boldly and it takes a lot of badassery to stay as positive as you are, and you own some seriously badass sewing skills. Love you back, Sue!

  45. Glad you like it, Laurie! It's really better than in the photo ... but isn't an outfit always better in real life? Thank you, and I'm so glad you dropped by!

  46. My camera is a little fuzzy, and that helps! So kind of you, Becky. I'm not spectacular in Wayfarers, either, but I've gotten used to them on my face ... sunnies have to work hard to flatter me (isn't that a great way to say I can't find any that look good on me?) but I settle for a little borrowed cool of their classic style and great optics! It's rocking them only by default, I'm afraid.

  47. This is one of those photos that really doesn't do this outfit justice ... it looks weirdly rounded in places that I'm not nearly this round. Excuses, excuses. I'll wear it often, looks great at the restaurant. Thank you, sweet girl!

  48. Thanks, Monica. Maybe a little bit Stevie ... !

  49. Have you noticed, Disney has seen the light and given us more kick-ass princesses lately? But I know what you mean. I'm okay with the wicked stepmother ... stepchildren can be a massive pain in the tuchas. And vamps are dandy as long as they don't go slinking about my feller! I can't make this outfit photograph the way it looks in real life, or at least in my mirror. But if you like it, it must be working better than I think! Thank you!

  50. None of the Golden Girls appealed to me much, but I'm guessing it was fear of becoming one sooner than later! I agree completely that it's hard to languish and be prissy in cold,hard climates! You are quite right. Thank you, Tiina, for reading and dropping by with such interesting comments!

  51. Yeah, well ... I failed in the illustration. I can look a little more badass, but this outfit just looked a little dumpy. It's really nice to wear in real life, but it looked rounder than it looks in the mirror. I'll keep trying.
    You're so kind. The camera has never been very generous with flattery to me, but short and round just seems to look a little younger .... a big smile always helps, but gets old in presentation and sometimes looks a little vacant and vapid, I think.
    Thank you for all the encouraging words, Greetje. I'm glad you like it.

  52. Yikes, Dawn Lucy ... I'd be nowhere without a sense of humor. Glad you think any of it even gets close to badass. I know it when I see it, but it's harder to do when you are more like a hobbit than a member of your own species. But, I guess there are badass hobbits, aren't there?
    Scout and Atticus shaped the world for a lot of us, didn't they?
    So happy you came by to say hey!

  53. Thanks, Lana! We can strive for badassery together!

  54. I always smile. Even though it is getting old (haha), I have to keep smiling. No option not to. LOL

  55. Clearly, you are purely badass without any props. Some of us get up our badassery with a little help from our wardrobes. Like me!
    I sure hope you're wrong about the coming winter ... we can't take a really bad one. I need a break this year, for sure.
    Glad you like my combination ... I'm not happy with the photo, but it's a pleasure to wear. Will be in the high 80s tomorrow.
    Hope all is well in your world, kiddo! I think of you so often.

  56. I don't know any French modern idioms, so can't translate badassery, but don't they use "formidable!" as a more polite but similar compliment?
    Thank you, Shani ... so happy you like my outfit, and my post. I'm sure you're right on the money about attitudes about age. Isn't Bardot very active in animal rescue? What a woman, still. We see photos of her in her "prime" here lately, all the time ... hair, makeup, attitude. I was always such a fan of Jeanne Moreau!

  57. WIB !!! Yes ... what a great idea. I could so use the zapper.
    Glad you like my outfit, and oh, yes ... 64. Short round women often often look a bit younger. Makes up just a little for always being short and round, finally! So kind of you, but I'm sure I don't look so young even as 50 something, but just want to look the best 64 I can! I really think that's all changed a lot in the last few decades.

    Not to worry .. I have no illusions about having attained wisdom, but can claim a few decades of experience ( not always the same, are they?) And sadly, I'm granted maturity just by having lived this long ... no one who knows me well accuses me of the good kind of maturity.
    Judi's another short-round, isn't she. See what I mean?
    Thank you for all the kind remarks, you young whippersnapper, you!

  58. Oh, Sacramento ... I like the outfit so much better if you like it! So kind. And the feelings are completely mutual!

  59. Thank you, Oksana! It has a little Goth flavor to it, doesn't it? I've always been partial to black, but mostly because nothing slims like it. And an LBD can be spectacular when everyone else is in bright colors.
    Can't wait for Game of Thrones to begin again. ... Dan was pretty appalled at how pleased I was that they finally let Tyrion kill off his completely evil father! I'm hoping they'll show us more of Arya's adventures as an assassin-trainee on Bravos. Fingers crossed!

  60. Oooh! Che, did you know they come in sizes for the correct fit on the bridge of your nose? And they tilt slightly backwards and down so sliding is minimized! So cool.
    Glad you like my outfit! So happy you stopped by!

  61. Hello, Darlene! Glad you liked the essay, and the outfit ... very kind of you to say so! You're welcome here any time at all!

  62. You're always so kind, Janise. Thank you so much!

  63. cherie james (stylenudge.com)October 1, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Jan, I love Badassery! Good for you. The leather is awesome and the shoes.....!!!

  64. Here's the thing. You have a lovely calm smile ... confident, pretty, approachable. Yes, you do. Mine is always ear to ear because my jowls disappear when I spread my face wide with a big grin, so I've become addicted to flashing it. And I have "resting bitch face" ... a mean look when my face is just relaxed ... especially when I'm focused and really thinking hard about anything. When I try using less than a full grin in photos, that's when I think I look a little vacant, less than present.
    I'd like to say "I'll work on it" but I'm pretty much past that at this age.
    Keep smiling your smile, adorable Greeje, 'cause you look lovely.

  65. Hello, Nicolene! I'm so far behind ... but I'll catch up with thanks to all of you eventually. Speaking of thanks; I really appreciate your kind words.
    Black just works, year after year, in varying degrees. But it's always there. This fall, I'm just going to relax and enjoy my darks.
    Those D & G ads that have been around for the last couple of years used to include the very much older women, all dressed in traditional black; the matriarchs. Remember how the eye just slid past the bomb-shell models to these women-in-black? Wonderful.

  66. Hello, Catherine! I love that skirt too... it looks so much better in real life. I'm looking forward to wearing it with a simple black sweater this year, too. Thank you for stopping by!

  67. Sabine!!! I'm always happy when you arrive. I'm behind with my replies and comments, but know I'll get over to visit when I can. Thank you so much. Did you wear leather and lace on the blog? I'll go look ASAP. I'm always inspired by your sensibilities and creativity.
    Thank you for all!

  68. You're right about age granting at least a little badassery. That says a lot about where I am these days as I age.
    Yes, TBEMH ... I haven't seen the sequel yet, but I will, for sure. Great film. My favorite quote, of course, is "Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end."

    Dan and I live by that these days!
    Thank you for all, Shawna. I'll be over to see your place in the Blogosphere very soon!

  69. Thank you! Glad you liked it ... and I'm happy you stopped by.

  70. And I'm glad you are back! I've been inspired by your alterations and creativity with your wardrobe. Thank you so much for your great comments ... hope to see more of you soon!

  71. Thank you, Curtise ... you may well have commented. I had some trouble with Blogger and my server early on after this post. Weirdness with hyper-suspicious anti-virus stuff, but things seem to have calmed down now. I'm glad you took the extra time to say "hey" a second time.
    Nice of you, kid.
    I am always the last to comment at your place, or almost, but at least I'm consistent. I'm three days late with everything this week. I can only hope for understanding. We used to have a kid who worked for us ... couldn't arrive on time no matter what. But he always was on it when he did get in, and always stayed as long as it took to get things done, happily and without complaint. That's the kind of slack I hope to get from the universe and my bloggy friends!

  72. Carmen, you are too kind. You notice I don't post a lot of photos, none from behind, and never in profile. I've found that if I stand just so, and grin like the Cheshire Cat, I look my best. Perhaps not younger, but I stick to it! For me, it's less about the photo and more about the writing anyway. Glad you liked it!

  73. Thank you, Cherie. Those poor shoes have gone miles with me this summer, and will probably do so through fall. Glad you like them. I can always count on your understanding about the shoes!

  74. Gosh, is it too late for me to add to the massive pile of wonderful comments? I hope not. I love this outfit. There is no reason on God's green earth why a woman our age can't wear black leather, if done right. And...this is really done right! The fitted leather top adds a rocker chic to the ultra-feminine skirt. The contrast makes it all work. And, of course, the classic T-strap shoes add just the right touch of class. Brava, Jan. Well done!


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