Do you ever wonder if you’re too old to wear something? That thought is a milestone unto itself since I never wondered such things when I was 23. Society is keen to point out what is age appropriate to wear, via shaming articles dressed up as sartorial self-help pieces. When I started thinking about these standards, the ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ sayings, I began to notice that it’s always aimed at women. Not once did I find an example of a man being told to dress his age.
(Although if you can find one, I’d very much be open to seeing it!)
Regardless, it cannot be argued that ‘dressing your age’ is a female-focused topic. The subtext is sexual, as most subtext tends to be. ‘Dressing your age’ translates to “nobody wants to see that!” and sometimes removing sexuality from women society deems too old to be reproductively ‘useful’. At other times, the ‘do’s and don’ts’ seem arbitrary and rooted in outdated norms: why should we care if people over 40 want to wear distressed denim?
Whenever a woman decides to shun the subtly imposed uniform of the aged, and reclaim her body, the response is most likely to be of the “Put it away, lady” variety. The uniform, often unique across cultures, races, and economic status, shares the underlying theme of muted, covered up, and invisible. The uniform should be optional, with Iris Apfel and Baddie Winkle leading the way of advanced style.
When we are also told that 40 is the new 30, and “you’re only as young as you feel”, what does ‘dressing your age’ even mean? The Advanced Style publication showed us that fashion and style has no age limit, and that we aren’t all destined for Chico’s. Happy, healthy and comfortable always look good, whether wearing orthopedic shoes or thigh high boots.
We don’t think twice about these helpful guides online, telling us to throw out our miniskirts when we reach our 30th birthdays, or toss our glittery eyeshadow when we leave our parents Obamacare plans. Magazines and stylists tell us how to dress our body in an ‘age appropriate’ manner, and banning us from certain stores. I’ve counted too many articles chastising me for owning graphic tees, sheer dresses, and a Hello Kitty purse. Well, excuse me, but fuck your articles.
While we focus too much on 30-something women reclaiming a youthful style; we need to look older. Can we stop nagging women over 60 who want to wear fast fashion or light up sneakers? Can we just focus on encouraging the exploration of personal style, regardless of age? I’m sure I won’t have exactly the same style when I’m 70 as I do now, but I would hope that wherever my style goes, I’d be free to wear it without the fashion police tutting at me for not dressing my age.