"We are also told to monitor our appearance in a way men are very rarely told to. Find me a man leafing through a magazine that tells him to upturn his collar to hide his neck wrinkles, and I will upturn it for him."My first encounter with the question, "Am I dressing too young" came not with clothing, but with my hair, which I had colored since my gray became noticeable at the age of 26. After two decades, I was tired of the expense and the bother (not to mention having to touch up my roots every three weeks) and was ready to go natural. But I admit, part of my calculation to stop dying my hair was to allow myself to be gray before I looked too old. In other words, I hoped people would see my white hair and then my not-yet-wrinkled face and think it charming, rather than decrepit.
I'm fortunate to live with my 24- and 16-year-old daughters, who will always answer when I ask, "Is this too young for me?" Actually, they often encourage me to push the envelope a little more, which I appreciate. But I wonder: when did I absorb the lesson that I had to "dress appropriately?" That my hair might be too long, or my nail color too wild? I'm not talking about the kinds of imposed-from-without fashion trends many of us have voluntarily eschewed, like wearing high heels or trendy but uncomfortable cuts. I mean the voice in the back of your head which, if you're over 40, will ask you, "Isn't that a little too much?" as you look at yourself in the mirror. Does it sound like your mother? Maybe.
Men do not hear that voice. Men wear shorts and T-shirts identical to those worn my their five-year old grandsons. They don't switch from bikinis to one-piece swimsuits with skirts attached; they show up at the beach and let it all hang out, Or over. They don't cut their hair differently at twenty and at fifty - although there may be a lot more arranging to cover the bald spot going on. So why do we do it? Should we worry about being "mutton dressed as lamb?" Or, in the vein of Rhys deciding she's going to wear white clothing when she wants to, in season or not, should we all say the hell with it?
What say you, Reds? Have you ever had that "this is too young for me" moment? And what do you wear if you're not dressing your age?
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh I loved that article Julia! I had never heard of that awful expression--a mutton dressed as a lamb. I don't wear high heels, but that's because my feet hurt and has nothing to do with fashion. But maybe I am guilty of wearing what teenage girls might wear at home--jeans and a hoodie. I don't show my belly, but then I never did!
This summer we attended my nephew's wedding in Malibu--it was going to be a truly happy celebration, but we all stewed over what to wear in order not to shame ourselves in front of the LA crowd. (Trust me, you can't keep up with LA fashion, so it's best not to try.) Anyway, I came up with this dress and definitely brooded over whether I was too old to carry it off. Such a silly waste of good worrying! I'm ready to sign a pact saying, we are who we are, and we wear what we like and where we like it:)
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I've certainly had the "too young for me" moment, many of them, and so relieved I thought so! Dresses that look like babydoll pajamas or cheerleader outfits, with random weird places cut out, or midriff showing (why?) or so low cut that you couldn't possibly sit down. It's embarrassing! Yes, I remember my mother cringing at my too-short skirts, which they were, I suppose, but I was sixteen! Still, and I don't mean to be judgmental, but some things are inappropriate. And there's nothing wrong with seeing that. It's about self-respect.
I don't think it's about age, I think it's about what makes you feel good, and what's appropriate for the situation. I have to look business-like for work, and wear suit-type things and high heels all the time. I'm comfortable, it's fun, I'm happy. I'm not much of a risk taker, but loved what I put together to be toastmaster at Malice. It's a dress and leather jacket. And my shoes were...well, great. They didn't show, but I knew they were there.
That's what's fun about fashion and clothing. At ANY age. Wear what you love.
HALLIE EPHRON: Men's clothes are boring. It's so much more fun to be a woman. And yes, I once wore very (very) short skirts. Didn't my generation invent the micro-mini? With knee-high boots, of course. And no, I wouldn't wear that today, but more because now I dress for comfort. I'd be forever tugging at the hem and feeling a cool breeze up my behind. And boots? Am I the only person whose feet sweat?
Weddings are always a challenge. I have a wonderful little black dress (Yay, Eileen Fisher) that I wear to almost everything. I've got a black skirt of the same material I can wear under the dress to make the hem longer.The trick to making it work is accessories! I have a sequined dickey that makes it glamorous. My pink pearls for more sedate but classy. A paisley shawl for more casual. Jackets, of course.
RHYS BOWEN: There are certain items of clothing that nobody over fifty should wear. Knees are not an attractive part of the female anatomy, especially as they get older and wrinkly. So why is every dress above the knee these days. I love dresses and can never find one that looks smart, well cut and finishes just below the knee. I don't like droopy mid calf and maxi dresses are hard to wear.
I don't like exposing any part of me that droops or wrinkles. So no bikinis for me. Oh and leggings. Nobody over sixteen should wear leggings without a long top or dress over them. I have settled on the tailored look and I have to say that I like most of Hilary's pantsuits. If I had time I'd start a clothing line for my age--not what male designers think women over fifty should look like but well tailored, smart, longer jackets,I used to wear Ralph Lauren a lot but recently he has gone younger and brighter than I like. I saw a Lauren dress this week that was above the knee, pink with brown and green flowers. Not me at all! I have a couple of Eileen Fisher items but I don't look good in black or brown and her colors are all a bit drab for me.
I did buy a fabulous black silk tuxedo for an award ceremony this year. It looks great on me.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I don't worry too much about what is "age appropriate." On the other hand I'm not baring my midriff for anybody, but I don't see too many under-thirties that should be baring theirs, either. I do like my skirts above my knees, but maybe I should reconsider:-)
But while I think high heels were invented as a conspiracy against women, I'm a bit horrified to see that I am turning into my mother, who had trouble with her feet and for years wore leather lace-up walking shoes. You all have photos of cute outfits. I have shoes. I bought a pair of very pricey, supposedly VERY comfortable, boots for London, but I didn't have time to break them in. In my packing panic, I decided to leave my old, shabby, incredibly comfortable boots at home. You can probably guess the next bit.Two days in London and my feet hurt so much I thought I would die.
So I bought THESE and they are heaven. (You can't tell from the photo but they are actually more mauve than tan, so very funky.) My mom would have loved them. The good thing is that here in London most women of ANY AGE are either wearing trainers (tennis shoes in American) or something similar, because everybody walks, everywhere.
JULIA: Debs, you keep wearing short skirts if you like! I think that's the point of Baird's essay - not to wear what's suitable "for your age," but to wear what's suitable for you. How about you, dear readers? Do you think some looks are in or out based on your date of birth? Or should we all say to hell with it and dress like Iris Apfel?