dress your age

When I see an article about appropriate dressing for different ages, I turn immediately to my age group, now “50s” (WHAT???).  Sometimes it depicts outfits that I actually might wear, but mostly I find myself scratching my head.  If I followed the advice of most magazines, I would be wearing pencil skirts, shift dresses, capes and pumps.  While they look great on the glossy page (on the 17 year old model) and for many women my age I suppose it is a fine uniform, is it really necessary to drastically change your look as you get older. In particular, do we have to dress more and more conservatively as we age?  God, I hope not.

For the last 5 years or so, I have been thinking more about “appropriate” dressing for women in their 40s and up.  A few years ago, Nicole Miller came to town for an appearance at local boutique I frequent.  I asked her about her thoughts on whether women of a certain age should wear short skirts, and her response was by all means, as long as the legs are covered.  I tend to agree –  I’m pretty clear for myself on this  issue – bare legs, not so much, but on occasion ok with tights (although I’d like to think I have pretty decent legs, as all those hours in the gym better damn well amount to something!).  But then I’ll see a photo of some 45+ celebrity or fashion editor wearing a short skirt, shorts or dress, bare legged, and she looks great.  It really comes down to individual choice and feeling comfortable and confident.

But hemlines and skin exposure may be easier to call than other choices.  Leather pants?  Check, at least for now… Destroyed boyfriend jeans? Yes – until I give them to my daughter.  Over-the-knee boots? As long as they steer clear of Pretty Woman territory – and for me, have a wedge or flat heel.  As I have noted previously, my style tends to steer toward the androgynous, with an edge.  This means that I rarely show skin, or wear anything too frilly, which makes this issue of age-appropriateness a bit easier – my questions become less about whether my outfit is age appropriate, and more about whether it’s too mannish!  Being 6′ tall with an athletic build and short hair puts me in that danger zone.  (A bagger at Whole Foods the other day asked:  ”All in one bag, sir?”  Poor guy, as I turned toward him to answer, he was mortified and apologetic, but I told him it wasn’t the first time this has happened, and likely would not be the last.) At the moment I’m really feeling a leather harness… too young?  too masculine?  too S&M??

I also believe that dressing appropriately for ones body – getting things that fit right – is the most important factor.  No matter how age-appropriate the look, if it doesn’t fit, it’s wrong.  For now, I feel pretty ok with my choices, and although I continue to be tempted by certain looks that could be considered too young for me, I feel pretty comfortable with what I like to wear and what I think looks and feels right on me.

What do you think?  Are there rules when it comes to dressing one’s age?

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