When I was working back in the 80s and 90s, the act of daily dressing was simple. At work, I wore matching suits, blouses, pantyhose, and pumps. Had the same kind of clothes in multiple colours and the heels were of different heights. Just like this,
this and this…
At night and on weekends, it was jeans and comfy tops with runners or boots. At the start of this century (!!!!), the dress code at work became increasingly relaxed and eventually I stopped wearing matching suits altogether. With the (thankful) launch of Banana Republic’s petite shop, their business casual line-up of dress pants, skirts, shirts and cardigans became my new uniform and even crossed over to my non-work life. Their clothes were classic, maybe a bit generic and bland, but ageless. And the mix and match function made getting dressed in the morning a breeze.
When I stopped working last year, I went through a closet cleanse. I kept anything that was timeless. But I discarded a lot. Some things I sold, some things my daughter claimed. Most went to Value Village. I had a hard time parting with many items, but I knew that I would feel like I was trying too hard if I wore them. Do middle-aged women wear dresses with empire waists? How about shorts? Spaghetti straps? Bright colours? Skinny jeans? See through tops?
Since I was unsure and insecure about what constituted age-appropriate casual wear, I went to the source of all popular culture, the Internet.
I started with Oprah, the former queen of daytime TV. She is someone with 11.5 million likes on Facebook and a staggering 32.7M followers on Twitter. I bet most of them are women. What does she say? She’s an influencer. On her site, I found an article discussing what NOT to wear over 50. These would include mini skirts, bare midriff, tube tops (ewwh), shredded denim, tunics worn as dresses, bright nail polish, and rompers.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) goes even further to include no sweatpants with writing on the bum, thigh high boots, gold chains, see through tops or fishnet stockings. Honestly, this is not helpful. I don’t think these sorts of clothes look good on anyone beyond slim, under 21-year-old girls.
That same AARP site offers fashion tips for women in this age group. They state that wardrobe “must haves” include clothes that “fight the frump and look smart”. These essential pieces include dark denim mid-rise bootcut and straight jeans, white jeans, great fitting pants, black fitted jacket, black pencil skirt, cardigans, tank tops, dresses, and a leather jacket. What? Really? Are these not wardrobe staples for most North American adult women regardless of age?
So I went to the fashion bloggers. To my surprise, there are a number of blogs aimed at 40+ women. Not much for ages 50+ but I guess we are all lumped into the same bucket.
I liked this one if only for the title “Not Dead Yet Style”. Patti is the author of this blog. She is 60+ years old and gorgeous. On Mondays, she invites her followers to become “visible” to counterattack the frequent feeling of being “invisible”. Using a bit of embedded code, readers can celebrate their individual style by linking a photo of “any outfit, accessory, jewelry piece, hairstyle, cosmetic or other adornment” to Patti’s site. This is a way for her readers to share their individual styles with a look that makes them happy, confident and more “alive”.
One of Patti’s recommended fashion blogs is run by Lucy at Fashion Should Be Fun, Style Over 40. Lucy just turned 50 and also looks fabulous. I cannot get over how tall she looks. And if she isn’t that tall, she sure knows how to dress the part. She runs a Fashion Friday linkup blog hop. Perhaps this is like a virtual beer run but for fashion blogs? In any case, it sounds like fun and there might be something to learn. I think I will try it at some point.
Then I went to see Susan B. at “Une Femme d’un Certain Age“. This expression is a French euphemism for “middle-aged+ woman who doesn’t want to reveal her age”. With a French title such as this, I am expecting expensive outfits right out of Vogue selected by a high-end stylist. To my surprise, I find a woman who has a casual style similar to my own. She is a Francophile as I am. That’s probably why I like what she is wearing.
Lastly, I look into a social medium that I have not understood up to now – Pinterest. JACKPOT! This is way better than a Google images search. There are tons of photos up here of famous and not so famous women wearing everything and anything. Look, there is even a 105-year-old woman rocking an exotic teal blue silk outfit. This is inspirational!
As mentioned above, I am a Francophile. When I lived in France in my twenties, I felt inadequate until I slowly adopted the uniform of young French women. That meant jeans, leather jacket, good quality shoes, a scarf worn just so and most importantly, an attitude. Although so much has changed over the years, when I watch this, I realize that it really hasn’t. I’m glad that my fashion destiny is not limited to loud floral prints and stretchy pants but if that’s what I wanted, it would be OK. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.