What does it mean to “Dress your age?”


It seems like nothing can really prepare you for “growing up.” As a child, I would fantasize about it, though my childhood vision of adulthood meant being allowed to eat an entire tub of Cool Whip. As a teenager, it meant freedom from my parents. As a young adult, it meant being able to afford going out to dinner and taking nice vacations. Nowadays, with middle age around the corner, I’m at a loss. When my parents were my age now, I, the oldest of three kids, had already graduated from high school. They owned a home and two cars. They didn’t know anything about current music or fashion trends.  Here I am at 37, hoping to have a child one day, in a rented apartment, only owned a car once and never drove it.

To say it took longer for me to grow up than it took my parents is a massive understatement. In some ways I feel like being older isn’t what it used to be, but in other ways, I feel like I want to be more “adult,”  just not entirely sure what that means.

While it’s obvious that being adult is more than the clothes you wear, it’s hard to deny the role style has to do with communicating where you are in life. Especially when you think about clothes as much as I do. I often think random things like “I’m too old to wear a mini skirt” but then wear mini skirts all summer. Or “I’m too young to wear a pantsuit” and then crave a white pantsuit. By the time my parents had reached my age, they didn’t wear the kinds of clothes you would see on teenagers.

Today, it seems like the lines are becoming more and more blurred. One of my hero’s is Anna Dello Russo is  for the way she’s adapted her career and risen as an iconic figure in her late 40′s. But there was never a time in my life where I could dress like her, even as a teenager.  People like ADR, Carine Roitfeld and Kate Lanphear  have the courage and confidence to wear whatever they like, and do so with style.  Anna Dello Russo in particular, is constantly pushing the boundaries of what women her age can wear.

But are women so free to wear what they want? I was wandering around the internet and saw Terry Richardson’s photos of Cameron Diaz for Esquire.  Holy moly. In the article Cameron said, “I feel better at 40 than I did at 25.” Which is believable, but the photos reflected a side of 25 I would never want to be, much relive.  There are women who look great in mini skirts and sexy clothes of all ages (Cher anyone?) but the photos of Cameron just came off as desperate. Like it’s ok to be desperate and clueless at 25, we all were, but at 40, we expect more.

(Here’s Carmen Diaz baring a bunch of stuff for Esquire)

Does the acceptable level of skin baring  have to do with age? The notion of a woman’s sexuality turning from a thing of desire to a thing of disgust with age is certainly anti-feminist and a consequently unnerving. Yet, I have some sort of judgement over what is acceptable. Perhaps at different ages we have different freedoms and restrictions. Like as an adult, I’m allowed to fulfill my childhood dream to eat that entire tub of Cool Whip, but in reality, I know it would just make me sick.

These are extreme cases of women pushing the idea of dressing one’s age. Most of us will probably opt for a safer route with our wardrobes.  I admire those who step out of the norm, because it somehow gives us more freedom to decide what it means to “Dress your age.”

Images:  Grazia and Esquire


jennineWhat does it mean to “Dress your age?”

Comments 15

  1. Marguerite/Chicspace

    I think about this a lot, and there are so many aspects. Is it age, or is it body/appearance/youthful-look-bias? Is it appropriate to determine what one is “allowed” to wear based on age? Is it more a function of “appropriateness to the situation?” Is age a one-size-fits-all approach?

    One of the concerns in the back of my head about starting a blog is that people might think I’m too old to wear some of the items I wear (miniskirts, fashion-forward items, etc.), but maybe it’s a way of communicating that age is no longer a limiting factor in how one lives their life.

    1. Post

      You’re right… the appropriateness of a situation is proabably more a factor than anything else, though ADR wears crazy sequins and gowns during the day, when it’s typically expected to wear that type of clothing at night. I do think the world is changing bit by by women taking age out of the equation when it comes to dressing themselves. I wouldn’t have dressed like ADR if I had the money/the body/etc… even though I admire her style greatly. It’s just not my personality, even when I was younger. That said, her being out there gives me a lot more freedom to be bolder in what I choose to wear.

      Start a blog already! ;)

  2. une femme

    I’ve come to the opinion that age is less important than temperament, values and personal style. I’ve *never* been comfortable flashing a lot of skin, even in my 20′s. I’m also glad there is plenty of boundary pushing going on, as it means we have more freedom in our own style choices. But that doesn’t mean I’d make the same choices or emulate what Carine or ADR do…that’s just not me or my life. And yeah, the “I’ve got a rockin bod at 40, 50, 60 so I have to pose like a porn star” thing does smack a bit of desperation.

    1. Post
  3. Marie-Eve @aprettynest

    That is a very interesting topic ! For me the growing up part (kids, house and all) I did very young so I didn’t get to experiment much with style back then. So when I finally got the time, I was almost 30 ! Now I think that dressing a fashionable way is totally okay, as long as you stay classy and appropriate for the event. The rest is all self confidence !

    The problem with that shot of Cameron is that it’s not very classy. She should take notes from Anna above with is still very sexy and fashionable while remaining classy.

    1. Post

      You are so lucky! I kind of wish I had done everything when I was young like have kids, etc… because I didn’t get enough time (or focus) to start thinking about blogging until I was 30. And there was no excuse.

  4. Kiki

    Hmmm…I think those photos of Cameron reflect Terry more then they reflect her. It’s his aesthetic (that I don’t particularly care for) . Honestly, he would shoot an 80 year old like that. Plus, it’s for Esquire….and I’m not sure we can expect better of a mag that is all about eye candy for men. If anything, I think it’s commendable that nowadays we (and men) can think of 40 year olds as eye candy. For my parents generation this would be unimaginable.

    1. Post

      Oooh, I don’t know, Terry Richardson photographs a lot of people, including 86-year-old Angela Landsbury http://www.terrysdiary.com/image/31984961202

      I agree a lot of his photographs are racy, but a lot of them are not. Cameron Diaz had to agree to be photographed that way as I’m sure she’s able to make her own decisions.

      1. Kiki

        Hehe…ok, you got me there with the 86 year old, even though I did notice that even her button up shirt has one buttone that perhaps should be done, undone. LOL ;)

  5. Kiki

    I forgot to add…I started my blog at the grand old age of 40. I wasn’t sure if I should as there are so many pretty young lithe things with blogs, but mine is growing nicely and I’m building up followers without having to retort to thos “follow me and I’ll follow you tactics”. (it was also helpful reading all the good tips from your other site ifb). One of my fave blog reads is Advanced Style too. So, yeah…I think people over 35 can also be relevant.

    1. Post

      That’s really great! Yeah, they say a woman’s style peaks at 35, so I do believe that you are right in saying that in fashion people over 35 are relevant, perhaps even more so.

  6. charles

    it’s a feminist debate as old as time…it always seems like the only 3 sides of women in commercial and marketable ways are virgin, whore, & hag. Most celebrities go through all three during their time in the lime light. Once they are far, far from virgin, in their mid twenties or early thirties if they are very ‘innocent,’ they will slut it up and get more slutty and provocative once they are nearing what Hollywood (very sadly) views as hagdom-early forties and so on. There is a small wave of women trying to break this, including Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren but a lot of women are also stubbornly holding on to there ‘younger’ slutty image like Madonna for example. It is very hard to be a woman even in this modern age, especially in hollywood.
    I don’t really feel like Cameron is the one to be judged, she is only doing what her agent is telling her, I just think it’s sad. She’s a beautiful, smart, & and funny lady. She will always be Mary to a lot of us. I wish she didn’t have to pose like that to show she is sexy, but some things never change.

  7. Pingback: That mini is so phat: dress sense that is timeless « Teatart

  8. sascha

    Great post! I have only just discovered your blog(Via IFB)
    I love these kind of articles, looking forward to exploring your blog and reading more.
    I noticed you called Cameron Diaz- Carmen on quite a few occasions, just a heads up =)


  9. Lem

    I guess when you age, you definitely have to wear appropriate women clothes. If a woman is already in her 40s and is wearing a mini skirt, it’s alright as long as it doesn’t look off.

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