Bring out the beige?

So lately I’ve enjoyed reading a few posts on how women dress as they get older and it seems to be a perennial topic. Joan Collins once decreed that the over forties shouldn’t wear jeans. Well except her of course. Actually I think she probably looks better in jeans than in some of her stuck in the 80s ‘I-really-am-still-in-Dynasty-and-I’ve-still-got-it’ outfits, but there you go.

But really, what are women supposed to do when we hit 40? Break out the slanket, the elasticated trousers and eradicate our wardrobes of any shade of colour that isn’t a variant of greige? My father-in-law’s wife seems to think so.

Last year she saw a full-length winter coat in the Jaeger sale in a beautiful shade of scarlet. But did she buy it? Nope. Her reasoning was that it was an investment piece that ten years later she wouldn’t have been able to wear any more due to the colour. She bought herself some red leather gloves instead. Lovely as they were, part of me wanted to scream at her. Who said you can’t wear red when you’re 65? And if Honor Blackman can be photographed in her 80s wearing Converse then so can I. I’m not giving up my gold ones any time soon.

Something does seem to happen to a woman in her late thirties/early forties though. And I’m not talking about middle-age spread or brain freeze (I know this from looking at my Aunt who is a young 58, has just taken on a PhD in glass blowing, cycles everywhere and wears a UK size 10 (US size 6)). Yes, women do sometimes get a bit thicker round the middle as they get older but it doesn’t have to happen if you exercise and not all of us will go (or choose to go) that way. No, what happens is the self doubt, the anxiety, creeps in. I run and I like to think I have reasonable legs. So I can still wear a fairly short skirt. But as I’ve got older I’ve started to worry about how that looks.

article-1007951-00CCE80400000578-443_468x411_popupI am married. I am not out to bag myself a man. As they get older, I don’t want to cause my children to facepalm when I come downstairs in the morning. If you still have a reasonable figure, and even if you don’t, then the issue is not really ‘can I still wear it?’ but whether it is sending out the right message if you do. So in that sense, the rules about not dressing like your daughter probably apply here. Other than that though, I say shop where you like, wear what you like, cover your arms or don’t cover them. It doesn’t matter. My step grandmother was still wearing make-up every day until her late 90s. She’d often be sporting something glittery, or a purple hat. Or even – as I recall – wore a semi-sheer blouse to my weddingย (and got away with it). It always made me smile to see her making an effort to look stylish and wearing make-up almost right up until the end. Ok, so the lipstick started to get a bit crooked but it made her feel better to put it on and who was it harming?.

So I say ignore the rules. I’d also like to remind people that being young does not always mean you are an arbiter of style….

Leopard print anyone?

18 thoughts on “Bring out the beige?

  1. Most of the posts you’ve written make me feel like you’re reading my mind! I’ve also been evaluating my wardrobe. Most of my clothes are from ten ish years ago. I’m late thirties now so I was wondering whether I should be toning things down a bit. But you know what, I concluded that whilst I’ve still got a youthful outlook on life, I’ll stick to what I like wearing because I feel great in them. Well at least until my children are old enough to really object! And anyway, how am I meant to skate in a cute twinset and pearls ; )

    Ps I’m going to be drafting a pattern for funky elasticated trousers tonight. I’ll let you know if ‘funky’ and ‘elasticated trousers’ can coexist!

  2. I am 50 and my style rules are: no miniskirts, no matter how good your legs look. Above the knee skirt only in winter with thick tights and boots. Too much cleavage probably not a good idea either, or jumpsuits. Anything else, dependent on your personal style, still permitted. At one point, tank tops will have to go, but not quite yet. And please, no velour track suits or those hideous hat/hairband thingies!

    • I agree re the cleavage. I think you are entitled to get your legs out though if they are still in good shape. The Aunt I mentioned does (in tights) and she’s older than you! She does not do high heels with them though, that wouldn’t work. I haven’t seen a velour tracksuit (on an adult) for a while so you’re safe there, at least in the UK.

  3. It’s an individual thing- wearing whatever you want is fine if you don’t care what people think (including your kids). If you do care, then I agree with the no miniskirts/no cleavage. Certain clothing choices just don’t look good as a woman gets older- no matter how fit she is. I live in Colorado now, and I absolutely love the way women dress here- very casual but fit and athletic looking. There are so many beautiful older women here, but not flashy. It’s very inspiring. I’m 45, and my goal is to just be in decent shape, feel strong and healthy, to be comfortable with the aging process rather than trying to fight it.

    • I feel exactly the same about being strong and healthy. I’ve watched a few very elderly members of my family fading away lately and it is so hard to see them immobile and with little quality of life left. My grandmother told me to keep moving for as long as I could and that’s what I’m trying to do.

  4. I can’t see that leopard prints suit anyone! But yeah, I agree with you, wear what the hell you like, life’s too short. I occasionally meet this old lady at events (I work in ‘old age’) and she’s usually in a lurid coloured rockabilly outfit with heaps of makeup and some kind of outrageous hat. I like it. Never give in!!

    • She sounds great. I bet she’d wear a bit of leopard print. I think it can look fine, but possibly not a good look in skin tight clothes (unless you’re an actual leopard)…

  5. Facepalm. What an absolutely brilliant word description! Big Guy learned a long time ago (and Little Guy will have to learn if he knows what’s good for them) to roll his eyes internally. I have no inner monologue, and I agree – we hit “middle age” and suddenly rethink every outfit as if we’re still in high school. High school sucked! I’m going shopping!

  6. Some great thoughts on a topic that hits quite close to home. I entered the dreaded late thirties and started asking the question, “Should I?” in regards to clothes instead of “Can I?” Size becomes a secondary issue to maturity.
    But someone will have to pry my blue jeans out of my cold, dead fingers . . . ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I think if you have a strong ‘statement’ style it’s much easier to negotiate the whole ‘should I/shouldn’t I?’ thing – but those ladies are less likely to give a damn about all that in the first place. The key to it in your forties and fifties is, as you say, retaining your confidence through some quite difficult physical transitions. You can certainly stay fit and healthy which really helps, but you can’t hold back the general changes in your body/face/hair, and that can sometimes knock your self esteem a bit. The only option is to roll with it and stick with what makes you happy until you hit the truly ‘eccentric and charming’ years where you can do what the hell you like and not give a damn. Although if you’re over 40 and people start cycling into lamp posts when you walk down the street, you can probably assume it’s not because they’ve mistaken you for Georgia May Jagger … (yeah, you may want to rethink the ‘micro-mini-and-boob-tube’, chief, not sure it’s working for ya).

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