What counts as age appropriate when it comes to dressing is a topic I often hear women discuss, clients ask me about when it comes to choosing clothes, and magazines cover ad nauseam. Women are constantly questioning their choices and instincts when it comes to getting dressed and end up feeling anxious about what they wear. “I don’t wear short sleeves or sleeveless anymore”, “I don’t think I can wear shorts anymore”, and just simply “I’m too old for that” are common themes. My suggestion? Who cares?! Ignore the naysayers and the ageist attitudes pushed on us all. Preconceived notions be damned.
How, then, should you decide what to wear? Stay true to your personality and wear what you love.
Today women of every age wear Converse, leather pants, T-shirts, slip dresses, while others wear pantsuits, or demure flowing dresses. Just because you get older, it doesn’t mean you should give up the pieces that have made you happy for years. In fact, I suggest you revisit pieces you have always loved, and at the same time push your comfort zone to try new pieces you’ve never worn.
Case in point sixty-something Isabelle Huppert pictured above. I would have worn her outfit in my 20s (ok maybe not the Hermes cuff) and still would today.
I love this image of actress Thandie Newton (below) recently in New York Magazine. At 47, Thandie is rocking a denim jumpsuit and Air Jordans and why not?
Last week I saw a woman in her 70s on a bike wearing the most worn-in jean cut-offs; they must have been decades old. In the summer, I live in jean cut-offs, and she made me wonder why I think I need to ever give them up. I don’t think she was wearing them to show off her legs or look younger, she was wearing them just because. They seemed to fit her personality so they made sense. Another moment that will be forever ingrained in my memory is seeing an older woman (and I mean octogenarian-age older) on the Upper East Side wearing a beautiful, bright designer dress paired with matching Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. She had some serious, very with-it style. You could tell she found joy in getting dressed, and wasn’t bound by “rules”.
What are your “I would buts….”? The kind of clothing items you’re drawn to, but chicken out on for various reasons. Scared of a slipdress? Throw a blazer over it. Really prefer sneakers with your suit? By all means, pair them together. Know the difference between being uncomfortable in something (say a sleeveless top, though I would like to think that we can all learn to become more accepting of our bodies, aging and what we consider “flaws” ) and being uncomfortable with going against what you think is appropriate (there is no age limit on wearing sleeveless). Listen to the first (if you must), ignore the later.
Being happy and confident in what you’re wearing are key factors to creating a successful wardrobe at any age. And getting older doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take chances. Getting dressed should be a delight and pleasure, not an anxiety-ridden, rule-laden chore.
susan feldman says
Thanks for this. I think we all get too “in our heads” when it comes to being age appropriate! We need to wear what makes us feel like ourselves, as you so eloquently stated.
Thank you! I love this
Thank you for this! I do this all the time. Am I too old for shorts? Am I too old for slightly distressed jeans?
Numerous fashion experts on You Tube and blogs seem to think I am so doubt often settles in. But I will keep your words in mind – I like them!
Denise Brady says
Even though I have worked out for most of my adult life, my arms are starting to lose it. I’m 68 and have begun to worry about sleeveless. I’m so glad you posted this. I’m slapping on self tanner and going for it.
I find myself doing this regularly. Particularly because I work with teen girls. I think at this point what I am trying to do is just pare back more stuff in my wardrobe and see what it reveals about my true style.
Amy Brown says
Absolutely!!! I think it is more about being appropriate and comfortable for where you are going.
Sandy L. says
I too loved this column, as well as all the responses to it. But I have a thought occasioned by Denise’s comment above: Forget the self-tanner and embrace your natural skintone! Just as we need to rethink all those ageist ideas, we need to retire the notion that tanned skin is more attractive than natural. That standard is destructive, as we now know, armed with the truth about sun’s harm. Remember, a tan is NOT healthy, but rather evidence of sun damage. Though faking it with self-tanner doesn’t expose one to physical harm, it does perpetuate the idea that tanned skin is preferable, and something to strive for.
Yes to all of this. Thank you!
I turned 61 in June and had given up on shorts, but recently it has been very hot and humid In Virginia. It typically is this time of the year. So, I cut off some old jeans I don’t wear and turned them into cutoffs. I love these shorts! Also I’m not giving up my converses or vans!!!! I’ll take them to the nursing home. And… after reading the above comments I’m not going to think twice about wearing sleeveless clothes either. While my body has wrinkles, lumps and bumps I’m looking at it as adding character rather than a detraction.
I think the worst fashion decisions are made when they come from a place of shame -of being too big or small or old or… name it. Wear what makes *you* feel good!