Age is just a number. A state of mind. An illusion. Buddhist Monks are said to not know their chronological age, as it has no bearing on their spirit. When it comes to how you dress, or rather, how you choose to present yourself to the world, does age play a part? Should it?
I can start by saying I’m not a huge fan of “should” when it comes to fashion. Despite my true passion to see folks wear actual pants as they put their best selves forward, I belive strongly that fashion is an expression of our true selves. The trouble is, what if our true selves — our soul, spirit, energy, what have you — is a 24-year-old trapped in a body north of 40? Which self do you dress? Countless articles have been written on “dressing by numbers”. Harper’s Bazaar runs a monthly spread called, “Dressing Fabulously at Every Age” wherein they call out the trends of the season by decade. This season, it’s Black & White for your 20s, Magenta in your 30s. In your 60s, you are to play up Wild Textures and outre prints. Are you to eschew Magenta if you are 60, then?
Lately photographers like Qozop have been turning the topic on its head by asking parents and their adult children to switch outfits. The results are eye-opening, fun, and fresh. When you take the “should” out of the equation, and clothe a human body, what does it communicate?
My trendslation of “dressing your age” goes back to establishing your own personal Fashion Values. Although it may seem an oxymoron, this is a fabulous idea for anyone who wears clothes. Think about it — are you more interested in form, or function? Are you trendy or classic? High or low maintenance? What does your job/lifestyle/climate sartorially require of you? And let’s not forget, there are a whole host of social issues you can address with your fashion — are you more concerned with the environmental effects of clothing production or the labor conditions under which they are made? Do you believe in shopping locally with small businesses and artisans or do big box retailers that employ many and make your life simpler fare well in your closet? And yes, ” I just don’t care what I wear” is a fashion value too. All of that aside, I imagine as you consider your own fashion values you may come across some thoughts about “appropriateness” with regards to age.
As a relevant aside, I have a Middle School age daughter, so never has this topic been so hot in our home. I remember walking to school at close to her age and changing in the bushes into the ripped jeans my parents forbade. I never wanted that for her, but I am also very grateful for the (potentially sexist and archaic) dress code at her school that outlines no bare midriffs or shoulders, and no hemlines shorter than fingertip length. I have had to distill my own fashion values into a parenting value very quickly as I see boundaries being pushed and brand consciousness coming into play with her, and although budget comes up almost as often, we now have a bottom line value of “keep your body covered” (in the way the school has asked), but beyond that, express yourself!
I mention this because on some level I think all this fuss about dressing your age as you age has no value to me. No above the knee hemlines after 40? Um. Silly. I think my highest fashion value is FIT. If a garment fits you perfectly, then have at it. I know women in their 50s with bodies better than they were in their 20s. That said, what you can “carry off” at any age has as much to do with confidence as it does with body type. Keep your body covered in a way that makes YOU comfortable and feel alive. You’re a grownup, after all.