GRACE'S MUSINGS: If you like it – wear it

GRACE'S MUSINGS: If you like it – wear it

Hands up those who refuse to part with particular pieces of clothing that go back a good 20 years or more, tucked away at the back of your wardrobe and waiting for the day when they can be gloriously resurrected. I know I do.

A favourite outfit, waiting for a trend to have its inevitable renaissance, or simply the staunch belief that one day we will get back into them, most of us do it. And as they go into hibernation, we give little thought to whether or not these clothes will still suit us when we decide to bring them out again. But the point is – does it really matter?

I have never liked the phrase ‘age-appropriate’ Words that hold absolutely no relevance for today’s older woman, and surely society doesn’t still see us in this way? Rules around what we can and can’t wear simply don’t exist anymore – and yet time and time again we come up against an element of societal judgement. What saddens me more is that this judgement often comes from other women.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I find it hard to believe that the stereotypes and assumptions placed on middle age still exist – yet we are repeatedly presented with examples that they do. Even though we consistently prove them outmoded and far from the reality of our everyday lives, the criticism levelled at women for dressing in a certain way beyond a certain age is astonishing.

I don’t think there are many 50, 60, 70-plus women out there now who feel that their age defines who they are, how they should behave or what they should and shouldn’t wear, but it is clearly something we still have to contend with when we have this kind of ageist narrative fanning the flames.

Part of the problem is that the fashion industry still tends towards showing their clothes on twenty-something bodies. Of course this doesn’t mean that we can’t wear these clothes, but I wonder if perhaps our inner bias leaps into action, and that tiny voice in our ear questions midlife suitability for whatever the latest vogue might be. I’d like to imagine mostly not, but it does make you think.

As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to personal freedoms, in a fashion context pushing the boundaries is exactly what we should be doing. The late Iris Apfel, who became a fashion icon in her 90s, is a remarkable example of exactly this. Her flamboyant style – extravagant, bold, bright and sassy – completely defied the societal expectation of what a woman in her 90s should look like – and she looked absolutely fabulous.

Maybe there does come a point in the whole ageing process when we feel some of the styles we adopted in our youth aren’t for us anymore. And let’s face it, we know now what does and doesn’t work for us individually. Changing shapes, a shift in our tastes and an ever-evolving sense of personal style all mean that what we choose to wear in midlife is subjective, and certainly not up for the objective opinion of others. It is our choice.

Technically I am ‘middle-aged’ and I have no problem with it. I refuse to allow what I wear to be defined by my age. Frankly, the idea that I should adopt some sort of collective attire that is ‘age-appropriate’ could not make for a more dull passage of time as I make my way through midlife into old age. So I will continue to wear whatever I choose, however the mood takes me, and if anyone dislikes what I am wearing then that’s their personal taste – just don’t make it about age. It’s quite simple – if you like it – wear it.

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