Week of requests: dressing your age

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“So I just turned 50,” writes a reader named Chelene. “I also realized that the fashion that I want to wear is not fashion that 50-year-old me SHOULD wear, and I’m having a bit of a crisis. Add to that I’m going through perimenopause and can’t seem to shake these extra pounds and those slim, streamlined looks that I’m used to wearing just stare back at me in confusion…I’m just trying to figure out what in the heck works and what the rules are going forward as I get older.” OK, the first thing you need to do, Chelene, is get the pesky notion out of your head that there is anything the 50 year-old you should and should not wear. As I wrote here, the notion that women age out of certain items when they reach a particular birthday is ridiculous. At the same time, it’s true that as you get older, certain items just don’t look right anymore—I’ve more than once tried on something I bought when I was younger, looked in the mirror, and thought, nope. But you are the best judge of what no longer works for you, so trust your instincts and then just let your freak flag fly. One of the women whose style I’m most inspired by is Lyn Slater, above, a professor who writes the blog Accidental Icon, and who clearly has no use for all of those dopey listicles that purport to tell women over 40 or 50 or whatever what they can no longer wear. And as for the weight gain bit, you’d be surprised what you can get away with if you simply accept your stature, and buy clothes in the right size instead of trying to squeeze into pieces that no longer fit (also, if you’re interested, you can check out my post about what to wear if you’ve put on some pounds).

 

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20 Thoughts on Week of requests: dressing your age
    Catie
    18 Nov 2019
    8:10am

    I’m 54 and I wear whatever I like. My 21 and 23 year old daughters ask me for fashion advice (and steal my clothes) all the time. Dress for YOU not some stupid idea about age. And embrace your new shape. I’ve added the menopausal pounds but I’m strong and my body does everything I ask of it. So I love it just the way it is. Don’t just accept yourself. Celebrate yourself! ❤️

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    K C Bailey
    18 Nov 2019
    8:11am

    Dear Chelene: I was oh so fortunate to grow up in a home with my classic Sicilian seamstress grandmother who ALWAYS told me clothing is about what looks good on my body…no one else’s. She always bought the good stuff, she always tailored clothes to fit her family. So give yourself a gift….tune out everyone else and tune into yourself. Trust yourself about what looks and feels good on you, as you are, glorious woman. Happy Birthday!

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    Allison
    18 Nov 2019
    8:53am

    I am 49 and also dealt with the dreaded realization that I can no longer lose weight easily without extreme deprivation and excessive working out (no thanks to both). I packed away all clothes that didn’t fit me last year and when I unpacked them this year and still couldn’t wear them I donated everything. I’m dressing the body I have and working on acceptance. I have created a uniform I love consisting of jeans, sweaters and sneakers or clogs (my work environment is casual). Having a wardrobe of only clothes I like that fit properly helps a lot.

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    Mouse
    18 Nov 2019
    9:16am

    I’ve had a funny trajectory on this general topic. When I was young and very active what I loved to wear most was anything stretchy and comfortable that I could move in. Danskin footless tights, flat shoes, something loose on top, no make-up. I was very hourglass-shaped and got a lot of unwanted attention from men, so that suited me psychologically as well. Then I grew up and went into a profession where I had to present myself a lot. Everyone complimented me on my shape, told me to wear tight clothing to show it, make-up was de rigueur, and I did that for awhile. I dressed as was generally expected in my field. Now I have retired from that specific field, I’m 59, no one is looking at me–and I don’t care anyway–and I am wearing leggings, big loose tops, flat shoes/boots, and almost no make-up. That’s the general silhouette, dressed up with different fabrics and jewelry when I have to be fancy. I feel like I have returned to myself. Actually, there is a larger aspect of menopause that feels like returning to oneself…..

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      Rae
      18 Nov 2019
      1:26pm

      Mouse, this comment is fascinating. You packed so much into a few short sentences! I wish I could read a whole essay from you. I really relate to dressing to downplay a figure that gets too much attention and the relief of giving that up.

      Kim, thank you for starting this conversation. Your community of commenters is my favorite.

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    c.w.
    18 Nov 2019
    10:13am

    For me it hasn’t been so much a weight “gain” as a weight “shift.” I always say I don’t need a face lift––I need a full body lift. However, as I’ve aged I’ve also lost that need to fulfill others opinions on how I look or what I choose to wear. I don’t wear dresses that are above my knees because I don’t care for how my knees look. I don’t often wear sleeveless tops because of those fine line wrinkles that line the inside of my arms, but these are MY choices and not those imposed on me by anyone else and that is the BEST feeling––knowing that whatever choice I make fashion-wise is MINE. Plus, no one is looking at me––not only because of my age (68), but because everyone seems to be on their freaking phones!!

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    RebeccaToo
    18 Nov 2019
    10:26am

    I think the hardest part of this issue is that I had finally achieved a sense of self-appreciation and happiness with my appearance…then, BLAMMO, menopause and a mid section I didn’t recognize. And fuzzy hair. And blotchy skin. It mostly levelled off. And I am settled in my own skin again. My style has always been ‘chaotic preppy’ and my 14-year-old thinks I am o.k… 🙂

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    patricia blaettler
    18 Nov 2019
    10:26am

    My body is different and I wish it wasn’t. To feel my best I make sure I have a current-looking haircut and I finally wear makeup to brighten up my face (cuz aging).

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      Darcy
      19 Nov 2019
      5:19pm

      Well done. That timeless strategy, to accentuate the positive, will always take you where you want to go! (and whatever your ‘positive’ is, is defined by no one but you.)

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    Judith L Blotnick
    18 Nov 2019
    11:40am

    We all struggle with the same issues and if you let it get you down you will be wasting precious time that you might be spending laughing, dancing enjoying. I have a problem with the Accidental Icon who has a guy following her around to shoot these unrealistic pics and who is always wearing sunglasses. Defeats the purpose and is not helpful.

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    Kim
    18 Nov 2019
    11:41am

    I turned 50 last year, and my body’s shape is changing. It’s been a time of redefining what styles work for me. Right now my favorite thing to wear is my Universal Standard cupro shirt dress. When I wear it I feel stylish and comfortable, and I don’t even bother with shapewear.

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    Cynthia
    18 Nov 2019
    12:10pm

    Several years ago now I realized that bodycon and tailored clothes were no longer for me. Shapewear caused migraines and digestive issues; even just the sensation of wearing a belt unless it rested on hipbones (rather than soft flesh) started to be a trigger. I decided I was going to wholesale change my style rather than picking around the edges to try to adapt. I eventually embraced the hell out of it. I am a college professor; I can rock a flowy plaid dress and boots, or geometric wide-leg pants and a drapey top, and no one bats an eye. There’s a whole ecosystem of artwear brands and small local boutiques out there that provide creative, colorful, fabulous clothes that don’t fit within traditional style rules (or get showcased much on style blogs).

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      Beth C.
      18 Nov 2019
      1:50pm

      I think it’s interesting how the changes are different for different people. I used to hate shape wear with a passion, now, while I don’t like tight spanx or anything like that which is designed to really shrink you, I find a I prefer to wear a really light girdle along the lines of the basic, Instagram omnipresent Shapermint. I don’t feel squished in, but the support on my midsection and back help me a lot through the day. Almost like compression socks for my middle.

      My clothes fit a bit better too, since it does smooth things out a bit, but that’s starting to just be bonus rather than original intent.

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    Mimi
    18 Nov 2019
    12:10pm

    It’s understandable that most of the comments here focus on what GOACA don’t feel comfortable wearing because their bodies have changed. But there are style and image questions that have nothing to do with a disappearing waist or pounds that won’t go away. When I’m shopping or shopping in my closet I frequently ask myself, “How do I want to present myself at 71?” The answer doesn’t change every year, but it does change. Since my 50s I’ve avoided looks that scream “trying to hard to be 35.” I can appreciate a “mature” rocker chic look, but save me from cheesy cougar style. I’ve always been drawn to prints and had a big Pucci collection in my 40s and 50s. I still love a great print, but many strike me as too loud or clowny now. Also, ixnay on anything too girlish. I haven’t given up all ruffles, but no bows allowed and I approach flounces with caution. More tailored, simple styles appeal to me lately, even though I’ll rock an extreme silhouette now and then. Instead of mourning the long departed short skirts I’d look ridiculous wearing now, I consider finding a way to be well-dressed and stylish at my age a fun challenge. For everyone else I endorse wearing whatever makes you feel confident and happy, with the caveat that I’m with Oprah – for chrissake get a good bra.

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    MaryAlice
    18 Nov 2019
    12:12pm

    I turned 60 this year. I believe that there are no rules about ‘dressing your age’, and that if you are wearing something that makes you feel great, you’ll radiate that happiness and people will respond. My favorite everyday outfit is a pair of great sneakers, jeans, a graphic tee, and a blazer. Too young? I don’t know and I don’t care. Makes me feel confident, cool & powerful.
    As for weight gain, yeah, it happens. But, as somebody once said, after a certain age you have to choose between your ass and your face…

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    madeline
    18 Nov 2019
    1:28pm

    I am 51- went through menopause last year- and came out the other side feeling more punk rock than I have in decades
    With age comes the freedom to not give a single damn what anybody else thinks. I am at this very moment wearing a 3 sizes too big black aviator flight suit, neon pink Birkinstocks and yellow leopard printed socks. I’m not interested in “pretty” or “sexy”. I’m interested in exploring what I think is stylish.

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    gt
    18 Nov 2019
    1:32pm

    I am 46. When I turned 40, i decided to buy clothes that will make me look and feel good when I am in 50’s. I don’t care what other people wear really. That’s their decisions.

    But, I care how I look. I want to express my style, not my fashion(I don’t know what that even means any more). One thing I make sure when I walk out the door is that I absolutely don’t want to non verbally scream “I don’t care”.

    Also I started buying clothes in MY style that will make me look awesome in 60’s. My shopping process became slower and I like it that way.

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    Lola
    18 Nov 2019
    7:29am

    Dear Chelene….same. same. SAME. Everything Kim says is true, especially the part of making peace with your new normal and size up. I am one of those who alwaysbendnup between sizes so I’ve learned to size up instead of wish down and tailor when necessary. Also…being 5’1″ makes it all so much worse. I’m all for accepting the weight and the body but not necessarily the age. Wishing you a happy and HEALTHY 50th!

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    Stephanie Haly
    18 Nov 2019
    7:54am

    I think your comment about buying things in your size is a good suggestion. What goes with that is also not buying things that are bigger. I don’t like to feel squeezed by my clothing but I realize when I size up my clothes look sloppy and just emphasize the “schlumpy” way I feel. So buy the right size and stand up straight!!!

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    liz
    19 Nov 2019
    1:01pm

    I say whatever make us feel good is good.

    Perimenopause was a walk in the park compared to the middle paunch that sets in after menopause. It isn’t enough to make me feel unattractive though. I’m out there and active as ever.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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