Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fashion Over 50: What’s the point?

Recently, I was asked to complete a survey by a college student. In an email, she explained she was a sociology major writing a paper on the “street fashion of women over 50.” She wrote: “Many people around me think that it is really boring topic, but I want to prove them wrong!” All I could think was: What fun! Click "Read More" below to continue...

The survey questions were diplomatically worded. I suspect the student felt she was an ambassador of sorts, surveying a strange creature from a different planet, perhaps, another galaxy. For instance, one questions asked if I saw a difference in the way women over 50 dressed. “Ha!” I responded, “Yes, I see a difference. Over 50 women aren’t invisible to me!” I mentioned the diversity in fashion among women over 50 and how I attributed this to the fact that women over 50 tend to dress for themselves, not for others.

Shortly after completing the survey, The New Yorker’s annual Style issue arrived. When I saw the cover (above), I nearly fell off my seat in a fit of laughter. “I am that little old lady!” I thought. As you can see, the two women have taken a trend—a classic Chanel suit and animal print accessories—and made it appropriate for her age. Wisely, the older woman went easy on the animal print accessories, nixing the saucer hat and tights. By contrast, the younger woman ramped up the same trend with a micro-mini-skirt, the hat, tights and towering pumps. I love them both because they have taken care to create a "look" that works for them.

Month after month, I write this blog. I share fashion trends that I notice flattering over 50 women on the street and report where to find those garments and accessories, especially when they’re on sale. Every few months, however, I ask myself: What’s the point? We’re all aware of our invisibility now that we’re over 50, right? To the whole world (it seems), the over 50 woman is just old—period. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. In the New Yorker illustration, the older woman stands in the younger woman’s shadow, someone to avoid tripping over in 8”heels while hailing a cab. But as I told the college student, I don’t dress for the whole world; I dress for myself. Dressing for myself gives me a lot of freedom, which I love. (Okay, I'd love to be 10 years younger even more. But I'll settle for fashion freedom.) I don’t have to be a slave to trends; I can pick and choose, wearing only the fashions that flatter my over 50 body shape and make me feel good about me. And that, to me, is the point.

Funny thing: The fashion world may be realizing the benefits of dressing for oneself. The New York Times recently ran an article called Freedom of Choice. “Following trends is so last year,” the article claims. Instead, fashion hipsters are wearing fall garments and accessories that reflect their personal tastes. Welcome to the over 50 woman's world!