Apr 1, 2010
I made a kind of off-handed joke last Sunday about the saying that goes, "if you were old enough to wear it the first time around, you're too old to wear it the second time around." (I think this originally applied to mini skirts.)
Yesterday, a few of you pointed out that my 1941 dress pattern was a rather matronly design. While I recognize it's not particularly youthful, it doesn't exactly scream dowager either.
Then I read an article Gertie linked to recently, about prom dresses too mature for the teens who (want to) wear them.
Do most of us still make distinctions like these today? I happen to think that -- at least here in America -- we do not, or not so much. We seem to be living in a sort of "anything goes" period style-wise, where sixty-year-olds routinely dress like teenagers and teenagers routinely dress like streetwalkers. Personally, I do not have a problem with this -- but then again, I'm not a parent.
Clothing choices are obviously complicated and their meanings can be so subjective it's hard to make sense of them any longer. Not that many years ago, the display of a woman's ankles was considered provocative. Today, I think we've lost our ability to be shocked; we've seen it all -- literally.
While I'm of the "whatever floats your boat" persuasion, it does bother me that so many styles today seem to be derived from pornography (e.g., hooker-wear) and prison (e.g., sagger pants).
It's not that I think there's anything intrinsically wrong with the garments themselves -- loose pants and short-shorts are literally meaningless -- but within the context of our society, I see them as indicators of a coarsened and degraded culture that openly romanticizes prostitution and violence.
I think most of us (we'll see if I'm right about this) are of the "if you still got it, go for it" school, i.e, if you can still pull off a look and you feel comfortable in it, that's all that matters -- or should matter. We admire (or are told to admire) people like Cher, who in another era would have been put out to pasture or been relegated to Marie Dressler roles. Good for her! we think (or do we?). Too bad Cher is also the poster girl for plastic surgery.
There is something so refreshing about seeing an old (whatever we consider old today) person dressing in a way that looks unmistakeably adult. It's an acknowledgment that we aren't always young and needn't try to look young. We can look nice at any age. (I don't like the word "attractive" because it suggests that we must always be thinking about attracting others. At a certain point, enough already!)
The alternative to this -- while I may admire the commitment and discipline required -- exhausts me.
So I ask you, readers: Does "age appropriate" mean anything anymore? Are there things you won't wear, not because they don't fit well, but rather because they look either too youthful or too mature? If so, upon what do you base your decision: a family member's judgement, a book on style, or just your own sense of what looks right to you?
Do you think this applies to men too or just to women?
Are we better off in this "freer" time or rather under more pressure to maintain the illusion of youth longer?