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Friday, April 4, 2014

Young Enough to Know Better

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?" ~Satchel Paige 

A friend of mine posted an article about age appropriate dressing on Facebook this week that sparked a bit of conversation. For me the problem with so many articles and books on the subject is that they make blanket statements; 'past the age of ___ one should never wear ________.'  It's more complicated than that for me. 

We all know that sometimes there's a fine line between looking good and looking just plain silly - but that's true no matter what the age. WIth youth it comes across as an excusable foible of youth - with an older person it seems somehow sad, or desperate. When you're young, they laugh with you, when you're older, they laugh at you. When you're young dignity isn't such an issue- when you're older, it is. There are things that I wore when I was 20 that I just can't pull off now- but there are also things I can wear now that I'd never have gotten away with then, either. Like I say, it's complex. So here's my thinking on how to get around the issue of 'mutton dressed as lamb.' 

First, like I always say, you have to know what colors look good on you. And this can change with age- often as we get older we need softer colors than when we were young. Next we have to know what design lines work for us- what styles balance out our proportions. Once you've got that down, the fun starts.

From there on out it becomes a matter of personal alchemy. 

This is where your personal style takes over, to start with. By this time you most likely know what you like aesthetically and what you enjoy wearing. So, after color, design lines and aesthetic preferences, how does age come into play? We've all seen the woman wearing something that's 'too young' on her; the question is, what makes it 'too young?' There are, IMO, 2 possible reasons.

First, it may be the very basic issue that she's trying to wear something that's not working on her body at this point in time- she's most likely showing too much skin. As far as I'm concerned, you're NEVER too old to look sexy. It's just that what reads as 'sexy' changes over time. With all that lovely experience and wisdom of the years comes the unfortunate fact of gravity's effect on us. What was once firm and lovely may not be quite so firm, and even though I'm sure it's still lovely, be prepared to just be a little more selective which bits of skin you show, how short your skirts are with bare legs, how low your cleavage goes, etc. Work with showing more sexy shape and less skin. Let the imagination work for you. :-)

Also another trick with a 'questionable' item in your ensemble- only wear that one questionable item. Keep all the other items low key, and 'ageless' and you'll have an easier time pulling it off.

The second part to me is where the magic comes in- it has nothing to do with logic or reason. It's more nebulous and conceptual. There's just no exact explanation for it. There's no apparent reason why one woman, no matter what age, can carry off a garment or accessory that on another woman looks downright silly, but still, there it is. Some of it is probably that she knows her colors and how much contrast she can wear, her best design lines and so on, so that whatever it is isn't 'wearing' her, which is an issue at any age, but probably stands out more as we get older. But it's more than that. This is something she loves, and it shows. It's part of her 'aesthetic lexicon,' if you will, and she OWNS it. Maybe even so much so that she may have broken a few rules- the color might be a bit too strong, or the design lines a little bit outside her best ones- but on her, it just doesn't matter. Maybe it shouldn't work on her, but nonetheless, she looks fabulous. And she knows it. 

That's the magic. If you can pull it off, you'll look great. If you can't, you might just be doing the 'mutton dressed as lamb' thing. And I think it's simply a matter of knowing yourself. 

As important as it is to make a good impression on others, I believe it's equally important to express yourself. And at any age, these two things are rarely mutually exclusive. So don't be afraid to work a little of your own magic and trust your inner voice. You know what you can carry off, and what makes you happy, so work it- no matter your age!

Happy Dressing!