What does it mean to “Dress your age?”

It seems like nothing can really prepare you for “growing up.” As a child, I would fantasize about it, though my childhood vision of adulthood meant being allowed to eat an entire tub of Cool Whip. As a teenager, it meant freedom from my parents. As a young adult, it meant being able to afford going out to dinner and taking nice vacations. Nowadays, with middle age around the corner, I’m at a loss. When my parents were my age now, I, the oldest of three kids, had already graduated from high school. They owned a home and two cars. They didn’t know anything about current music or fashion trends.  Here I am at 37, hoping to have a child one day, in a rented apartment, only owned a car once and never drove it.

To say it took longer for me to grow up than it took my parents is a massive understatement. In some ways I feel like being older isn’t what it used to be, but in other ways, I feel like I want to be more “adult,”  just not entirely sure what that means.

While it’s obvious that being adult is more than the clothes you wear, it’s hard to deny the role style has to do with communicating where you are in life. Especially when you think about clothes as much as I do. I often think random things like “I’m too old to wear a mini skirt” but then wear mini skirts all summer. Or “I’m too young to wear a pantsuit” and then crave a white pantsuit. By the time my parents had reached my age, they didn’t wear the kinds of clothes you would see on teenagers.

Today, it seems like the lines are becoming more and more blurred. One of my hero’s is Anna Dello Russo is  for the way she’s adapted her career and risen as an iconic figure in her late 40′s. But there was never a time in my life where I could dress like her, even as a teenager.  People like ADR, Carine Roitfeld and Kate Lanphear  have the courage and confidence to wear whatever they like, and do so with style.  Anna Dello Russo in particular, is constantly pushing the boundaries of what women her age can wear.

But are women so free to wear what they want? I was wandering around the internet and saw Terry Richardson’s photos of Cameron Diaz for Esquire.  Holy moly. In the article Cameron said, “I feel better at 40 than I did at 25.” Which is believable, but the photos reflected a side of 25 I would never want to be, much relive.  There are women who look great in mini skirts and sexy clothes of all ages (Cher anyone?) but the photos of Cameron just came off as desperate. Like it’s ok to be desperate and clueless at 25, we all were, but at 40, we expect more.

(Here’s Carmen Diaz baring a bunch of stuff for Esquire)

Does the acceptable level of skin baring  have to do with age? The notion of a woman’s sexuality turning from a thing of desire to a thing of disgust with age is certainly anti-feminist and a consequently unnerving. Yet, I have some sort of judgement over what is acceptable. Perhaps at different ages we have different freedoms and restrictions. Like as an adult, I’m allowed to fulfill my childhood dream to eat that entire tub of Cool Whip, but in reality, I know it would just make me sick.

These are extreme cases of women pushing the idea of dressing one’s age. Most of us will probably opt for a safer route with our wardrobes.  I admire those who step out of the norm, because it somehow gives us more freedom to decide what it means to “Dress your age.”

Images:  Grazia and Esquire


jennineWhat does it mean to “Dress your age?”