Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What does age-appropriate dressing mean, really?

I told myself a long time ago that when I got older and didn't feel the urge to wear figure-hugging clothes anymore, mostly because I would happily let it all hang out, I would get myself relaxed-fit jeans. Now that I've reached the age of relaxed-fit everything, I'm so happy that there are gym clothes and casuals in soft cottons that have drawstring waists. They're not only relaxed-fit but can also be let loose to accommodate huge meals!

So is age-appropriate dressing all in your head? Can you wear whatever you want and to hell with all the critics? I have a friend, S who was very conscious of her arms because she thought they were too large and so she never wore anything sleeveless (she's in her 40s). I asked her when she thought she was ever going to think her arms were ok enough to wear something sleeveless, in her her 60s? So she's now happily sporting her arms in sleeveless tops, which makes sense in hot weather. Similarly with another friend, F, who thought that she should only wear formalwear in black because it suited her coloring (she's in her 60s). I convinced her to try on something in red for an upcoming wedding, and yes, she looked great in it.

Unfortunately, there are fashions that the more mature would probably not look good in. Crop tops, bare backs, short shorts, skintight jeans and skimpy swimsuits are really meant for the very young and pert. When clothes like these reveal our muffin tops, saggy boobs, varicose veins and crepey necks, you know they're not for you.

I love the English idiom, "a mutton dressed as a lamb". It does really conjure up some pretty hilarious images of older, out-of-shape women who want so badly to look and dress young that they simply look ridiculous and honestly, pathetic. Because let's face it, after a certain age, gravity takes over no matter how hard you work out and diet. You can still be trim and fit but tell-tale signs like loose, saggy skin on our upper arms and wrinkly knees give us away. I do know some women who are approaching 60 who insist on wearing the shortest of shorts and miniskirts, paired with skimpy tops, that honestly don't do them any favors in the looks department.

I do enjoy shopping for clothes, trying on stuff that I will never wear and usually ending up buying comfortable t-shirts and pants. As it is, my wardrobe is filled with too-tight, too revealing, too bright and shiny and too formal stuff that I purchased on a whim. As I hardly have the opportunity to go out for fancy meals or parties, perhaps once in a while, I'll break out a dress but I've already retired all my spaghetti-strapped tops and high heels.

In my 20s, 30s and 40s, I was very much into black, grey and white clothes, minimalist stuff that I thought looked cool, although I horrified my mother by wearing what she considered funereal colors, especially during festive days. I've opted for more color in my life now that I'm approaching my 60s, because, well,  the stylists are right, color does seem to brighten up your demeanor. It certainly cheers up my mood imperceptibly.

I've been binge-watching Grace and Frankie, the popular sitcom featuring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as older women dumped by their husbands who have fallen for each other. Whether it's the elegant style of Fonda or the boho-chic look sported by Tomlin, I think they both look very attractive. I also like how Helen Mirren carries off really stylish looks including a bikini, even when her body certainly doesn't look young anymore. These women are confident and comfortable in their own skin, but still take the trouble to look the best they can. They really are the poster women of baby boomers.

There's much to be said for traditional garb, especially in Asia where customs are still observed during festive occasions. I like nothing more than to observe more mature women wear Indian saris, Malay baju kurungs, Japanese kimonos and Chinese qibaos. Somehow, these clothes are very forgiving, and women who wear them, no matter their size, do so with panache and elegance. Perhaps I will get some qibaos tailored, none of the tight Suzie Wong numbers with slits up to here, but more straight-cut and classy, in beautiful jewel tones. Until then, it's still t-shirts and drawstring pants!

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