When is one too old to wear a miniskirt? I have mixed feelings about fashion “rules” based on age. Personally, I do believe that there comes a time when most people look ridiculous in a Hello Kitty crop top. But why should I have any say in what you wear? It is easy to talk about what’s “age-appropriate” in the abstract, but I think it’s a bigger issue than that.
Let me tell you up front that I am 26, and most people would say I am still at an age where almost anything is “appropriate” (though Hello Kitty is probably pushing it at this point). In a few years, though, they may not be so kind. Today, I can “get away” with jean shorts. At 35, the same bottoms would raise some eyebrows—but why? The answer to that is too-many-fold for one essay, because it is part of a bigger conversation about how women are looked at—literally and figuratively—in our society.
There is this idea that at a certain age, women’s bodies aren’t beautiful anymore and they need to be covered up. I don’t like this thinking—first, because it makes women feel ashamed of bodies that have done nothing wrong, only gotten older, and second, because the implication is that how you look is more important than how you think or feel or what you do. Aren’t we already cut down enough by, say, the glass ceiling, without starting in on each other’s varicose veins or un-toned arms?
There have been innumerable articles published about what women (I can’t recall seeing one aimed at men) should stop wearing at X age—miniskirts, low-cut tops, even certain hairstyles—and although I do think certain styles of clothing are more flattering on different types of bodies—and I believe Stacy London and Clinton Kelly know what they are—I don’t have the right to tell you what to do with yours. (And if you’ve “got the bod” for a tight dress at 50, then why shouldn’t you wear it? But, then again, what constitutes a “good body” is a matter of opinion too.) The bottom line should be that if you think something looks good, if you feel good in it, then you should wear it. If what you have on makes you feel confident, then go for it, no matter what anybody else says. What looks good is all a matter of opinion anyway: the same Oscars dress can show up on People magazine’s best-dressed list, and on Harper’s Bazaar’s worst-dressed. Why should someone else’s opinion on your wardrobe matter more than your own?
It should be that we want women to feel good about themselves, and encourage them to wear what makes them feel their best. We should be allies. But that isn’t always how it goes: Show too much skin, you might be called “slutty”; show too little, you’ll surely be labeled “frumpy.” And although you might have left the house feeling like a 10, it is quite a difficult thing to stay confident in your clothing choice when you’re getting dissatisfied once-overs once you’re out and about. We’ve all given them, and we’ve all gotten them. But perhaps this is a reminder to check ourselves before we dispense the searing gaze of disapproval on other women. It just breeds insecurity, and cliquey-ness, and that spills over into other areas of life where we should be sticking together. (You see what I mean here about there being too much for one essay.)
In the end, I think you must dress for yourself, with confidence. Wear what you’re comfortable in. Wear what makes you feel your best, what makes you feel capable and beautiful. If you do, you can “get away” with anything, and you also set an example for others. The only “rule” women need, in my opinion, is this one: Does what you’re wearing make you feel like you want to feel today? Yes? Then the hell with everyone else—wear it.
Image via. Ann Kaiser is a PR girl by day and blogger at Just One More Thing by night. Her chief interests include chocolate cake, chatting your ear off and rereading the works of JD Salinger. She lives in New York City.