Saturday, January 26, 2013

10 Years in Limbo

Dressing wasn't a puzzlement for Anna

No, that is not the title of a newly discovered manuscript by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As observed from my perch in the fitting room at the Lovely Boutique Where I Work, those ten years between 40 and 50 can be a puzzlement.

The closer you are to thirty past, it seems, the more you worry about dressing too young. The closer you are to fifty future, you still worry about dressing too young plus you fret about dressing too old. And your body may be playing tricks on you that you never taught it.

I don't remember my forties in the '80s as being limbo land. Times were different (don't you just hate when someone says that). But it's true— a midriff top was for toddlers, and no one wore a mini skirt unless she were a professional ice skater. Celebrities might get some attention for what they wore, but it was usually in context with what they were doing. There also wasn't a whole sub-culture dressing them.

Today is different. Anything goes... only it doesn't. Anything goes only if you know when and how far to take it. There are still rules, but no one can agree on them. When you reach your forties you're old enough to know that but too young to opt out.

I usually hear "Am I too old for this?" when the customer does indeed look great in an outfit that may skew youthful. I will tell her "no" if she has the legs/arms/shape/style to pull it off, but ask does she feel comfortable? I will also point out there is nothing inherently "too young" about what she has on. I'm not a fan of fussy ruffles and bow-tied sashes, so they won't be there. Women in their forties seem to get self-conscious if they have good figures, as if they shouldn't have them. Rejoice if that's you!

There was an incident this week, though, and Sasha Obama is to blame. At the January 20 swearing-in, the President's daughter wore a dress sold at the Lovely Boutique Where I Work. While we did have increased interest in that dress, we also heard a lot of "Am I too old for this?" It's hard to answer "no" when your dress is worn by an 11-year-old.

Is Sasha (right) the best dressed pre-teen in America?


  1. I'm 43 and really struggling with the "am I too old for this?" Thing. I'm trying really hard not to care when I put on my mini jean skirt, or my skinny jeans, or strapless maxi dress, but I can't help myself. I wish it would go away. I was worried about dressing too young in my 30's tot. Now that just seems stupid. Will I look back at 43 and think "why was I so stupid?"

    Anyway, my 12 year old daughter has an anthropologie dress that the president's daughter wore last year. My daughter still loves it because its sort of a celebrity dress, but there's nothing about the navy blue lace frock that wouldn't be appropriate for a woman in her 40's. it's a sleeveless fitted number with a full skirt to the knee.

  2. Heather, I had a feeling I was on to something. It's almost as if you are "too old to cry but too young to swear". When you look back on your forties you may see it as the time you really began to articulate your style. Cream rises to the top!

  3. Oh and thank you for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.

  4. I stopped asking that question when my friends started hesitating before answering.

  5. You're absolutely right; it only seems like 'anything goes' today. I, too, turned 40 during the 80s; I love the retro 60s look of Malia's dress -- and the coats they all wore to the inauguration. True story about age: one day I glanced out the window of a bus and saw a man & woman walking together. I stared, because she was wearing a terrific slouchy black hat with a red ornament. Her long, pale hair hung loose down her back; she wore a crocheted black mini-dress, hip jacket, black tights and high boots with low heels -- and then in a moment of sheer exuberance, she spun around: I realized that she was in her sixties, her hair was white, not blonde, and she looked great! She had the figure for it, and she looked like a vibrant, individualistic woman who would be fun to know. I guess, if you have to ask about a look, you probably couldn't carry it off; but if it feels right, go ahead and be an ornament to the street!