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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Not ready for the polyester slacks just yet, thanks

You know that feeling when the security guard in a young fashion boutique gives you a quizzical look? And it’s not because he thinks you’ve just nicked something? In his eyes, you’re lost. You may have only innocently peeked into Miss Selfridge to buy something for your daughter, or reminisce nostalgically over those flowing maxi dresses. Deborah Ross, columnist with the London Independent, once hilariously likened the experience of walking into such a store as triggering a security alarm which booms out to all and sundry: “Alert! Older woman entering store! Alert! Redirect to Wallis!” 
Welcome to the world of what the French elegantly call d’un certain age, or the less kind dub the mutton club. Which is why the LOB (Looking Our Best) style blog has a minimum entry age. Those wearers of denim shorts over opaque tights, hobbling along on skyscraper wedges,  look away now – there are thousands of fashion sites out there in cyber space catering for you, darlings. This is for us fashionistas who remember shorts back when they were called hot pants. But writing a style blog on this theme presents the problem–  what exactly to call it without using the, ahem, ‘older woman’ tag? Whether or not the glossy magazines insist 50 really is the new 30, and so on, there are unwritten rules, the main one being that dressing ‘younger’ only serves to make you look older. Fashion journalist Sarah Mower wrote that every woman over 40 should invoke her own ‘mutton monitor’. Because what you got away with at 25, you surely can’t channel at twice that age. Even if you’ve deprived yourself of three decades worth of profiteroles and are still size 10, the most svelte grown-up fashionista wears a thigh-skimming little summer dress at her peril. To risk that would surely provoke the dreaded Kronenbourg 1664 slur –looking 16 from the back and 64 from the front.
What should we wear? LOB can only say that the answer doesn’t get any easier with age. Some of us  baby boomers ( those born between 1946 – 1964 ) may recall our mothers having less of a dilemma over appropriate dress codes, back in the days  when a suit was called a costume, a dress was a frock, and your shoes matched your handbag.  But we grew up during a time of the most radical changes in women’s dress, and remember wearing micro minis, or, this summer’s fashion revival, the maxi dress.  We came in when a younger generation became recognised as a viable market, and our love affair with the ever changing whims of fashion remains constant. But it feels as if the marketing folk consider yesterday’s flower children/punks/New romantics as past it, stylistically, while even the most dogged among us who insist we can wear what we damn well please still have doubts. Can we really get away with fashion revivals second time around? Hmmm. By all means try on those current Betty Draper floral frocks or experiment with 80s style colour blocking while also acknowledging what the French (again) call entre deux ages – being ‘between two ages’. In maintaining the  ambiguity over what exactly  that middle point is, LOB says we  should refuse to  resign ourselves purely to the safety of the so- called ‘classics’ . There will be plenty of time ahead for donning the chain store sensible shoes and polyester slacks. If what we wear defines us (rightly or wrongly) there should be no limits to where we can search for those looks that show off our style rather than age.  And never mind how that security man looks at you....