31 Days: Are You Dressing Your Age?

fashion tips for beginners

Just the other night I witnessed it: a woman, who looked several years older than me, was wearing something that looked like it might have been more appropriate for her 20 years ago. Or maybe never. There was a lot of leather involved. It just wasn’t good.

I am ALL for people having their own personal style, but when it draws attention in a negative way it just makes me feel bad for them because I think with help they might be able to have a great look. And I wish it was appropriate for me to just take them shopping or point them to an appropriate version of what they were probably going for.

But that might be overstepping my boundaries just a bit.

After all my years of people watching, I’ve decided that these folks aren’t necessarily trying to dress younger. They didn’t wake up and think, “If I wear this ultra-mini skirt, maybe I can fool people into thinking I’m 25 instead 45.” And when folks are able to have their style age with them successfully, it’s not that they woke up and thought, “Now, what do I have that says ‘stylish-stay-at-home-mom-in-her-late-thirties’?”

For most folks it is a seamless transition, so subtle and gentle that you really only recognize it when looking back at pictures. The change isn’t that they had some fashion epiphany; it’s taste. Taste matures as we mature. Not for everyone, but for most folks. Some ladies already have very refined tastes in their early twenties, so the difference might not be as striking. But for some of us, it takes a while for our style to catch up with who we are.

If you’ve ever wondered if you are dressing your age, what you are likely looking for is permission to wear something specific that you have in mind. If you look hard enough you might just find an answer to that question. Here are a few ways to approach it:

  • Google the item and scrutinize the images that come up. Do you identify with any of them? This is one reason I find it so helpful to stick with certain stores – their marketing campaigns are built to tell a story about their target customers. If you see yourself in their story, you are probably OK. If you don’t, you may need to give up on that item, or find a different way to wear it. 
  • Read current fashion magazines or websites. Are you trying a new trend? Magazines will have ideas on how to wear it in different ways. Try to find a way to relate this new trend to something you wear regularly.
  • Look at what the kids are wearing. No really. If you notice the thing you want to wear on mostly teenage girls or especially middle school girls, it’s not meant for you. And that’s OK.

These guidelines don’t apply to colors (like cobalt blue) or patterns (like houndstooth) but rather to specific items (like Uggs).

That being said, I don’t think there really are hard and fast rules on who can wear what. The styles we interpret as “young” or “old” are usually just an issue of taste. More often than not as taste is refined, so are fit and coverage and therefore appropriateness.

When we get dressed on purpose, we will naturally dress in a way that fits where we are in our lives.

How do you feel when you see someone dressing in a way that doesn’t seem to match their age or stage in life? Do you feel they would benefit from a taste intervention, or that it’s a lost cause?

Comments

  1. What? Uggs? Who is supposed to wear them (or not)? I just googled it and I did see Sarah Jessica Parker wearing them (she’s older than me, by 10 years). My sister bought me a pair last year for Christmas, and I admit I thought they were super uggly (ha, ha!!). But I gave in to wearing them because, well, I was too cheap to go buy another pair of boots for myself and she spent so much I felt guilty not wearing them. I’ve worn them a few times this year so far, but with swollen pregnant feet, they are the only thing that fit besides my tennis shoes.

    I try to be very age appropriate and modest in the rest of my dress and the Uggs are a bit of stretch for me style wise. Nah, they are totally out of character, but they were free.

    You’re right. No more Uggs for me.

    • I’m sorry about the Uggs. And SJP is definitely a style icon, so there’s that. Maybe as long as you don’t wear them with shorts you’ll be OK. Or just when absolutely necessary to keep your feet happy. 🙂