Age should have no bearing on how we dress anymore, writes Annmarie O’Connor — just look at Jane Fonda
Why there’s no such thing as dressing your age anymore
When it comes to clothing, the term ‘age-appropriate’ is illfitting if not a bit outdated. The prescriptive notion of acquiescing to a quieter, more controlled image with ascending years suggests that matters sartorial have an age limit.
Adulting is challenging enough without the added social pressure of having to fit a style by numbers approach to dressing. Media messages such as: look young but not too young; learn to conceal, not reveal; don’t look like mutton or a lamb, have left many women over 40 feeling sheepish.
Can I pull it off? Do I risk being profiled by Topshop security?
Suddenly buying a pair of frayed hem jeans or rocking a fringed kimono feels like an act of high treason — risky and punishable by the fashion police. Until now.
Social media has created a new breed of digital revolutionaries bent on busting demographically-determined dress codes. The kicker? Not one of them is a millennial. American university professor-come- fashion influencer Lyn Slater (63) has become an Accidental Icon thanks to her eponymous blog which has seen her star in A Story of Uniqueness campaign for Spanish retailer Mango. Both model-turned-Instagram star Colleen Heidemann (68) and Bag and a Beret blogger Melanie Kobayishi (54) throw shade at any dimmer switch with their vibrant visual identities; while retired Playboy Bunny and Senior Style Bible auteur Dorrie Jacobson (82) takes a more activist approach by waging wardrobe warfare on prevailing style semantics.
And that’s not the half of it. From the cult popularity of Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style blog (which espoused a self-titled coffee table book and documentary) to the Emmy-nominated costume design for Netflix TV series Grace &
Frankie starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, style citizens are demanding equal fashion opportunities, regardless of age.
As Jane Fonda proved herself at the Emmys.
So, why the hue and cry? Our increasingly mobile lifestyles aided by the fact that we are leading longer, healthier lives and, in turn, retiring later, have made the feeling of youth a valuable personal commodity. Although, most women don’t want to look like our 20something selves (mine was an ode to hipster jeans and questionable boob tubes), neither do we wish to be excluded from exercising our right to self-expression.
Why fit in when we can stand out?
Ironically, this civil disobedience is nothing new. The exponential rise in deconstructed silhouettes, athleisure and sports luxe trends has testified to this shift much in the same way as the 1920s saw Coco Chanel co-opt menswear and sportswear influences into her collections and flappers swap out constricting corsets for dance- friendly drop waist dresses. Disruption by design.
The biggest revolution was yet to come. The 1960s ‘youthquake’ saw dress codes implode as baby boomers rejected the social norms of previous decades. Street style usurped established couture houses in terms of influence with the emerging generation demanding freedom of speech through the language of fashion. Mary Quant, credited with introducing the controversial mini skirt, answered this call. Her King’s Road boutique, Bazaar — a popular mod and rocker hangout — became the first showcase for the skirt which soon became a symbol of social, political and sexual emancipation. The truncated hem, measuring four to seven inches above respected codes of decency, was actually a practical measure designed to help women run for a bus. As hemlines rose, so did the trend-led ready-towear industry and, with that, a style suffrage was born.
Granted, every day dressing can be more pedestrian than political. We all need go-to garments that’ll successfully
Jane Fonda proved that age has no limit at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in September.
Fashion designer Jenna Lyons shows that individuality rules