An open letter …
On my mid-life wardrobe crisis
The words you are reading were written on Monday. I was trained, originally, to report the news. I did it for a spell, but it never was my forte. Still, sometimes I should like to write about topics more topical. Like Metiria Turei’s benefit fraud revelations. And how I admire her — not for her wrongdoing, but for her honesty and humanity. When I read those who would have her banished to the naughty step, outrage frothing at the corners of their mouths, I marvel how anyone has lived such a stainless life they can claim to have never stretched either the truth or the law in the hope that, ultimately, their actions might be found forgivable. This is the kind of thing I would now and again like to address, however I always fret come Saturday my thoughts will have been rendered redundant, or worse, incorrect. And so I am left with more fanciful subjects. Besides, I would myself be guilty of a lie were I to pretend Turei’s been the only thing weighing upon my mind of late.
Sometimes a crisis has blurred beginnings, a series of small happenings running into and across the top of each other eventually engulfing you, but I can date this particular one precisely to June 30. A Friday. Lunch with friends. A long overdue cut and colour beforehand. (I’ve been going blonder as the grey proliferates; more benign merger than hostile takeover.) I’d planned to wear a cream silk suit jacket, narrow black pants, stiletto slingbacks. Although as I hauled it on — I never seem to slip into anything anymore — something about the combination of my newly blow-waved hair and freshly-pressed outfit filled me with desperation. I felt not sexy and sharp as imagined, but rather true blue Tory, like the helmet-headed, armour-wearing president of some conservative political party. In haste I traded the blazer for a leather jacket and ramped up the black eye liner. I fear the effect was more Theresa May channelling her inner rock chick than desired, but I figured it had to be an improvement. When I got to the restaurant, however, I found myself in a room of women in their 40s and 50s, all skinny jeans, high heels and biker jackets, all patently paying their hairdresser through the nose. It was like a uniform. And now wherever I look, I see women dressed just like me. Withh our l leggings and d pufferff vests on the school run n, it is as if we are foot soldiers in some amorphousa army, putting up a fruitless fig ght as time marches unstoppably o on.
I thought I’d dealt w with this, I said to a friend. I rid m my wardrobe of anything too short, anything too revealing, when I turned 40. But now I find everything I bought with the long view to being able to wear it into middle age, what I had deemed sophisticated, mature, just makes me unhappy. Ignore what they say about black washing you out, said the husband of a friend, with unusually specific ideas about womenswear. Make it your friend. He’s right, pale greys and blues, long a staple of my wardrobe, now make me look like I have the flu, as does going without makeup. Wear trainers, said two stylish friends. Or boots. Rarely heels. They, too, are right. Heels, my old flame, now make me feel like an ageing, slightly tragic, female impersonator. I feel much edgier in something more casual, l and dd edgy hash to beb sexie er than feeling like the trollop I do when all frocked up. In a fortnight it is my husband d’s godson’s 21st birthday. It is the first 21st I havee been to since I was 21. There will be many people th here I haven’t seen in ell over a decade, since we we ere all firmer, fresher, nd I am all in a quandary as tot what to wear. In he weekend I pulled out some leather shorts. No, I told myself, you are one of hish parents’ friends, not his. I considered a chiffonn dress. No, I told yself, you are not yet in mother-of-the-bridem territory. And so on it goesg … and when ot occupied with mym mid-life wardrobe crisis I think of Turei,T of how I hope her intention to shed light on the paradox thhat we expect people to lift them mselves out of poverty without providing sufficient means for th hem to do so is not lost in the sea of spittle and shaming.
When I got to the restaurant, I f found myself in a roo om of women in theirt 40s and 50s, alla skinny jeans, high heels and bike er jackets, all patently payin ng their hairdressser through the no ose.