Am I too old to dress sexy?
Ask yourself this instead, suggests The Kit’s editor-at-large: Is there an age cap on feeling good?
I’m nearing 50 and I like to dress sexy when I’m headed out to dinner or to a party. My daughter cringes and says I’m too old for form-fitting dresses, but I love to be done up. Is there an age cap on sexy? — Lillian, Toronto
Believing your parents to be the absolute embodiment of embarrassment must be a primal rite of passage. I remember walking a few steps behind my mother in the mall as a young teenager, hoping no one would realize we were together; now, I’ll happily tell a group of strangers that my mother is quite possibly the coolest person I know.
Growing up takes time. So while I appreciate your willingness to embark on some selfreflection at the behest of your daughter, it sounds to me like she’s merely performing the self-imposed duties of every grumpy teenager.
But the core of your question is very relevant to a lot of women living in our all-hail-the-fountain-of-youth culture in which sex appeal seems reserved for Instagram models and teenagers in crop-tops — and in which it’s only acceptable to be sexy after 28 if you look like Jennifer Lopez. (What sorcery does she have access to?)
It’s created a confusing situation for those of us who are well past puberty and not ashamed of it. The main issue, as I see it? The word “sexy” has been attributed to a look when actually, it’s a feeling. For you, it might be about a form-fitting dress; for others, it might be a perfectly worn-in pair of jeans.
Regardless, there can be no age cap on clothes that make you feel good.
I called Law Roach to talk about the notion because, as the top fashion pro working today, he collaborates with everyone from established icon Céline Dion to rising superstar Zendaya. (He is so meticulous about his work that he refers to himself as an “image architect” rather than as a stylist.) His perspective on the subject is nothing less than invigorating.
He began working with Zendaya, now 22, when she was only 14 years old.
“She’s never really worn anything sexy because I have been protective of her image,” he explains. “Women have their whole lives to be sexy; you don’t need to get into open backs and big slits when you’re young.”
Though he laughs when describing Zendaya’s response to his attitude these days (“I’m not a baby anymore — calm down!”), his point is refreshing: life is long, so why do we rush girls into becoming women, when instead we can enjoy the power that comes with adulthood when it’s been earned?
And for celebrities, argues Roach, “if you believe in the longevity of your career, then you know you’ll be around and have hundreds of thousands of carpets ahead of you, so why give it all away so soon?” After all, he says, “sexy doesn’t age out.”
He cites his other megastar client Céline Dion as evidence of that. At 51, Dion has never been more fearless in her fashion choices and is a front-row fixture, wearing cropped miniskirts or baggy streetwear hoodies, depending on her mood. The older she gets, the more brazen her choices become.
I personally have delighted in her parade of wonderful looks that distil and enhance her wacky personality. But the key, says Roach, is not that people like me love her ensembles; it’s that
“I think authenticity is what attracts us most to people,” says Roach. “We also have to remember that fashion is the most interactive art form: it brings people joy and happiness. We shouldn’t get lost and forget the power it has: that if you put on a beautiful dress and feel your best, it’s hard to have a bad day.”
So our advice for you is to keep doing what you’re doing. If you love form-fitting dresses, wear them. There is no rule that says women must abandon what they love at any given milestone.
However, as I’ve petitioned for time and time again, you should make sure that your clothes are properly tailored and as high quality as you can reasonably afford.
A form-fitting dress that skims the body like a second skin reads like assertion of power, but one that clings awkwardly only undercuts you.
Take your focus off what other people think and apply that energy to making sure the pieces you choose are well-cut and made from lovely fabrics. (Which is advice I’d give to someone of any age: young women shouldn’t be wearing disposable fashions either.)
So if there’s an opinion you should heed, it’s that of your local tailor. If a hem needs to come up or down a hair, if you need to let out the waist or nip in a sleeve, well, that’s constructive criticism that will help your wardrobe sing.
As for the rest of the critics? Simply mute them.
“I love for my work to be polarizing,” Roach says. “I love to work with people who don’t care, confident women who wear what they want to wear.”
There will always be haters, he says.
“Everyone has an opinion — but does it really mean anything?”
Matériel dress, $790, modaoperandi.com
Topshop bag, $45, thebay.com
Call it Spring heels, $55, callitspring.com
Lipstick Queen Sinner Lipstick in Red, $32, shoppersdrugmart.ca
Mercedes Salazar earrings, $135, holtrenfrew.com