Sixty is the new forty we’re told. Women are no longer shackled by clothing conventions of the past and can get away with whatever they fancy wearing. It seems that anything goes. My hairdresser tells me that she recently dyed her mother’s hair pink and I smile wryly as I try to imagine my own mother suggesting that to my grandmother. We are now, we’re told, allowed to wander around Top Shop without pretending that we are buying for our daughters or going to a fancy dress party. We too are welcome and our browsing is just as legitimate as those thirty years younger.
I’m not sure I believe it. I have undoubtedly reached a stage when I see things I would once have loved but now leave on the rack untried. And I’m not talking about the obvious stuff. My days of hot pants and cropped tops left me in my teens and I shudder at anything that leaves more leg on show than not. But there are other, less obvious no go areas. I could wear super-skinnys but I won’t. Ditsy floral tops are no longer for me and Peter Pan collars make me feel like Grayson Perry.
I do know the new party line. I’ve watched Mary Portas. I can wear whatever I like as well as its well cut. So what’s holding me back? Mutton dressed as lamb. I remember first hearing the expression when I was a young child and it fired my imagination. I pictured a sheep in sheep’s clothing and wondered what on earth it had to do with the woman in the leopard print cat suit to whom it was being applied.
We are all judged by our appearance within seconds if the statistics are to be believed. I was only too aware of this when my entire wardrobe, barring the clothes I stood up, in was stolen from the car on my first day at University. There I was, 19 years old leaving home to live with a bunch of girls I’d never met in a new city and without a stitch to wear. All the things that I had carefully built up through out my teenage years together with some choice vintage pieces of my mum’s all gone. Divested of my image, I had to begin university without one, gradually piecing myself back together as money allowed. So the impact that I hoped to make on my fellow students was lost. Looking back I’m not sure I ever really recovered my sense of self until I was able to start again somewhere new.
So, whilst I generally don’t give a hoot what people think of me, when it comes to what I wear it’s important. I have a favourite shop and I buy almost everything I have there. It suits what I like to think of as my style and it’s firmly marketed at women my age, as the 80’s soundtrack will attest to. I’d struggle to make a mistake in there and whilst it may seem a bit dull, it suits me for the time being whilst I work out how I want to dress in the second half of my life.
I’m sure my ideas will change over time – they generally do. What I consider to be a no-no now may well be gracing my wardrobe next year. I suppose having teenage daughters with their brutal honesty will keep me in line. After all, standing next to them can shatter one’s self confidence if you’re not very careful! Maybe I should wait until I’m in my 80s and then I can wear purple and dye my hair blue and not give a fig about age appropriate clothing. Until then, I’ll just have to continue to feel my way and hope for the best!