7 Fashion Choices that Age You

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I don’t believe in ‘hot or not’ lists, seasonal or age appropriate dressing. I recoil at being told what to wear. I think it feeds into the negative feelings we try so hard to keep at bay and fuels our need to buy and consume and discard. It’s bad for our brains. It’s bad for our hearts. It’s bad for our wallets. And it’s bad for the planet.

But, there are certain things that belie a state of mind that is unnecessarily uptight –  lacking the joy and rule-less way of dressing that young people seem to embrace so effortlessly. Sometimes we end up making ourselves look (and feel) old, just by erring slightly in our fashion choices. There are great things to celebrate about aging. I have no problem with getting older. But tired and frumpy?  Or appearing to have ‘given up’… that I’m NOT interested in.

So, here are my observations. My own personal observations; things I notice, or have done myself, that convey an attitude that is old beyond my years.

ONE: STOP OBSESSING ABOUT THE SIZE ON THE LABEL… and buy clothes that FIT.

You should buy clothes for the body you HAVE. Dress with pride and you'll feel better (most of the time). There are so many options, but we limit ourselves by attaching our sense of what will look great on us when we stay in a size (number or letter) that we 'want' to wear. When I shop, I go through the racks and look at things that by body fits into. I can always belt, hem or alter things. I might have missed some AMAZING finds if I was obsessed with the number on the tag. I'd rather feel great in a L-XL and get a great fit that squeeze myself into a size, or buy something just because it has a small tag size. Sizes vary by store, so you're likely to be a different size in a variety of brands. Who, other than you, is looking at your tags, anyway?

You should buy clothes for the body you HAVE. Dress with pride and you’ll feel better (most of the time). There are so many options, but we limit ourselves by attaching our sense of what will look great on us to a value-laden decision about a size (number or letter) that we ‘want’ to wear. When I shop, I go through the racks and look at things that my body fits into. I can always belt, hem or alter things. I love getting items that are ‘too big’. I might have missed some AMAZING finds if I was obsessed with the number on the tag. I’d rather feel great in a L-XL and get a great fit, rather than squeeze myself into a size, or buy something just because it has a small tag size. Sizes vary by store, so you’re likely to be a different size in a variety of brands. Who, other than you, is looking at your tags, anyway?

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Stop attaching value to the size on the clothes and focus more on how you feel, whether they suit you and make you look great. Feeling and looking great shouldn’t have anything to do with the randomly assigned letter or number at the waist line.

TWO: DON’T FORGET YOUR FEET

Don't let your outfit die a slow death at the ankles by wearing shoes that go with everything, but also ... with nothing. Unless you are wearing regulation items for your job as a nurse... you should probably avoid sports shoes... unless you are playing sports. I am too old to wear shoes that hurt, or give me blisters, or that I struggle to get through a whole day in, comfortably. But you can get attractive, comfortable shoes; they aren't mutually exclusive. It takes a bit more effort, but really has a great payoff.

Don’t let your outfit die a slow death at the ankles by wearing shoes that go with everything, but also … with nothing. Unless you are wearing regulation items for your job as a nurse… avoid hospital issue footwear. You should probably also avoid sports shoes… unless you are playing sports. That doesn’t mean you have to go all Carrie Bradshaw and embrace ‘no pain, no beauty.’  I am too old to wear shoes that hurt, or give me blisters, or that I struggle to get through a whole day in, comfortably. You can get attractive, comfortable shoes; they aren’t mutually exclusive. It takes a bit more effort, but really has a great payoff. Be kind to your feet, but don’t make the rest of your outfit suffer by sticking with the same shoes you wear to walk the dog or garden… on your way to the … anywhere else, basically.

These two examples from Pinterest are simple, comfortable choices that still put the best foot forward.

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THREE: FIT AND QUALITY

These hideous creations are marketed as 'sexy' leggings. Leggings, by definition, cover your legs. The problem is, they used to be for dance and now they are (in many people's opinion) for all times of day or night. Unfortunately, they aren't all created equal: some are WAY TOO TRANSPARENT to be worn as pants. I don't want to know what kind of underpants you have on. This is not age dependent, or size dependent. Basically, check for opacity and wear tops that cover your butt. Leggings should not be worn interchangeably as pants proper.

These hideous creations are marketed as ‘sexy’ leggings. Leggings, by definition, cover your legs. The problem is, they used to be for dance and now they are (in many people’s opinion) for all times of day or night. Unfortunately, they aren’t all created equal: some are WAY TOO TRANSPARENT to be worn as pants. I don’t want to know what kind of underpants you have on. This is not age dependent, or size dependent. Basically, check for opacity and wear tops that cover your butt. Leggings should not be worn interchangeably as pants proper. In short: if they are transparent… avoid having them also be the only thing on your body/covering your parts.  And yoga pants are not ‘black pants‘ … ie. when I see someone wearing workout pants as their ‘black dress pants’ in a place of employment, I’m a bit grossed out; I don’t want to see actual breasts and thighs as I peruse the chicken on the menu; or at the mall; or … etc. Plus, there are very few jobs (not none) that require partial nudity. Intentional or otherwise.

Other than transparency and opacity, avoid things that are too tight, lumpy or made in fabrics that don’t have enough weight to hold their shape. Ruching is a popular feature, and when done right, it can add great detail, movement and texture to a piece, as below, enhancing the structure of  a garment.

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When done poorly, or on cheaply made pieces, ruching can make clothes look …cheap. As always, these are personal preferences, but I try to avoid the kinds of details and embellishments that are ‘name brand,’ or might be found on either a ‘juniors’ garment or a Christmas sweater.

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Cropped, and logo emblazoned. And juvenile. It literally says ‘college’.

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I try to avoid anything that looks like faux-tattoo, or ‘look at me, I’m edgy and Rock n’ Roll.’ I have real tattoos and try to look as little like John Gosling, post-breakup, sporting Ed Hardy… as possible. Also, I’m pretty sure this is bedazzled, distressed and ruched… all at the same time. If Jenny McCarthy wore it in the 90’s, it’s probably seen better days. Give it to your niece.

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Bad sequins and appliques. If it looks cheap, it looks like you’ve had it since you were in grade 8 – before you knew better, or before you had your own income. Anything I find on sale is only a good deal if it doesn’t look like I only bought it because… it was a really good deal. That being said, this skirt could actually work, if paired well. But it would take some finessing to pull this off.

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oooooh. Sparkly! And bejeweled! And Fringed… This could work, if you’re Vanessa Hudgens, going to a muddy outdoor concert and you’re channeling your inner wild child. I would probably have worn this in university. But unlike the gems that stick around because they are vintage gold, this is a gimmicky mess that (if by some miracle it’s kept its shape for 20 years and doesn’t have yellowing armpit stains) already had its moment in the sun… and probably doesn’t deserve prime real estate in your closet.

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Here is some ruching that could go either way. A perfect fit can look slimming and skim the body nicely. Unfortunately, most tops like this ride up constantly, and end up making you feel like you’re in sausage casing, trying not to bust out. Those lovely ruches could just as easily look like a water fall of pudgey skin flaps. I like my skin flaps and the rolls that happen when I bend forward (it means my skin is real and that I have organs in my body). But I don’t want them to be visible when I’m standing still, fully clothed. Do a good 360 and see if that ruching is doing you any favours.

Overall, succumbing to the illusion that if something looks good when you stand in complete stillness, from the front, or its primary appeal is that it is super comfy, stretches and fits around your circumference… so it’s perfect, it is (probably) not a great idea. Sometimes I buy stuff and wear it around the house for an hour to see if it stays in place, and looks/feels good when doing normal things like sitting, standing and breathing. If not, return it. Post haste.

Lastly, in terms of fit: be deliberate.

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Steve Urkel. Yes, that was a thing. But Flood Pants … not on purpose, should not be a thing.

Make a choice. Pants shouldn’t be too short because you didn’t notice that they were too short. Embrace a crop, a roll-up, a capri, a culotte, but do it consciously. Purposefully choosing a shoe that goes well with your pant length and width will make everything look proportionate.

Voila!

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FOUR: BE BRAVE

Like the women above who are bringing Culottes back. Yeah! Embrace trends, but only because YOU want to. Try prints. Try colour. Try leather, try wool. Try anything. And try stuff on. It doesn’t hurt to try. You may find your next best friend. As with decorating, I am drawn to pieces that might not ‘go’ together, but I end up finding a perfect home for them, because I like them. Your clothes should make you happy!

How do you want to SEE yourself? Make it happen!

How do you want to SEE yourself? Make it happen!

FIVE: WEAR THINGS YOU LIKE –

See above. What’s more: stop obeying rules, like green is “not my colour” or, other dumb suggestions that limit your creativity. Life is not just one colour, unless you want it to be. Maybe dressing all in black makes it easier to match (except all black is not the same). Also, avoid wearing all one shape. Ie. I only wear A-line skirts, because a magazine told me once that my shape looks best in A-line. Or ‘I’m too short to wear a maxi skirt’. Poo pooh to that! Try things on and wear what you want. Especially if someone (like me) told you not to and you really love it. I am a completely different size and shape than many of my friends, but have a variety of items I’ve happily swapped and lent out because I have variety in my closet. Also, case in point, my wife and I can share many items despite being complete opposites in our body type.

SIX: STOP BUYING ALL YOUR CLOTHES AT ONE STORE

and matching matching matching. Just because it’s all from _______________ (insert store name), doesn’t mean it should all be worn together.  You’ll look like you gave up and let a store clerk pick out your whole look. Only shopping at one store (even if it’s a great fit), will mean your clothes all look the same-ish. Like you’ve been curated. Like a walking show-home that always feels a bit put-on, where you can imagine liking it when you walk in, but you wonder – if I actually lived here, where would my stuff go? Where would you go? Where is your personality, if you let Banana Republic make all your choices? Or Ralph Lauren, or Tommy, or Michael… ?

Little clones?

Little clones?

If you go head to toe in one colour, try to add some variety in texture and finish – to avoid looking dipped. You can colour block, mix it up, or go monochromatic, but add something unexpected.

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Break it up with a few accents and details that are individual.

Break it up with a few accents and details that are individual.

SEVEN: DON’T LANGUISH IN ‘OUTFIT’ LAND

My friend’s daughter, Natalie, dresses with reckless abandon. She will pair the wildest things together. Why? Because she likes them. And while her dress over track pants and rainboots might not work for you, you can embrace part of her free-spirited approach. Stop wearing ‘outfits’. It’s highly unlikely that the top you have on goes with only ONE other thing in the closet. Stop limiting that top’s potential. Mix it up. Wear things you like and don’t get stuck in a day of the week outfit rut.

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Even the classics can step out of their comfort zone and mix it up a bit.

Even the classics can step out of their comfort zone and mix it up a bit.

Oh, and the obvious EIGHTH ‘rule’? Disregard 1-7.

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