Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dressing for Success

I hate reminding you about our age. Especially the women reading this. The most sensible among us can get a little touchy about the numbers but the merciless continuum of growing older leads directly to what's on my mind today: how women are dressing in 2011.

I am certainly not here to say that our choices are right or wrong, just different. Unless, of course, you are allowing your daughters to get on the school bus dressed like pole dancers which, by the way, some of you are.
On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I noticed a striking number of women, my age and older, wearing dangling earrings and lots of natural fibers. You know the type--they wear Birkenstocks with socks in the winter and organic cotton pants in the summer and are always buying sacks of flax seed to sprinkle on their pro-biotics. I also spotted an attractive woman with very long dark hair, who had to be in her sixties, who had flung her coat into her cart to reveal a Pink Floyd tee-shirt worn over a pair of tight jeans.

My point is that women today dress as we did when we were younger. Our wardrobe choices no longer reflect a certain age but who we were, and how we dressed, in our prime.

In my mother’s day, we would have been more likely to ease into the traditional uniforms of increasing years. Back in the 60s and 70s, as women grew older, many automatically adopted lower hems and heels, less visible cleavage and, in extreme cases, the disconcerting addition of the rolled-to-the-knee nylon and public display of the floral “snap coat.” 

Admittedly, my frame of reference was “the boros” of New York City where many mamas were foreign born and only a half-step from their all-black clad predecessors (my friend's grandma) who plucked chickens in the kitchen before dinner (my own grandma). So, this was—in itself—progress.

Children, primarily girls, have made progress, too. Gone are crinolines, ringlets, banana curls and pedal pushers. While the wardrobe choices of women my age have evolved in what I believe is a positive direction, I question the choices for little girls. Not that I want anybody back in crinolines, but I am occasionally shocked by the sexy little outfits displayed in store windows or on second-graders at the mall. This is something I hope will eventually ratchet back to more age-appropriate wear. Got that, Suri Cruise, you nutty little fashionista?

We've come a long way. Most importantly, we do not have to pluck chickens before dinner. And the progress of fashion has had a liberating effect. It was, however, easier back then to tell who was who. Now, anything goes.
Customs, too, were different. Back then, women of all ages were not hesitant to appear publicly with heads full of hair rollers. Spotted everywhere, wearing dozens of rollers in all sizes (often put in so tightly as to appear painful), my mother's generation would often knot a filmy scarf at the backs of their necks to protect their intricate configurations. Today, especially in my little adopted hometown, if we saw a woman with a head full of rollers signing her kid out at the high school or squeezing tomatoes at the market, we'd be stunned and might try to stage an intervention.    
We all march to the beat of our own drummer…..as long as it’s a variation of what everyone else is doing. Botox and wonder bras do not go with my mother’s generation. Mint green polyester pantsuits accessorized with sensible shoes do not go with mine.

We've made such drastic changes in a generation that I can only wonder what we’ll be wearing in twenty years. Personally, I hope that snap coats stage a comeback-- how easy that would be! Worn with Birkenstocks, dangly earrings and a crinoline underneath it all—sign me up!!

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