I’m beginning to understand that aging well requires coming to terms with our physical selves, and making peace with those changes that we can no longer control (and some we never could). Yes, we can take care of ourselves: wear sunscreen, avoid smoking, eat well, do whatever kinds of activity are best to maintain our strength and flexibility….but if we are lucky we WILL age, and our bodies will change in ways we might not have anticipated. But those changes can also be an opportunity to assess, update and fine-tune our style.
For most of my life I believed that if I just lost enough weight, I’d have the kind of angular body that would look good wearing just about anything. Finding my style would be as simple as strolling along a smorgasbord and picking what looked appealing. Age and (I hope) some wisdom have taught me otherwise. I’ll always be short and “sturdy” (no amount of weight loss will add inches of height or make my broad shoulders narrower) and my first post-menopause decade has further softened my contours. I don’t say this out of disparagement or looking for reassurance, but rather because with acceptance comes freedom from chasing a phantom. I’m still figuring out how to best balance dressing this physical form with expressing my style, but I’m no longer pining for a completely different body.
Yet, I also believe that some limitations are all in our heads, or are untruths we’ve been taught and never questioned.
I still frequently see comments, on blogs and elsewhere, to the effect of “only tall, thin people can wear X.” If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s that this is a myth. Yes, it might look different on you than on the 5’9″, 110 lb. model. You might like that difference, you might not. The proportions or cut may not work for your unique shape. Sometimes an alteration will be needed to make a garment fit well. (And yes, even very slender celebrities need alterations.) But I think what irks me most about that comment is the implied assertion that only tall, thin (and add “young”) people are entitled to wear certain things. We think nothing of pushing back against ageist declarations about giving up short skirts and leather jackets; let’s extend that pushback to the assumption that only certain people look “good” in clothes, or “can” wear certain styles. Clothes that fit your body well and are an expression of your style will look and feel “good,” period.*
And if a piece of clothing truly doesn’t look good on anyone but a professional model, then the problem isn’t our bodies, it’s a poorly designed garment.
Style is about so much more than just size and shape, or hewing to a very narrow aesthetic, or attempting to create the illusion of it. Sometimes how we feel in something (and consequently, the confidence or lack of it we project) makes a far stronger impression than the length of a sleeve or whether the cut of a garment nips in at the waist. We aren’t a blank canvas, or a hanger for a dress. Personal style isn’t about adorning a perfect body, but rather about expressing our own uniqueness and celebrating what we have, who we are.
How has your style evolved to celebrate your own unique self?
(Photo above: my feet may have become more finicky with age, but these wedge sandals keep them happy in style.)
*The caveat being, of course that we all have different tastes, and not everyone may agree.