Policing The Fashion (And Age) Police

Linda Rodin, style over 50, wedge sneakers, wedge sneakers on women over 50, Linda Rodin style

One of my current Style Crushes, Linda Rodin. Image via.

For the first time in a very long time, I’ve deleted a non-spam comment from the moderation queue. I have no problem with dissenting opinions or constructive criticism. I enjoy spirited discussions, which means making allowances for differing (and sometimes very strong) opinions, as long as they’re expressed with respect for others. The comment I deleted was not one of those. It was a high-handed and disparaging remark along the lines of “older women shouldn’t wear x ” and I decided it didn’t belong here.

Women are taught from an early age to police each other. Whether under the guise of religious or moral edicts, or simply a “do’s and don’ts” page in a fashion magazine, we’re encouraged to apply an arbitrary set of standards and pronounce judgment, ostracizing those who transgress.

I’m no different. I was raised by a hyper-critical mother who relentlessly picked apart other women: how they looked/dressed/wore their hair/kept their house/raised their children. I was into my teens before it became clear to me that this running commentary was a result of her own insecurity rather than an objective relaying of some established and unchanging Rules Of Order For Women Everywhere. But even though I began questioning her pronouncements, that habit of seeing through a critical eye took much longer to break (and it still sometimes creeps in). And it’s taken decades to shake off most of that fear of being judged and found wanting by the Arbiters Of Appearance. Criticizing other women’s appearances is a way of keeping us divided, and a way that we participate in our own oppression.

It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head. –Sally Kempton

One of the best things about blogging and the style blogosphere has been seeing so many different expressions of style among women of all ages, ethnicities, sizes, and tastes which has helped me to continue to learn to see with a more unjaundiced eye. That doesn’t mean that every style or choice appeals to me, but rather that I can separate my own preferences from the belief that someone else is doing it “wrong.” And to pay less and less attention to someone else’s rules or “do’s and don’ts.”

I’ve also found that the less I judge others, the less I fear others’ judgments. Allowing room for others’ stylistic self-expression has allowed room for my own. I’m freer to listen to my own voice and follow my own preferences when I take power back from the Fashion Police or Age Police, no matter who they are.

Do you sometimes find yourself still hewing to someone else’s rules or pronouncements? Have you always made up your own rules as you go along (lucky you)? What has helped you to become more open to different expressions of style?

Stay in touch.

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73 Comments

  1. August 12, 2013 / 3:08 am

    Great post, Susan. Having worked on fashion magazines for many years, the reason I started blogging in the first place was to use my own voice and say my own thing – rather than to use a ‘house style’ and say what was expected. It has been liberating, and I much prefer blogging and being open and honest, than talking in the kind of patronising clichés you find in (some) women’s magazines.

  2. August 12, 2013 / 4:10 am

    Excellent! Love that you address this..and love the reminder about not judging and being judged–in my head! Diane C
    Loveinthetimeofcancer.blogspot.com

  3. August 12, 2013 / 4:23 am

    Great post!

  4. Maggie
    August 12, 2013 / 4:50 am

    I enjoy the times I do NOT listen to other voices and opinions when it comes to my personal style. But, I find them few and far between. However, I think the thing that has struck me most about this essay . . . am *I* guilty of judging or passing judgement on others? Even silently? Hmmmmmm. I think perhaps I am moved to some self-reflection here.

  5. August 12, 2013 / 5:12 am

    Thank you for rejecting all that tiresome, oppression-complicit judgement and shaming here! I admire your strength and courage in enacting acceptance and freedom in your life, especially running contrary to the teachings your earliest role model. All the ways I’m privileged to be able to buck the “rules” do come at a cost of some isolation-through-policing, but it’s well worth it! You’re squarely on target with what helps: boatloads of compassion for both self and others is where it’s at.

  6. Marilyn
    August 12, 2013 / 5:36 am

    Oh my! Wonderful post. All those “dos and don’ts” made me feel rebellious as a teen. But it wasn’t until my 20s that I noticed that Best Dressed and Worst Dressed lists were rhetorical devices more than guidelines…and how often the “Worst Dressed” women seemed to be having so much more fun!

    • Dee
      August 13, 2013 / 5:35 pm

      Wonderful post!

    • bettina
      August 22, 2013 / 5:40 am

      So true!

  7. Debbie
    August 12, 2013 / 5:59 am

    Yes to everything you wrote!

  8. August 12, 2013 / 6:09 am

    I loved this post and also Marilyn’s comments about the “worst dressed” women having more fun!

    I guess that I’m also guilty at times of judging other women – though I wouldn’t do so in print or out loud. e.g. I thought the other day that someone I know would look far better if she didn’t wear clothes that were too tight – but who am I to judge her?! Obviously I didn’t say that to her, but I was still making judgements.

    Interestingly enough I wrote a blog post last year saying that I was probably too old – as an over 60 year old – to look “cute”. Since then, and since trying out “Dressing Your Truth” as a type one, I have decided that if “cute” is my best style then I should continue dressing that way!

  9. August 12, 2013 / 6:21 am

    Great post, I do agree with you…

    fashion55plus.fr

  10. August 12, 2013 / 6:31 am

    I’m sure I’m more judgey than I care to admit, but I do appreciate women (of any age) who have worked to create their own style. One of my favorite blogs right now is Advanced Style.

  11. August 12, 2013 / 6:57 am

    Compassionate, self aware, empathetic and empowered. These are the characteristics that you express in your post and what I want to develop more of in myself!

  12. August 12, 2013 / 6:58 am

    Bless you for writing this! As an “older” woman, I have worked for years to silence those “enemy outposts” in my head; I, too, grew up with a severely judgmental mother and it has taken a long time for me to have the courage to dress as I want to. Plus, it is SO MUCH FUN!
    I love your blog…it’s a breath of fresh air!

  13. Lisa White
    August 12, 2013 / 7:06 am

    Initially, the picture of my fashion crush “Linda Rodin” caught my attention. Then, I read your post. Your words are like water in a desert and forced me to reflect on my own judgements. I am always too polite to make comments, but I am afraid I am guilty of gawking or giving a secret nudge to a friend when I see a woman wearing an outfit that i JUDGE to be inappropriate. By the act of judging others we set ourselves up as superior and apart from others. It has also played in the other direction when I see someone (Linda Rodin or Jasmin Sewell) where I say, “Oh, I want her style:, but too many times it is not. That inner voice needs to be disciplined towards the positive and if we have a reaction to something that may disagree with our senses, we should just turn away and tell ourselves that everyone has a right to their choices. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

    • Susan
      August 12, 2013 / 2:12 pm

      Whenever I catch myself thinking something like ‘that outfit certainly isn’t doing her any favors’, I stop and make myself acknowledge the positive, such as ‘. . . but her hair is beautiful’. I’m determined to beat the snarky thoughts into submission.

  14. Kris
    August 12, 2013 / 7:09 am

    Such a wonderful quote and so apropos to my constant struggle. The women in my family had a very proscribed set of behaviors which always began with, “You can’t…..” I cannot fathom how many opportunities I passed up, how much I might have accomplished or enjoyed if it were not for the voice that always tells me, “You can’t…” At 64, I realized that I damn well can and will. As I look back at these women (who I did love, by the way), I realize that they never left home, never had a major accomplishment and were never really happy.

  15. August 12, 2013 / 7:10 am

    I totally comment in my mind on what other people wear. I just don’t say anything. I figure if I can’t be perfect, I can at least be polite.

    I have, however, stopped commenting so brutally on what I myself wear. Probably we have to treat ourselves well to extend the same courtesy to others.

    And as for the comment deletion, yeah, I did the same recently. There’s a point where gentle acceptance of boorish behavior is the wrong strategy:).

  16. Mellissa
    August 12, 2013 / 7:33 am

    While it sounds good in theory (just let people be who they are), I was so relieved when someone as universally respected as Oprah did an episode years ago on “Dress Your Decade”. Growing up in SoCal and having friends trying to cope with their mom’s “new youth” where they dressed in such a way that brought unwanted attention from teenage boys and embarrassment from their teenage daughters, it was a welcome statement that I’ve never forgotten.

    • une femme
      Author
      August 12, 2013 / 7:52 pm

      Hi Melissa, but who gets to decide what’s “Your Decade?” Oprah? Stacey London? Vivienne Westwood? Isn’t is a universal condition for teenage daughters to be embarrassed by their mothers? I’m not endorsing chasing after teenage boys, BTW. 😉

      • Mellissa
        August 14, 2013 / 11:41 am

        I guess a school principal might be one who gets to decide. A letter went out to the parents of the entire kindergarten (7 classes) asking the moms who come to help to dress appropriately – even if you are proud of your newly purchased bosoms, please cover them up. There were also issues with a middle school teacher dressing so her thong would show – distracting and inappropriate, while she thought it was modern and chic. So I think that judgements are appropriate.

        • une femme
          Author
          August 14, 2013 / 12:38 pm

          Hi Melissa, I think those examples are a bit more extreme and of course an employer can always set and enforce a dress code. I’m not advocating completely abandoning accepted standards of public decency, and I’m not saying that some choices won’t have negative consequences. But in general, it’s not up to me or Oprah or even Tim Gunn to be able to dictate what is appropriate for any other woman of any decade to wear.

          • August 17, 2013 / 12:36 am

            Hear hear!

    • M-C
      August 13, 2013 / 11:31 am

      I thought the whole point of moms was to embarrass their teenage daughters :-)? And conversely, for that matter. Better to confine embarrassment to appearance matters in either case.

  17. Susan Daniel
    August 12, 2013 / 7:36 am

    Wonderful post Susan. I’m glad you deleted that comment because, as you said, it had no place here. And yes, while we all have our opinions about what others might look best in, it is wonderful to see how others express their own sense of style, even if it is very different from our own.

    One blog author said something that has really stuck with me. I am paraphrasing, but she said, “You may have noticed that I don’t always wear things that are flattering. Sometimes I wear things just because I like them.” This was a revelation to me–and very freeing. I don’t always need to wear things that make me looks slimmer, for example. I can wear something that is beautiful and luscious, even if it is not the best look on me. I LIKE that attitude!

    Occasionally, I get comments about my long hair and the idea that, at age 61, I might be a bit old to be sporting my hair style. Sometimes it gives me momentary pause, but, like you, I don’t think style is about age, but about individual expression.

  18. Glen Swain
    August 12, 2013 / 7:46 am

    Must confess it was more my inherent laziness than anything else that led me to embrace my own style. Really, it’s exhausting spending that much energy trying to look like others or some decreed sense of ‘acceptable’. I celebrate the style blogs that have contributed so much to helping us have confidence in our uniqueness.

  19. Hostess
    August 12, 2013 / 7:49 am

    I found myself judging the appropriateness of a woman’s attire a few years ago when Mother and my sister and I were taking tea in a local restaurant. The woman who I could not help but notice, and everyone else gawked too was over 40 and clad in short shorts and a midriff baring low top with cleavage spilling forth….she was with an older man and his elderly Mother. The room was a buzz with whispers as most of us were in shock!
    Other than this time I do not find myself judgemental.
    I applaud creativ dressing and Linda Rodin looks amazing!

  20. August 12, 2013 / 7:51 am

    Great post Susan. Turning off that critical noise in my head (which is mostly turned on myself) is a task I face daily, both in my physical appearance and in my work, which as an artist – I sort of put myself “out there” for critiques in a pretty brutal art world. This post has given me a lot to think about for days.

  21. Marilyn
    August 12, 2013 / 7:53 am

    Thank you for the timely reminder not to judge either others or ourselves. Well done. I always had my mother’s voice in my ear saying ‘you are too short to wear that! Not with those legs!’. Recently I have learned to block her out and go by my eye not her voice. It’s taken me 66 years!!

  22. August 12, 2013 / 7:55 am

    Deja,

    So glad you are addressing this subject. I know that in some people’s minds, I regularly cross the line of appropriate dress for women over 40. Distressed jeans, long hair, shorts, neon, etc. are all acceptable for the younger woman but not so much for a 45-year-old. But I happen to like them so I don’t think about my age as much as how I feel when I wear those styles.
    The older I get the less I care about what others think and care more about what I think. But snarky, judgmental comments would still sting – I don’t allow them on my blog either.
    Thank you for bringing this subject up for discussion.

  23. Murphy
    August 12, 2013 / 8:08 am

    Thanks for posting this! At age 57 I am finally learning to be a little kinder to myself about my appearance. Fortunately or unfortunately, when I judge others it is most often because I judge that they look better than I do. I see I still have some work to do in the self-confidence department!

  24. Pale Blue
    August 12, 2013 / 8:48 am

    What an interesting post. Very timely for me too as I spent Saturday at a quilt show surrounded by women of a certain age and did indeed catch myself being rather more judgemental than I would like to think that I am. It’s not other women’s style statements that trip me up – although I too might have found Hostess’s café woman’s outfit rather, er, unusual – it’s their lack of any apparent style. So many women of our age seem to feel that they are invisible and so wear the Whatever’s Clean look – the middle aged version of the youngster’s What I Found On The Floor This Morning style. And you would think that quilters, who spend so long working on the colours in their quilts, would extend that knowledge to their wardrobes. Apparently not.

    I’m not saying that the whole exhibition hall was full of invisible women. Parties of Dutch, German, French and Scandinavian women who’d flown over for the show and my car full of friends all looked as though time had been taken in choosing what to wear and the casual look was very successfully pulled off. But it was striking how many other women appeared to have decided not to bother.

    We could conclude that English women just can’t dress, but it’s not that. A style, any style, shows that a woman has got up in the morning and given some thought to how she wants to look, how she wants to be perceived – that she has attached some value to herself. And that we must surely celebrate.

    • Sheila
      August 13, 2013 / 9:47 am

      I have been a reader and lurker on this blog for a while but have never felt motivated enough to reply before this post, so the fact that I am now shows how much it resonates. Not so long ago I would have agreed with you Pale Blue, but now I wonder whether this isn’t just another kind of judgment (and I’m sure you didn’t mean it like that). I have always loved clothes and had a sense of my own style, though when I retired from full-time work at 60 (now 63) I felt lost for a while in what my style should now be – I think it is slowly coming back. But, a close friend of the same age finds not having to think about style totally liberating. The fact that she doesn’t have to think about what she is going to wear (beyond it being clean and fitting her) is for her a joy. She leads a full and fascinating life but isn’t really into clothes and doesn’t need style in the fashion sense to feel good about herself. I have just finished reading ‘Fashion and Age: Dress, Body and Later Life’ by Julia Twigg – an academic research project about fashion and dress as women age and some of the women interviewed found that not having to think about dress or what other people thought about them was hugely liberating. I also used to think that women I saw looking drab didn’t care about themselves – now I realise that is judging people by my own interests and attitudes. I recommend the book, though the women she interviewed are all in the UK, as are the retailers and magazines editors, which includes the UK editor of Vogue. The fact that I like to look stylish, however I define that, doesn’t mean that everyone has to.

      • August 13, 2013 / 1:16 pm

        This is such a complicated issue. So often, for women (and men, I think), how we look is an outward expression of how we feel inside. I think one of the most liberating parts of getting old (I’m 69) is the fact that I feel better inside now then I did in my 30’s and 40’s and that shows in my outward appearance.

        The challenge is to be comfortable AND stylish; carrying about your appearance (since it reflects a good deal of your “self”) without being naricisstic. A pretty fine line sometimes.

        And the least we can do with such a complicated issue is not judge others, but be curious and learn.

  25. Maggie
    August 12, 2013 / 9:18 am

    Great post. You make excellent points.

  26. August 12, 2013 / 9:33 am

    Good topic, and I really love this line – I’ve also found that the less I judge others, the less I fear others’ judgements.

    When I started looking at blogs, I was put off by some of the more outlandish outfits, but as I read the blogs I realized that the people who dress that way are just like everyone else. Maybe more brave and creative, but not arrogant or weird, like I expected. I’m much more accepting of outrageous style now, but still self-conscious in the way I dress. That’s just me.

  27. Shhhh
    August 12, 2013 / 9:33 am

    Excellent post, and perhaps a not-so-slight nudge to me to keep my inner mother’s voice from all those critical comments. I must admit that sometimes I am critical of what other women my age are wearing (although I do try to keep quiet about it). Then I force myself to ask why — why is she wearing *that*? Perhaps she fears aging (and all its scary territory) and is desperately clinging to her youth. Perhaps she has not had a job in several months, and all of her money goes to feed and clothe her children. Perhaps she has served others for so long that her own personality has become lost. Perhaps a mental or physical illness has her in such a grip that just making it through the day is a monumental challenge. When I think of the motivation (or lack of one) for sartorial choices, my inner critic goes silent.

  28. Ang
    August 12, 2013 / 9:41 am

    Thank-you Susan, well said. Linda is a style crush. From her collections you can see that she picks only what she loves and she loves allot.
    Love her buckle boots, do you know where they are from or who makes them?

  29. August 12, 2013 / 9:50 am

    I had a very good teacher who always said “when other people open their mouth and talk (or put pen to paper/keyboard) they are giving you lots of information about themselves which has nothing to do with you.

    • August 12, 2013 / 12:17 pm

      That is the best thing I have heard in a long while. Hope you wouldn’t mind, If i quoted it a few more times in my life.

      • Lisa White
        August 13, 2013 / 7:55 am

        Right on with the quote. I will be borrowing it as well!

  30. August 12, 2013 / 10:04 am

    Susan, thank you for posting this. I agree with you 100%. And I too find that being less critical of others helps me be kinder to myself.

  31. Sam
    August 12, 2013 / 10:05 am

    Thanks so much for this post. It’s unfortunate that this message still needs to be broadcast–wasn’t feminism supposed to cure us women of the practice of judging others for their appearance?–but it does, and you’ve expressed it clearly and beautifully. I can be very guilty of judging myself by societal (or beauty magazine) standards, and I do judge other women at times, too. So thanks for the needed reminder of what I’m doing–and why it doesn’t help anyone.

  32. August 12, 2013 / 11:11 am

    Sad that you had to deal with such a comment! Rules, expectations, conformity? Growing up Oriental and petite in a tiny town in UK wasn’t the easiest lol! I have no sisters or any near female relatives other than my mother and thank Heaven she was a bit of a rebel for her age and time. For the most part being in such isolation meant we were free to make up some rules for ourselves as we went along but that all changed once I got to the big city and began my career. Fortunately I was lucky enough to somehow avoid the worst and by the time I married and had kids (late) I didn’t have much time to indulge negative people and attitudes. I think being an ‘outsider’ definitely helps to keep my outlook very broad. The relatively recent social media and blogging explosion has further broadened it .Thanks for your invaluable contribution!

  33. August 12, 2013 / 11:49 am

    I can identify with you entirely. My mother has always looked at the world with judgemental eyes and as a child, I was influenced by this. In my life, I try to be more aware of my tendencies and find that it is most often when I feel insecure myself that I am most critical of others. I know that self-esteem is an issue for women in my family and that for women of the older generation, one’s worth was often linked (in one’s mind) to housekeeping skills, children’s school progress or husband’s career. As our world broadens, we do not need to bolster ourselves at the expense of other women. Blogging has given me an awareness of so many different styles and choices, especially for les femmes d’un certain âge.

  34. August 12, 2013 / 12:05 pm

    Yes, yes to all this. I love this comment:”I can separate my own preferences from the belief that someone else is doing it “wrong.” That is so liberating! “Be curious, not judgmental” is one of my own goals. Great post!!

  35. August 12, 2013 / 12:15 pm

    Merci/thank you for an excellent post! I enjoy reading your blog – and I enjoy your style posts (and crushes) – even when they are not exactly what I’d choose for myself!

    I especially love the quote “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head”…..something to ponder today.

  36. August 12, 2013 / 6:12 pm

    Life is too short to nitpick the style of someone who is actually LIVING and HAVING FUN. Good column management!

  37. August 13, 2013 / 2:22 am

    Hi Susan what an incredibly meaningful post, I cannot imagine any body describing it more accurately, I find it shameful that we as women would scrutinize each other to that extent, instead of making positive contributions towards each other.
    Have a great day!
    FF

  38. Ann Steeves
    August 13, 2013 / 5:00 am

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I’ll admit to being guilty of judging others on their style choices, though I don’t publish my comments on the internet. I keep them to myself and my closest friends.

    In my own history of style choices I used to work in high tech, and I was expected to dress and look a certain way (I was in sales). In fact, at one point a well-meaning (male) boss told me that I should get manicures and wear suits. Not wanting to jeopardize my position, I followed his advice, starting a lifelong obsession with keeping my nails well groomed. Now that I own my own business, though, I can dress as I please for the occasion, and I revel in wearing off-beat nail colors.

  39. August 13, 2013 / 7:15 am

    I agree completely, so many rules that only confine women to smallness in many ways. Love this post. Thanks for your inspiring thoughts. This is why I adore the 40 plus community of bloggers, so much variety and depth.

    blue hue wonderland

  40. pink azalea
    August 13, 2013 / 7:42 am

    Interesting post and comments. I think magazines and TV shows have oriented us toward being too critical. Who wore it best? The “red carpet” critics. It begins to seem mean and I try not to be influenced. I work at being sympathetic toward other women, realizing anyone can go through a rough patch and not look their best. At the same time, it helps to refine the eye to look critically. So sometimes I look to learn, not so much in a critical way, but as a way of helping me to dress better.

  41. M-C
    August 13, 2013 / 11:50 am

    Great post! And all so true. I think part of the Whatever Is Clean thing that so bothers people about many older women may simply be an overreaction to the self-criticism felt earlier, and as such I feel total compassion for it. But I also very much enjoy seeing blogs by women totally different than myself who are simply enjoying themselves, joy and enthusiasm are so refreshing compared to the Fashion Police prescriptions.

    I had kind of an inverse trajectory – growing up in France you can imagine that the background level of criticism is absolutely off the scale, so my reaction was Whatever Is Clean in my youth (with a dollop of easy way to humiliate the parents who cared). It’s only as I’ve grown older, and read the musings of real women (not the FP) that I’ve realized that my clothes could also reflect my personality better. Since it’s also clear that upfront honesty leads to better relationships, even if with a smaller amount of people, it’s been helpful to pay attention to wearing what reflects all of me rather than just anything I enjoy looking at. But I’d never have gotten this far, and even ended up better dressed, from reading Vogue.. So thank you, and thanks to all the other bloggers putting their real selves out there.

  42. August 13, 2013 / 12:03 pm

    I figure that my own responses to what others are wearing need to be limited to Minding My Own Business and I appreciate when others do the same. I’m not interested in people saying your blog post is great and then offering their opinions about why it’s okay that they judge someone because of such and such a reason. This is a fantastic post. I love it. I’m spending a lot of time and moxie trying to quiet the Voices In My Own Head and wearing what I want to wear. Currently, I’m trying to gather the gutts to wear a fabulous pair of Tamara Beardsley 4.5″ earrings to a function on Saturday! I wonder if I will…

  43. Duchesse
    August 13, 2013 / 2:21 pm

    A complex matter and thanks for writing this, Pseu. We all assess, whether we call it judging, checking out or evaluating: “Do I like it” ” Would I I wear that? “What does this say about the person, to me?” “Does that look good on her?” It’s like men looking at women- and about as likely to stop, wishes about being “nonjudgmental” aside.

    Where I draw the line is making a mean comment about what we see. “Appropriateness” is utterly dependent on the observer’s ideas of what is suitable.

    WIW posts puzzle me. I am not sure if the poster is seeking approval, validation for a purchase (if the thing is new) or ideas. It’s a new world and we’re finding our way.

    • une femme
      Author
      August 13, 2013 / 7:08 pm

      Duchesse, I think noticing and evaluating are normal human reactions. What I’m working on is shifting the framing (including my own internal dialog) from “she shouldn’t wear that” to “not for me.”

      Regarding WIW posts, to me the value is in seeing how clothes look on bodies that aren’t necessarily model proportions (very tall and thin) and in seeing how people put outfits together. It’s like DIY street style, and I’ve been inspired to try combinations based on having seen what someone else has done.

      • Duchesse
        August 14, 2013 / 6:07 am

        The comments I see in nearly all WIW blog posts , (including mine) are generally evaluative as in “Great shoes!” or “I really like what you did with that jacket”. Only occasionally does someone say they appreciate the ‘real person’ example. Whatever the poster’s intention, the WIW elicits evaluation. I think it’s wired in us 🙂

  44. Jill
    August 13, 2013 / 4:30 pm

    Amen, sister. Great post! I love Linda Rodin and have for awhile. She is so stylish and definitely marches to her own beat. There’s a great interview with her on YouTube by b-glowing called “A Chat with Linda Rodin”. I highly recommend it. Getting older has helped me with my confidence in what I wear. I just want to look good, no matter how old I am. Tiny, picky thing, no “e” in “judgment” the copy editor in me just wanted to mention it! XO, Jill

    • une femme
      Author
      August 13, 2013 / 7:49 pm

      Thanks Jill, fixed! Oddly, the spell checker (on which I rely heavily, 🙂 ) didn’t pick up that one.

  45. August 13, 2013 / 6:57 pm

    Great minds think alike, Pseu. I will be posting a similar treatise with a bit of a different spin tomorrow on my blog. There’s all kinds of “police” out there and it’s time to call them out on the carpet. Supportive criticism is infinitely more productive than exclusion or marginaliztion. Besides, it’s just low-rent and ill-mannered to call anyone out in that fashion – pun intended.

    Alicia

    • Duchesse
      August 14, 2013 / 6:02 am

      Alicia, I find many of these police-pronouncements come from young women. I remember in my 20s, how absolute I was, and my friends were too, about what was “right”. It can take awhile to find how to give “supportive criticism”. And some people are so thin-skinned they take even the mildest “perhaps you could try…” harshly. (I don’t mean Pseu.) So I agree with flagging mean comments but sometimes I just ignore them!

  46. August 14, 2013 / 2:28 am

    this is one of your very best posts -thank you. just hope i don’t come across as policing the good and the best 😉

  47. Rachel
    August 14, 2013 / 11:14 am

    I find Sheila’s response to Pale Blue fascinating. I have long been honing my own style preferences (am 44) but paradoxically, the more at home in myself I feel, the more liberty I feel if the occasion requires it, to look a ‘mess’. When I am haring after my primary school age children in the park, avoiding sun exposure whilst standing at the children’s sports’ day (have had skin cancer), or just focussed on getting a particular errand run, I can and do put on ‘whatever’s clean’ or what is fit for immediate purpose (covering up completely against unavoidable hours-long intense sunshine) and don’t give a fig. For me that is a huge move forward from a constant sense (thanks mother) of being hypercritically evaluated by every passing person. I can and do scrub up well, most of the time, but I am not obliged by my inner demons to do so if more pressing concerns take priority. I feel such joy at being alive every single day, dressing ‘well’ is part of expressing that deep joy but not the only way, sometimes i can be a joyful Stig of the Dump.

  48. August 15, 2013 / 6:45 pm

    There is definitely an e in judgement where I live. I was very surprised at that comment, as it is simply a common example of US vs UK and Commonwealth spelling.

    • une femme
      Author
      August 15, 2013 / 7:18 pm

      lagatta, my spell checker seemed to be fine with it either way. 🙂

  49. August 17, 2013 / 1:00 am

    Wonderful post, very eloquently written and some fantastic thoughtful comments here too. I would have deleted such a comment too. You’ve given people a lot of food for thought about those voices in our heads which serve to criticise and judge not just our own appearance but those of others. I can’t stand how women do this to each other. Beyond crossing lines of public decency, why should personal expression have to cow tow to societal norms which have historically sought to disempower women anyway, especially as we get older. I love seeing older women break the “rules” and essentially be themselves.
    Also appreciated hearing the arguments here reserving the right to not care so much about one’s appearance as one gets older as this can be a liberating experience. It has not been mine personally but hearing this reasoning behind why one shouldn’t have to care will make me less likely to be judgemental about it in the future.
    Again, brilliant post!

  50. Firecracker
    August 17, 2013 / 7:39 pm

    I, too, am moved to comment for the first time, after reading your blog sporadically for a while. Loved this article. Thank you!

  51. Suz
    August 19, 2013 / 7:47 pm

    Wonderful article. I am hedging upwards (fast!) into “you can’t wear that” territory and it has always amazed me how the female body seems to be fair game for commentary from the age of 10 to the grave. I have had people openly comment on my fashion choices ever since I can recall – for me it was my father rather than mother who was consistently critical and nourished my inner critic.

    One of the things I like best about real or personal fashion blogs is the openness of image/ideas. For example – I have seen that Eileen Fisher tunic in your last post many times in print/, on the basic model frame (lanky, impossibly tall, zero chest or hips) and never once been tempted. On you, a “real person” I suddenly noticed and coveted it 😀 I don’t get that from the fashion media. I much much prefer seeing street fashion and personal takes on style than prepackaged “fashion”

    Fashion, blog style, is more human, more personalized. More accessible. I think we all internally make not so nice comments born of how we were raised….but as you say, we can reframe that. I do note when something is unflattering on a person – still – but I also note when it suits them despite the rules we have all ingested.

    Its a work in progress I guess.

  52. August 20, 2013 / 10:12 pm

    I am chiming in a little late here, but I really enjoyed your post. I realize there can be such a difference in experience, and reading the replies and your article made me think about my own upbringing (by a single father) and how much of this sort of criticism I never had to deal with.

    I struggle with my own pet peeves in trends, and this is by no means an excuse for my passing judgement, but I think I’ve figured that I love when a woman or man dresses in any way that expresses her/himself in a clear and joyful manner. This is regardless of age, build, height, orientation, ethnicity, etc.

    However, what I think are clothing faux-pas drive me nuts. But I don’t know where it crosses the line into unconventional fashion choices. A woman may like having her entire bra showing above the sides of her racerback tank top. If I found out if this was a deliberate fashion choice, I think I would be fine. But since I do not, and because I see a lot of strangers’ buttocks through leggings/tights on my campus, (no really. a LOT) I gotta to learn to let this go, because it is making me bananas.

    • August 20, 2013 / 10:24 pm

      I don’t know why this takes me so quickly into pet peeve territory. More introspection is required.

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