Walking The Line


Personal style has often felt to me like more of a balancing act than anything. We have to find and walk that fine line between too dressy and too casual, too conservative and too trendy, too loose and too tight, too somber and too bright, too “done” and too “laissez-faire,” among other considerations. And the line shifts with our life circumstances, geography, budget, and philosophy.

But the line that seems to demand increased attention, especially as applied to les femmes d’un certain age is that line between “trying too hard” and “letting oneself go.” Crossing this line in either direction garners sharp cultural disdain. It’s about more than appearance; it’s also about enforcing cultural norms and behaviors. That said, we still have to live work and function within our own cultures, workplaces, communities, and while I’m not advocating mindless conformity, most of us who are interested in style as personal expression want our message to be understood.

Last week Lisa at Privilege wrote a beautiful post (but her posts are always beautiful) about, in part, walking that line, as manifested by her long grey hair and flare leg jeans. I love what she says here,

One could also, however interpret “letting oneself go,” to mean letting oneself go – forward.

That right there, that’s the crux of it, that true north to help us find and walk that line between “letting oneself go” and “trying too hard.” Is our style moving forward with us? Because life doesn’t go backward. Trying to dress to recapture who we were in the past, that’s where we tend to veer into “trying too hard” territory. (My own style journey has been sidetracked at times by nostalgia, wanting to recreate an adult elegance as perceived through a child’s eyes.)  Are we dressing, wearing our hair, making choices based on who we are and how we live our lives today, and moving into the future?

I’ve always asserted that my goal isn’t to look *young* but rather to look *current.* I’m fine with looking my age; I just want to look vital, engaged, vibrant, my best self at whatever age. That doesn’t mean following every trend, but rather selectively incorporating those larger shifts in style that seem to occur every few years, while at the same time retaining the roots of what make my style my own. So sometimes a trend piques my interest, and I’m willing to give it a try if I believe it might jibe with my taste and style. As Lisa said, “I’m the boss of what 55 means.” We’re all the boss of what our age means. But you can’t be the boss of 55 or 65 or 75 if you’re trying to pretend you’re 25.

We can’t continue to hone our own style by trying to be someone else, or trying to be someone we once were. I say, embrace your age, be the boss of it and dress for it, whatever that means to you.
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  1. December 8, 2011 / 6:06 pm

    @Tiffany I’m starting to make peace with that part of myself, and not get too hung up on consistency. I think our wardrobe has to have maneuvering room for moods and whims, which are also part of who we are. And your red jeans are NOT MDAL. I’ll bet you look great in them!

  2. December 8, 2011 / 6:09 pm

    @Paula Wouldn’t it be nice if we could let go of expectations about what a certain age ‘should’ be? I think there’s still a lot of pressure on young women to fit in, which breeds that conformity.

  3. December 8, 2011 / 6:17 pm

    @Anonymous I dunno, maybe because it’s easy? Or someone has told them “this is how you should wear your hair when you’re ___ years old/”? Or maybe the just don’t have time and money to invest?

  4. December 8, 2011 / 6:19 pm

    @metscan Mette, I see your very thoughtful and considered style decisions, and admire the level of consciousness and discipline you bring to it. And I see your style evolving too, in a good way.

  5. December 8, 2011 / 6:21 pm

    @coffeeaddict Thank you! And I’m in complete agreement, let’s make style about our lives and personalities, let’s take back ownership of our ages, our bodies, all of it.

  6. December 8, 2011 / 6:27 pm

    @Ann Hi Ann, thanks. I’d never been analyzed as a Soft Autumn, I’d just self-diagnosed based on what I believed about my skin tones and coloring. After really doing a lot more research online, and looking at pictures of color analysis of other people, and feeling like I couldn’t quite get my colors “right” I began thinking I might be a Light Spring. But I knew I needed to get a professional analysis done before I invested any more money in clothing. The big surprise was that my skin tone is neutral-to-cool rather than warm, but when you see the effects of the different colors during the analysis, there’s no question. I just wish my camera setup had been working, would have loved to have some pictures to show!

  7. December 9, 2011 / 1:11 am

    Hear, hear! Just bought about my 6th Ca va de soie fine merino v-neck in a green flecked with black. No one will know it is new. Fine with me.

    At the heart of it, for me, is whether I want my clothing tastes to be influenced by fear or by joy.

  8. fashion and frank
    December 13, 2011 / 7:44 pm

    What a great post – i find all the rules of age and what you should and shouldnt be doing quite stupid really – it is indeed about embracing who you are now and feeling good in it and i quite like being a bit older because i can embrace more elegant fashions that would have felt too old before and yes i cant always do the trendy cool things but i dont think i really want to anymore – it is all about expressing yourself and being happy and confident in what you wear whatever that might be – nothing more attractive xx


    PS it was your post on the remote that inspired me to take it outside – i just need to learn to stand on the cross – some judicious cropping was necessary xx

  9. December 14, 2011 / 3:35 pm

    There are so many great re-quotes in this. As in I want to requote this entire post to so many dear friends who are either fighting the age, or have given up. Wonderful words for going forward. the Citizen Rosebud

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