There aren’t many people who would argue with the notion that fashion is youth obsessed. From magazines to international runways, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of models over the age of 25. With such an emphasis on youth, an “older” woman could be forgiven for assuming that the world of fashion isn’t much interested in her.
But does it follow that these same women no longer hold a place of value in the fashion world? Well, that notion can be shot down right off the bat. After all, who do you think can afford the price tags on brand names like Prada, Gucci, and Versace? I’m guessing not your average 20-something. And Anna Wintour wouldn’t be Anna Wintour if there wasn’t a place in fashion for more mature women. So, clearly, we mature ladies have a rightful stake to claim in the world of fashion.
Why Aren’t Mature Women Represented ?
So why, then, is there a pervading perception that fashion belongs to the young?
Yes, the young models are part of it. But I suspect there’s more to it. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I paid far more attention to clothing—and appearance in general—in my 20s and early 30s than I do now. Why? Because I had the time. I couldn’t afford high-end designer threads, but I spent hours flipping through magazines (because that’s how we did it back then) to find out “What’s Hot…and What’s Not!”. I kept my closet full of whatever I could find at Marshall’s or Macy’s, comfort and utility be damned!
And my shoes? They deserve their own paragraph, they were that freakin’ fabulous! From sky-high stems to wooden balls, there wasn’t a heel challenge I wouldn’t accept. One of my guy friends once told me, “I love the way you’re willing to suffer to look hot in a shoe.”
The Shift (And we don’t mean the dress)
But somewhere in my mid-30s, things changed. My life changed. I was making headway in my office job. I wanted to be taken seriously in board meetings, so I traded plunging necklines for button-up shirts or a serviceable shell. Most days, I simply didn’t have time to put a fabulous outfit together, so I got a bunch of neutral colored suits and added some personality with a colorful top, shoes, or accessories. I traded clubbing nights for intimate dinner parties with friends, so out went the mini dresses and leather pants.
Also, my body changed. I gained 15 pounds in the decade between 30 and 40. (Sorry 20-somethings. It’s cruel, but it happens.) I ditched my 3-inch heels the day my doctor told me that’s probably what was causing the sharp pain up the back of my leg. (She was right. I overcompensated for my 5’2” stature by wearing high heels. Every. Day. And it took a toll.) I’d already given up on kitten heels—they just weren’t practical for city living, constantly getting caught in sidewalk cracks and grates.
I wouldn’t say I grew up so much as I evolved. I mean, I don’t consider conservative suits and sensible pumps a sign of adulthood; it’s just that they “suited” the life I was living. If I’d chosen a different path, my wardrobe might have evolved differently.
But does all of this mean that I’ve lost interest in fashion? Absolutely not! I still get lost online scrolling through the latest trends, in turns obsessing and kvetching over what I see. Up this season: crochet dresses and bra-tops! (That’s right. The outfit that Sue Ellen Mishke wore on Seinfeld—the one we all laughed at? It’s trending for 2020. Prada even has…wait for it…a wool bra-top for the low-low price of $780. Is it just me, or can you just feel the itch?)
So even though many of us ladies over the age of 40 may have dialed down the intensity of our personal style over the years, that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up our seat at the fashion table. And you can’t tell me the younger generation doesn’t need us! How else will they know that faux ostrich feathers aren’t couture but a horrible mistake they’ll regret when they look back at their selfies years from now?
Liz Ruppert spent the first two decades of her professional life in marketing, copywriting, and managing content strategy for non-profit and government websites in Washington, DC. Now, she works as a freelance writer. She and her husband, Ken, moved to the country a few years ago to enjoy the fresh air and peace and quiet. They have two cats--Cleo and Matilda--and a labradoodle named Busby Berkeley.