Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Approach to 50: the cold hard truth

I only have 10 rows to go on my neon cowl, but I have set it aside today to respond to recent media coverage of women of a certain age.

 Emma Thompson hit the headlines after the following was published in the Guardian:

Appropriate clothing for a woman over 50 (Fifty Plus Catalogue) - it came with The Guardian
I thought 50 was the new 35?
"Can I just say, very loudly, bollocks. If you look after yourself and you're healthy, then you'll have the energy to do things. But not to recognise getting older for what it is? I do think the infantilisation of our generation is one of the huge issues of our time. People wanting to be 35 when they're 50 makes me think: why? Why don't you be 50 and be good at that? And also embody the kinds of choices that are sustainable at that age."
Suitable furnishings for the Fifty Plus reader
In the same Guardian article, the interviewer observes:
She looks like a graduate student in a Greenpeace sweatshirt, torn jeans, owlish glasses and trainers, her face fresh without makeup – an observation that, after spending an hour with Thompson, one hesitates to make for fear of letting the side down. Still, she is an actor, and pulls another version of herself out of the hat when necessary,
I bet Emma Thompson would wear this outfit at 55 (Plumo)
Meanwhile... over at The Times this weekend, Shane Watson published an extraordinary piece on "How to Look Good Over 40:  The New Rules".  I was shocked to discover that Shane is a woman after reading this comment on over-40s in low-rise jeans:
"Don't care if the area between your tummy button and knicker line is exemplary. Don't want to see that womby outline."
Whooof!  There's a phrase I've never seen before and never want to see again!
Before I realised the truth about what I was reading, she had made me question my own clothing choices over the past 10 years when she wrote:
"40 is the age when women get a boost of positive body dysmorphia.  Get past 40 and you think:  I am hot for 40!  I am wasted in these regular clothes; I am going to get a bloody short skirt and a really filthy low-cut top right now.  This is fine.  Confidence is good.  But ask yourself, why have I not worn this stuff before?  Am I having a Forty Flush?"
Shane is the author of a book called:  "How to Meet a Man after 40"  I won't link to that.  Because everything I read about it suggests it is more of the same sort of girl-on-girl misogyny.
Wow!  That's what I call a womb-covering cardi - love it! (Plumo)
But when you (I) find your(my)self approaching 50, you (I) start to question the image you (I) present to the world.
My perfect armchair - when I am a grown-up I will buy one like this (Plumo)
The chin hair, the yellow teeth, the frizzy grey stragglers, the sagging jowls:  they are all real.  They are not fun things to find in the mirror in the morning.  
That 10-year window between 40 and 50? When it feels OK to wear purple velvet shorts or skinny jeans? That is to be treasured my friends, because one day soon, it won't feel right anymore.
It doesn't feel right anymore.  And I feel kinda lost.
Seasalt dress found on ebay.  Too short for the office?  I wore it anyway.


Emma said...

Don't feel lost sweet Roobeedoo. It's just a number. The thing is, be true to yourself. Wear what makes you feel good. Stop reading stupid, misogynist articles. Love yourself, whatever the number.

By the way, I think that you always look amazing. A strong sense of personal style shines through.
As I said, love yourself.

bbarna said...

Love this piece. I am 57, overweight and grey haired. So what, I say. This year I bought a new bicycle and started riding. I can't fit into the standard spandex kit, so I put together my own outfits. Yes, my tummy pooched out, but everyday I loved riding in the fresh air and feeling stronger all the time. Sometimes I got weird looks, but sometimes I got words of encouragement from total strangers as I struggled up hill and dale. Mostly it was other women who were most inspiring. I say do what is comfortable for you and ignore the naysayers. Barb from Canada

Wakeymakes said...

At 51 I can say. Bugger them. You look stunning. Always. Stay as you are. I am K xXx

rosylea said...

You always look lovely in your photos! I truly don't think it matters as long as what one wears is pleasing, comfortable, beautiful enough to have faith in. I am older than you, and spent much of my earlier years sort of swathed, in long swirly skirts and enormous jumpers etc. Lately I enjoy short frocks and things that actually fit, and have gained confidence in a personal style, particularly since learning to sew.
50 is just a rather splendid number, it will be fine; don't forget that ageing has been happening your whole life!
And anyone who writes that rubbishy misogynist stuff has the wits of a teaspoon.

beate grigutsch said...

better not to read such stuff.
not the catalogue, not shane watson. you are a gorgeous and stylish woman - you already know what to wear and how. stay true!

Jeanette Archer said...

Ha Ha! That article above says beware cardies, peter pan collars and a bob...I've broken all the rules!!
You know, you always look fabulous on here, and I love your sense of style.
I hate rules, wear what makes you feel comfortable I say.

Emily Hopkins said...

Eh, being on the same side of a style debate as Emma Thompson, I say you win :P

Seriously though I love all the stuff you make and hope I am half as stylish in 25 years!

Keep being awesome my dear!

Dibs maxwell said...

Oh Roobeedoo. Its been a while since I made a comment. Sod those age bashers. You look really good and chin hair? I'm afraid that's not the preserve of the older woman. I suffer from pcos and one of my symptoms is hirutism so if I don't pluck daily, I resemble a man. Just be yourself, and dress how you want to. So long as you are comfortable with what you wear, dear old Shane can go to Siberia.

Melissa said...

I started sewing a few months ago and have been peeking in at your blog every now and then (coz I like it!).

There's no need to fear 50 or whatever number. Just being healthy and happy are the main things. Emma is right that we should just celebrate 50 for what it is and be the best we can be at 50, at whatever age.

I think when we hit 50 we hit a period of contemplation where we look at, and look forward but are confused at where we are and where we 'think' we should be at. I say that because 50 passed by quite a few years ago and that's what I experienced!

Enjoy the journey!

fabric epiphanies said...

At 46 I think we should be wearing what we know looks good on us and what makes us feel good. For me that is converse and skinny jeans. Yes that does mean I am dressing a lot like my daughter but I am not showing too much skin so who cares! I don't do plunging necklines and Bodycon and leave some trends to teenagers but I do think at any age it is about adapting fashion to our ages and stages. For the record those catalogue clothes would look terrible on rest home residents.

Jenni said...

43, tomorrow my first lecture as an undergrad! Sartorial choices be damned, age is a number wear what suits you based on size, comfort and your ideals. Being true to yourself is all you can do, but I think you always look good x

clb said...

Advice on how women should conduct themselves from a person who gives herself a bloke's name and uses 'womby' as a pejorative? I think not. Ah, the Times. So Daily Mail-y.
There are a billion ways of being 50, or any age, come to that. Your almost-50 way is pretty close to my almost-50 way (only you've got a much better figure) and imo you look fab and fun and perfectly 'appropriate'. Keep on keeping on, dude. And stay well away from gold velour curtains and polyester midis! Good lord. :)

christinelaennec said...

When my daughter was freaking out about turning 16 (because she was very ill and had no friends to celebrate the big day with), I told her that in different times and places, 16 meant different things. If she'd been born a hundred years ago into a middle-class family, she would still be in the nursery with a governess, and wearing her hair long until the big debut at 18. If she'd been born a hundred years ago into a working-class family, she would have been working in the mills since the age of 10 or so. If she'd been turning 16 in 1950s America, she might (as my mother did) receive a string of pearls as an acknowledgement that she was soon going to be given by her father to a husband, so she could fulfil her biological destiny as a mother and wife. Etc. etc.!

None of us knows how long our life will be, so the phrase "middle-aged" is actually meaningless. What counts for me is how much passion, joy, humour, energy and authenticity someone of any age has. A person can express all these qualities through how she or he dresses. I have known some incredibly beautiful and also stylish 80-year-olds.

I think in terms of how you present yourself to the world, forget all the marketing brainwashing. Be true to yourself and have the confidence to be so. The most stylish older women are the ones who are comfortable wearing the clothes they like best. Dressing for work can be tricky because sometimes one has to work alongside brainwashed women who spend a great deal of time and money adhering to some ideal, and their male counterparts. So maybe, strategically, you have to compromise on things in that area. But I would say in all other aspects of life, wear what you like, and be proud of your beautiful creations. Numbers are really inconsequential.

Jen Forsythe said...

It's probably ok for the purple shorts not to feel quite right, out with the old, in with the new. It's good to have the onus to try new things and it can only be a positive thing to review our style every so often. (Just had a thought - purple culottes could be quite cool for you, like the new Liesl & co culotte pattern)

I detest people trying to dictate rules, I had all that sort of reaction when I 'chose to go gray' two years ago at 46.(mostly from women!) I know it's not for everyone, stopping dyeing hair, but I hate that we are made to feel that we should do certain things just because other people say so. For me, making that decision, was like a weight lifting off me, but we are all unique.

It's great that we are all individuals and we should celebrate that. You have wonderful style and clothes, your knitwear is amazing and a fantastic eye for colours. We would all be boring clones if we all went by the 'rules' so I think we should laugh in the face of these negative articles and be proud of our own style and who we are!
Two years to 50 so clearly I feel strongly about this!

Valerie said...

The author of these articles should walk the streets of Paris and look at the very stylish well put together women of a certain age there. Not that they have a uniform - classic, eccentric, whatever. You are allowed to get old there with Style. Ok, we can't all live in Paris but hey 50 and beyond is still an adventure. Most women know what they will and will not wear, what suits, and what adds a bit of pizzaz. As for other people's rules: as Emma Thompson put it. Bolloks!

K.Line said...

It's a rare woman who doesn't feel sartorially lost occasionally. I don't think it has as much to do with turning 50 as with all of the things you are managing in your very busy life right now. It's hard to find a fashion groove when so many other things take precedence. Whenever this happens to me, I just tell myself to sit tight and wait for the mojo to return. It will.

SewTypical said...

sigh! I wish I could be 50 again...

kittiesx3 said...

I often wonder where are the analogous articles about men reaching 50 and dressing inappropriately . . . oh right. It's apparently just us not so springy chickens. Eff that :)

Lynn said...

My take at nearly 55 (I will be there in just over 2 weeks)? Make yourself comfortable. Not in the elastic waist pants, baggy sweater way. No, choose what flatters you and makes you feel confident and happy. I personally never favored bare fashions even at age 20, they have always made me feel uncomfortable and emotionally (as well as literally) exposed. I wear the clothes and colors that make me happy. As for the lady magazines with all their "helpful" advice? Toss'em. You are a unique and lovely woman with grace and strength. Dress to please yourself, you deserve it.

Kaja said...

Roo, you have great style. I'm a couple of years ahead of you and there are one or two things I no longer feel comfortable in, but that's for me (or you) to decide, no one else. The good thing is that I have found new styles to replace them. Once I got my head around the process it's actually been fun. I'm sure that you can tweak your wardrobe if you feel the need but loads of what you have I would be happy to wear.

ambermog said...

Dear Roo you look stunning and not typecast by a date or age. You have your own style and that's great and looks good. We live far more happily when we live for us and not for stupid idiotic magazine articles. There is far too much cloning and grey in the world. Live loud and happy. Hell I am over 60 now and wear rainbows, brightness and what I like and what feels comfortable to me. Colour lifts my spirits and makes me smile. We were at a greenwood fair on Sunday and a lady asked if she could photograph my outfit as it was the best thing she had seen all day that reflected autumn colours. When we go to Waitrose the girl on customer services told us that she looks for me and my outfits to lift the days dullness. I don't do it for that I do it for me, i am not skinny, far from it but I am me;)I need colour and brightness to exist in this dark world. Be you Roo, it's who you are. Ps love the outfit you linked to and the chair xx

Galica said...

Fashion Magazines: "This is what you must do to be 'right' (and byw it will cost you this much") Blogs: "This is what I did and what do you think?"

This is why we should read blogs rather than fashion magazines. The thought of paying good fabric money to be told exactly how and why you are wrong, and where to go to spend more fabric money to make it all good is vile. Not to mention the endless unproductive treadmill of keeping it all "good".

Your style is a part of you. Will adding one more to your tally of days change you into a completely different person?

Please, wear what makes you happy and ignore advice that says otherwise.

Jennifer Hill said...

Yeah, goddammit, what does it matter what anyone thinks? I'll be 50 in December. Most of the time I've always slobbed around in jeans, t-shirts and hoodies and will continue to do so, though, having recently discovered sewing, and been inspired, by Pinterest and blogs such as your own, I am now discovering the sheer joy and freedom of starting to make my own wardrobe in styles that I always would have loved if only I could have found them, styles that flatter my own figure and reflect my own personality. Don't feel lost, dear Reebeedoo, your style is impeccable and always suits. If you want to wear velvet shorts, you'd rock them, fabulously styled as always! You might think others are thinking something is too 'young' for you, whereas they may really be thinking how fab. I know I would. Personly, I fancy a velvet skirt with leggings, boots and a biker jacket (I've just seen KS 3764)! Your blog and style always inspires : ) Jen

Ingrid K. said...

Hi Roo! What a ghastly article (not yours!). In a way I am glad I do not encounter such magazines and articles on a daily basis anymore. They are so full of negativity which can drain the joy of life out of anybody!!!!

I believe that you have got your very own style and you follow that, instead of whatever magazines etc tell you to! I love the things you sew and wear - because they actually suit you very well! Do not doubt yourself!

I make my own happiness by mixing and matching styles and colours that I like! Even if I maybe wear grey one day, I always add some knitted or crocheted necklaces/scarves that I made myself that stops it from being boring. Colour makes me happy!

Just be true to yourself!!!! And also: age has got nothing to do with it!

PS: Looking forward to seeing the finished cowl, it's going to be fantastic!!! :D

Have a good week!
Ingrid xx

madeinoxford said...

I'm instinctively suspicious of anything that says a large group of people should do anything because they happen to have one factor in common, whether it's age, gender, profession (do NOT get me started on 'librarian chic!'). You have a fabulous sense of style - that dress looks great on you - and I hope the lostness feeling goes away soon xx

Lynn Barnes said...

"Dittos" all around, to the thoughtful, kind respondents above. The writers who seek to shame our body image at age 50 are the same ilk who sought to shame our body image at age 18. Screw them, screw them to the floor with drywall screws. (Oh dear, that was not a very kind thing for me to have written!) Wear what makes you happy, what makes you energized, what makes you comfortable -- so long as you are covered enough not to be arrested for public indecency. And don't screw anyone to the floor in real life, you can get arrested for doing that, too.

jocolumbine said...

Year 52 for me and I've been struggling with it a bit. I'm not slim like you and my personal hate-page is the Guardian's "All Ages" Saturday slot. Aargh! All ages maybe but all weights? Heights? Being rich and thin makes 50+ acceptable, otherwise the only time you see a picture of someone who looks a bit like me in the press, it's being used to illustrate an article on the obesity crisis - gah!

Gail said...

I have SO many thoughts on this, Roo. Let's see if I can blend them into a coherent paragraph or two!

I think about these things a fair amount, having turned 50 this year. But I've been thinking about them for a few years actually. When you strip it down, I think what it comes down to is the feeling that old = wrong, therefore old cannot = beautiful. I don't buy it, personally.

However, there's no denying that what is in the mirror today is not the same as what was there 10 years ago. And for me, that's a bit disorienting - not because I care a lot how young I look to the rest of the world, but because in some ways I don't recognize myself!

And I do think about what I wear not being "too young" for me - not because I think it's inappropriate, but because I'm leaning toward a more classic, elegant look and not the too-showy or revealing outfits a younger woman would wear. For me, trying to dress like a 20-year-old would feel like I'm trying to deny who I am, and I'm not cool with that.

It seems like women have a tendency to criticize themselves no matter what age - always looking back to the previous decade as their best. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Thompson - whose mother, by the way, is still gorgeous in her 80s!

D McE said...

I never like generalisations and that's what this article is. And rules? Ha, what nonsense. Up 'em! I say wear what you like when you like whatever that is. Some days I just want comfort, some days I want high style. I'm different from the clones and I don't care! I figure that god forbid I should go missing, when they recreate my last moments, someone will remember me! The same can't be said for the clones!

Louise Perry said...

Make your own choices and sod everyone else. I'm having a "where has my youth gone?" wobble at the moment and I think it is just a case of taking time to get used to our new body images, you can't rush these things. These articles are horrid, but they were equally horrid about our bodies when we were 18, magazines always want women to worry about their appearance.

Ms Goodenough said...

Eeek, if you- with your strong style and immaculate taste- feel lost, I'm doomed!! Love the Seasalt dress and shawl- looks great. Misogyny is everywhere- we all need to take a big sidestep.

Sarahel said...

I am speechless, but only because everyone else got here first and it's all been said so well. I am 50 in less than a month so empathise. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the author gains some years. You look great and as has already been said are an inspiration to many readers.

Colleen said...

Sweets, I'm 61. Don't worry. Keep wearing what you like and it'll be fine. I do like a Peter Pan collar but I've given them up. That's about the only concession I've made. I remember reading an article by the singer Roseann Cash (Johnny Cash's daughter) who had a list of what not to do over 50. Wearing shorts was one. I don't wear shorts but if you have the legs? Sure. A couple of things stuck with me, though, and they are my mantra: lower your neckline and buy good jewelry and stop whining and worrying over your body.

You look great, 50, 40, or 60. There are no rules.

Susie Hewer said...

Roo sweetie, pay no attention and just be yourself. When I turned 50 my friend told me to act my age and stay at home with my knitting rather than run marathons. The rest, as they say, is history! Now 57, people still say things such as "isn't it time you took things a bit easier?". Oh and I dress as I please ;-)

The Coffee Lady said...

I read your blog habitually but rarely comment - I just wondered if you'd come across the Advanced Style blog? It's full of older women wearing all kinds of amazing, bonkers and beautiful items - and not just at 50, but at 80+

Add it to your blog reader, NOW.

Margaret said...

I am 56 and sitting here at the computer in my skinny jeans. I asked my shopping friend once if I was too old for an outfit. She asked, Do you like it? (yes). Does it make you feel good to wear it? (yes) Then you are just the right age for it.

Gisella said...

I just discovered that I can wear mini skirts and that they really suit me. And yes, I turned 50 too.
Do you know what the silliest thing about that is? I used to know that mini skirts look good on me and I forgot. Maybe because I gained weight, maybe because I wasn't courageous enough for a while, I'm not quite sure. Maybe I just got a bit cold around the knees!
But I now that I've rediscovered this I will be rocking mini skirts. And the thought that I'll be doing so at 50+ is making me chortle with glee!

Let's all go with what feels good. It's the best guide.

Ruth said...

I'm fifty-two and I've passed through all kinds of style phases over the years. Occasionally that involved turfing out a whole load of clothes because they no longer fitted my body or my lifestyle or my sense of myself. So every now and then I expect to hit another phase. Recently, after approximately fifteen years of not wearing jeans, I have decided that I would like to wear them again with my lovely handknits. So I will. It's that simple. I also have some rather wrinkly days and I pluck my chin hair. As long as my sight doesn't give out, I'll pluck my chin hair! But I'm still in shape (sewing and knitting encourages that - I don't want to grow out of my hand-mades!) and only the other day, the hubs told me how very much he still fancies me (and proved it). Love and intimacy, attraction and style - none of them depend on age.