There was a time, in my youth to be sure, when what you wore meant everything. You had to be wearing similar duds to everyone in your age group or you were ridiculed and sniggered at. That didn’t really improve after grade school. The methods of ridicule just got a little more sophisticated but were recognizable as ridicule nonetheless. Instead of outright laughter and pointing, the peer “in” group would make snarky little comments in a tone of voice that clearly indicated you weren’t up to snuff – things like, “Isn’t that adorable? My mom has one similar to that” or “I don’t suppose they carry that at Neiman Marcus, do they?”
I never had much of a fashion sense. I couldn’t (and don’t) understand perusing a magazine to see if the summer color is ecru or eggshell, if the jeans touch the tops of the shoes or meander to the middle of the heel, or if a neckline is bateau or V. If I want to wear it, I’m going to buy it and I don’t care whether it’s the season’s color or not.
Even so, I would join in the laughter at the elderly women I’d see in support hose and sandals or flowery mumus or pearl-buttoned sweaters in the summer. Give me a break; I was young and stupid! But now? Let it be known that I plan to be one of those fashion backward elderly women . . . very shortly.
I used to wonder why anyone would “let themselves go” like those elderly women and not give a damn what they wore or who saw them in it. Now I get it. When we’re younger, the whole game is about attraction, whether attraction means a mate, a job to help climb the corporate success ladder or the approval of peers, and you only accomplish that by looking good. So, like most, I conformed as far as I was able. I wore the pointy-toed high heels that eventually caused me to have foot surgery on a permanently pinched nerve, the form-fitting jeans that required sucking in my nonexistent stomach at every meal and ending up with perfectly etched replicas of snaps or buttons on my waistline when I could finally get out of them, the seasonal shade of lipstick and gloss so I’d have those come-hither lips at all hours of the day because you just never knew when your makeup would garner the attention of someone who had clout and, of course, the perfect perky bra so it appeared that I had more than I did or ever would.
As we age, we come to realize that no one is looking at us as a potential date or new employee, we’re not likely to get the next Vogue cover and, in fact, regardless of whether we’re fashionable or sloppy, the generation currently running things often looks right through us as they maneuver those “moving up” decades. So we not only realize that it doesn’t matter what we wear, but we also realize (or at least I have) that if that’s the case, then I don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks and I’m going to opt for comfort every time. If that means a T-shirt that’s two sizes too big over an unmatched pair of comfy sweats and well-worn tennies, then get ready — here I come.
Truthfully, it feels good to know that I don’t need to conform to any of those unspoken but ever-present rules about what’s acceptable and who might notice. I guess if I’d ever really cared, I’d have spent more time trying to be a fashion statement every time I left the house but I’ve always been more interested in people’s lives than their fashion sense. I’m finding it liberating to not only not care what anyone thinks of my fashion sense but to know that I don’t even need to make the attempt any more. In any case, I can’t wait to start my new chapter. I think I’ll call it Bet You Secretly Wish You Were Me.