This column started out to be a snarky one about people, particularly women, who dress far too young for their age.
I ranted about the elders among us who throw caution to the wind and squeeze into the romper, the miniskirt, the skinny jeans, the cut-down-to-there evening gown.
I noted that 78 is probably too old for a bikini, even if you are toned, strong and slender. (That goes for men and women.)
But I’ve changed my tune a little bit. Who am I to judge? Perhaps these folks are quite comfortable in this kind of attire. Perhaps they have a good reason to feel like they are 28 again.
There is certainly nothing wrong with feeling and acting youthful. And it really doesn’t matter what others think anyway.
I came to this kinder, gentler realization recently after meeting fashion blogger Susan Street, who was a guest speaker at the Prime of Life Showcase presented May 24 by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Head Marriott.
Street, a stylish woman in her late 50s, writes a blog titled “Fifty, Not Frumpy” about how she has found her best self by eating right and dressing comfortably, with an eye for good design and the right accessories.
A former fashion model, she had gained some extra weight in middle age and, after a divorce, determined to regain her health and vitality by changing her lifestyle. She began eating a plant-based diet, lost 40 pounds and revamped her wardrobe.
In her talk, she gave an example with an elegantly wrapped package and a cheap plastic shopping bag. She said when we choose low-quality, loose-fitting clothes – the baggy things we bring home in said plastic bag – we project a don’t-care attitude.
We have plenty of room in these clothes so we don’t notice when we gain a few pounds. Then, when we want to put on special, more stylish attire, such as something that would be wrapped in a nicer package, we can’t get into it because we’ve let ourselves go.
I take that to mean that we should think about the package we are projecting. Our choices don’t have to be expensive, but they should be thoughtfully chosen.
In her blog, Street illustrates how she mixes and matches slacks, skirts, blouses and jackets that are already in her closet with newer pieces. Her photos often include an “old” handbag or necklace that she loves. And she always looks amazing – perfectly put together.
When I spoke to her after her presentation, Street told me she was inspired by younger people for inspiration – particularly an editor for Paris Vogue. She admires and appreciates the care young women give to personal style and the confidence they exude.
And that comment brought me back to my first thoughts on age-appropriate attire. If an older woman has the legs for a miniskirt, why shouldn’t she wear it? If that slinky gown makes her feel like a movie star, why not wear it?
Being our best self is not just about what we wear but, as Street said, what we wear can have a great impact. If we see ourselves as thoughtful, classy, smart and put-together, our self-image, attitude, outlook and perspective will improve too.
Clothes certainly don’t make the man – or the woman – but they might help us find our best self.