Monday, June 5, 2023

What does age-appropriate style really mean for older people?

Why. I am a newly retired 68 year old female. As a former lawyer, I have never had difficulty buying clothes. It is not so now. Recently I went to two big department stores and couldn’t find anything that seemed right to me. I even tried buying jeans, which was worse than buying a bathing suit. Is there still the notion of looking “age-appropriate” or is it archaic thinking? I am curious about your thoughts on this. thanks a lot. By

There are some weird rules about what’s age-appropriate for older women, such as no long hair, sleeveless tops, and no mini-skirts or edgy dresses. As Jennifer Alfano of Harper’s Bazaar writes, “What does age-appropriate mean when everyone from nine to 90 is wearing jeans?”

Yet what should we think when we see a Walmart ad on the Internet that advertises “elderly clothes”? Some were shapeless and others stuck to the figure and were described as sexy. Not sure “elderly” is the best word.

We have examples of women breaking the age-appropriate notion. Mai Musk, age 74 and mother of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, is the oldest cover model for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. As a former model, she says that despite her age, she is “only getting started.” She wants women to walk the beach and not be ashamed of their bodies, as revealed in an interview on CBS Mornings.

Next is Iris Apfel, 100, who is renowned for her eclectic style. She is known for her oversized glasses while wearing layers of brightly colored clothing and large jewelry that can come from flea markets or haute couture designers. She’s such an icon that Mattel used Apfel as a role model for a Barbie doll that has white hair, huge black glasses and chunky jewelry.

We have books that feature older women who define style and suitability for themselves. “Advanced Style” (Powerhouse Books, 2012) by author and photographer Ari Seth Cohen is a compilation of street fashion featuring women age 60 and older. As Cohen wrote in the book’s introduction, “The women I photograph challenge stereotypical views on age and aging. They are young in mind and spirit and express themselves through personal style and creativity.” We do.”

There are ways to start a small personal rebellion against age-appropriate clothing, as suggested by the AARP in its online article “10 Ways to Stop Age-Appropriate Standards.”

Here are some of his tips: Keep wearing your black leather jacket; If you have long hair, flaunt it; Choose a panther every chance you get; Wear an unexpected pop of color and don’t be afraid to show off your shape. Lastly, be prepared to take some risks.

Speaking of bright colors, note that at age 96, Queen Elizabeth deliberately wears neon hues of fuchsia, red, lemon, royal blue, purple and more to ensure that those who visit her will see her. Recognize in crowded public areas. We may enjoy wearing those colors for other reasons.

I had a conversation with some women of the 70’s and 80’s on this topic. A recently retired corporate executive told me that at work she used to wear her work uniform every day in a dress. She changed as soon as she got home. Now in retirement, she is happy to be free of dress restrictions. Another woman said she worked in her parents’ women’s ready-to-wear shop and was always surrounded by fashion. She said, “How we dress helps us express how we feel — even if it’s in sweats.” Another woman commented that she enjoys wearing a cool Indian jacket over a silk top and pants because she doesn’t look like everyone else and added, “It’s not vanity; It’s self-expression.”

This column is not intended to be a fashion bible. It’s more about the messages we get from our environment, our society – what aging should look like. Age stereotypes can easily stifle our creativity. And that expression helps to make a statement about who we are and how we feel about ourselves, at least for the moment. Also, it’s important to consider the occasion, body type, and messages we want to convey. Yet, perhaps in later life, we need to worry less about what other people are thinking and more about what we like, being true to ourselves, and doing something else. Rejects the notion of age-appropriateness, having the freedom to take risks.

Thank you for your good question, which probably resonates with many of our readers. On your next shopping trip, consider taking a friend and substituting the age lens for one that says, “That’s me!” Stay healthy and be kind to yourself and others.

Get in touch with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen at and follow her at

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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