x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Age-old dilemma: When is it time to rethink your look?

It's a cruel fact that, after a certain age, some pieces end up performing precisely the opposite function to what was initially intended.

Fishnets, corsets, strapless dresses, leopard print, hotpants - what was once sexy on a youthful body only serves a disservice to the midlife version.
Fishnets, corsets, strapless dresses, leopard print, hotpants - what was once sexy on a youthful body only serves a disservice to the midlife version.

I hate writing about "age appropriate" fashion. Firstly, because it's just so predictable, so calculated, so worked at. The term itself suggests a certain tone of superiority that I despise. Secondly, because it goes against everything I try so hard to fight for: people can and should be able to wear whatever the heck they please if they so choose. Are we an ageist bunch? It's funny: women in their 50s, even in their 60s and 70s, have probably never looked better, healthier or younger. They are the group of women that go to no lengths to preserve what is so rightfully theirs. And we celebrate that - to a point. So on paper yes, so far so good. Yet, if we are really honest, (in the sort of way we only share with those that will love us despite our horrid anti-feminist observations) we wouldn't be telling the entire truth.

Now before you get all hurt, what I am talking about are a few items that simply don't translate. It's a cruel fact that, after a certain age, some pieces end up performing precisely the opposite function to what was initially intended. Fishnets, corsets, strapless dresses, leopard print, hotpants - what was once sexy on a youthful body only serves a disservice to the midlife version. A friend recently sent me a picture of a woman she had spotted in a local supermarket. She had on a tomato red short skirt, a leopard shirt, a cut out silver trench, sheer tights and a pair of sky high platforms - all topped off with an asymmetric hat. A hat. In LuLu. In Abu Dhabi. Her age? Pushing 60. Excited by independent style and eccentric expression, I wanted and wished with every bone in my body to believe she looked great - but she didn't. She just looked a bit, well, odd, a cross between a teenager coming to terms with their lot and some kind of self-basting turkey.

The problem is that outlandish fashion on an older woman is oh so easy to ridicule. Surely they should know better? What are they trying to prove? We sneer at older women with too much oommph, these "wives with secret lives"; we turn our noses up in the wake of cheap perfume. Perhaps we are simply jealous.

Take Madonna at her recent show in the capital, who at 53 and counting continues on her mission to reinvent. While we wouldn't dare take a poke, there were, for me at least, more than a few moments when the jiggling around in a collection of racy little numbers made me want to look at just about anything else. Perhaps there is just a time, a time when dignity ought to triumph - even for Madonna.

Even if you can, even if your body was as up to it as Madonna's is, you shouldn't. The sorry truth of the matter is that you'll only end up looking like some kind of old Parisian Madame living in an era that doesn't belong to her any more. Common sense should tell us that if we are wearing things we wore 20 years ago, perhaps it's time to rethink. So, how do we know when it's time to be a grown up? Well we don't always, but my rule of thumb is to take a look at size and cut for a clue - if when wearing shorts we can feel skin whilst seated, they are not suitable, no matter how many downward dogs or protein shakes we have taken to get there.

Now, of course there is a huge difference between dressing courageously and trying to knock a few decades off, so don't pick the wrong end of the stick. Remember, one can be fun without being funny, bright without being garish, and as loud as we like without shouting.