Rethinking Beauty

A friend of mine posted this blog Advanced Style yesterday and I was instantly struck by the fact that I see so few images of women past a certain age, that I felt as if I had entered another world. The thing about fashion and style is that it is marketed, for the large part, as a young person’s game, but the way that playing with fashion makes one feel should be timeless. Being stylish, for me, isn’t about having money or wearing designer items, it’s about doing things that are unique, taking risks, and, of course, skewing with perceived expectations on beauty, body size, gender and age.

But there is also another feature of this blog, one in which women who are largely invisible beyond a certain age are being recognized for their continuing creativity and beauty. These images seemed foreign to me, as someone without grandparents and working in a field of primarily younger people, and therefore, I do not often get to sit and drink in these types of amazing faces.

This woman is basically me in 40 years (photo credit goes to Advanced Style)

It’s also refreshing to see that the women on this site are not shrinking away. I think about this dynamic each time I don a tiny skirt, layers of dark eye makeup, and spiked jewelry, because there’s a little voice in my head that says, “You’re getting too old to wear that.” As if there’s a cutoff point for wearing the things that make you feel sexy; as if getting past 30 means you need to start dressing in some sexless uniform.

I also enjoyed this video from the blog in which a woman speaks about wearing mens clothing. She makes some broad stereotypes about women who emulate “Sex and the City,” but there is a certain truthfulness in the idea that women often dress for women, and sometimes the reasons we do so are highly productive—because we are inspired by the beauty and creativity around us—but other times women dressing for women can be yet another way to entertain insecurities and competition.

As I get older, and my back begins to hurt after too long at the club, and my hamstrings ache if I walk too far in 5 inch heels, I’ve begun to think of the ways that I can blend practicality with feeling hot and true to my aesthetic. A couple of months ago, one of my friends posted about her ugly rainboots (we live in Portland and yes, it rains a ridiculous amount of time) and how she hated that she needed to wear them, but that wet feet were just not acceptable any more. This post inspired many, mostly femme-identified, people to come forward about the disconnect between the “ugly” practical things we needed to wear to stay dry, to walk on different surfaces, to cover our asses as we ride our bikes, and the clothes we want to wear. Underneath this discussion seemed to be an idea parallel to the one expressed in this video: ultimately, fashion can be comfortable. It is ease in our skin that lends an air of sexiness. I’ve often squeezed, manipulated, and crushed myself into the tightest possible outfit only to spend the entire night standing, faintly unable to breathe—and because I couldn’t stop thinking about the discomfort of my outfit—being incredibly self-conscious.

Finally, it is important for me to be reminded, and maybe you as well, that we earn our wrinkles, our stretch marks, our acne scars, our thinning heads of hair, our gnarled and veiny hands, the pronounced curves in our spines, our shocks of gray, our aches and weariness. We deserve to wear these changes in our bodies as testaments to lives well-lived, hard won, and perfectly flawed.

Published in: on February 10, 2012 at 10:23 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. regay.
    you don’t know how many times i’ve talked about how older folks aren’t portrayed in movies. in fashion. in music. in… well, just about everywhere. or if they are, it’s usually in a static and depthless roll. (i might have just made up the word ‘depthless’.)
    thank you for this!!!

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