where life meets style
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be 45. It means I’m old, yes, as my kids like to remind me, but that doesn’t bother me. I figure as long as I can run 15 miles and do 20 real, on-my-toes pushups and swim a mile, I cannot complain about being old.
So I won’t.
Mostly, I have been thinking about turning 45 in the context of what I do here, on the Internet, and specifically on this blog. I describe The Working Closet as a style blog, not a fashion blog, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I’m not a fashion blogger — I’m not 25, for one thing, and I don’t live on one of the coasts, and I don’t have a photographer boyfriend who shoots my daily outfit photos. Instead, I’m a middle aged mom living in middle-ish America, Instagramming what I wear with my iPhone. I don’t go to fashion shows or press junkets; I go to karate class and baseball games and the grocery store. I don’t own one single designer piece; my clothes are from J. Crew and the Gap and occasionally Lands’ End. I don’t have the patience or the time or the talent for thrifting, although I’m good at online shopping.
I choose my outfits based on the weather and what’s on my schedule for the day. I wear the same things over and over because it makes getting dressed easier. I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just trying to look nice.
In other words, I’m just like you.
Recently, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with the idea of style after 40 — what to shop for, how to style it, and why it makes a difference — and I’ve noticed that there aren’t a whole lot of outlets covering this, or covering it in any sort of practical way. Fashion magazines and, to a large extent, fashion blogs, seem assume that women over 40 have wads of disposable income that we can spend on designer labels and shoes we can’t walk in. I find the opposite to be true: My 40-something friends still have kids at home, and while those kids are no longer using our sleeves as tissues, they’re still a driving force in the organization of our days. My boys both play sports that require me to sit on tremendously uncomfortable bleachers for long stretches of time — and yes, that affects my wardrobe choices. Because short skirts and high heels are not bleacher-friendly. Trust me.
What about all that disposable income? Yes, Wade and I earn more money now than we did when the kids were littler, but we’re also spending — and saving — more. All those sports? Cost money. And college is looming, so we’re putting cash back for that. And my grocery bills are huge — we go through a gallon of milk every 48 hours around here. And that’s just for the four of us! So the idea that I would be scooping up the latest from Lanvin is ridiculous to me. I’m waiting for a good sale at the Gap.
I don’t think that any of this means that 40 — or 45 — is the end of chic. It can be depressing, though, to weed through advertising and editorials directed at some imaginary woman with a fabulous social life (that does not involve restaurants that serve kid-friendly food) and endless spending money (which isn’t earmarked for new basketball shoes or uniform shorts), especially when all the photos are of models young enough to be my children. What’s a grown up woman supposed to wear? Or should we all just give up and grab some yoga pants and a t-shirt out of the kids’ clean laundry?
No. Hell, no. I’m not buying that. But I do think the strategies in your 40s aren’t the same as the ones you used in your 30s. It’s a matter of finding a look that is age-appropriate but not old, and that reflects your unique personality. Because 40 — or 45 — is not old, and you’re still the same fascinating, lovely woman you were 20 years ago. In fact, I would guess you’re even more fascinating and lovely at 40 than you were at 20. I know I am.
The secret to being chic in your 40s is basically just not dressing like you’re still 30 — or 25. Own your age, and choose pieces that are appropriate. We’ll talk more about what those are in the next few weeks.
Are you dressing your age? Or have you given up? And what are your sources for grown up fashion inspiration? Let’s hear about them!
Photo via J. Crew