Have you noticed how magazines are increasingly telling older women what not to wear? And the “older” women they’re being so condescending about are in their 50s and sometimes even, shock horror, in their 60s. “Sixties plus” we’re called, parcelled up into a convenient category where the only possible next step is the departure lounge.
When we reach 60, the magazines tell us as if we didn’t already know, we’re supposed to wear classics and stay away from the boxy, floaty and often weird concoctions you see strutting down the catwalk at the Paris collections. We’re supposed to stop our hems from straying above the knee (heaven forfend we should show a streak of varicose vein or a wobble of cellulite), to keep our upper arms well covered (perhaps a flaying batwing of flesh might knock someone out cold), and stick to neutral colours like beige and grey (brightness standing out in a crowd might draw attention away from all the super-cool yo-pros in shades of grey). The biggest fear of all is that someone might say of us “She’s mutton dressed as lamb”.
I recall my mother saying that of some poor wretch of a woman who’d dared to wear something fashionable – this would have been in the 1970s – with a hemline a little above the knee and a little too much make-up. Ever since, the epithet has struck me as unfair if not downright sexist. But that doesn’t stop people saying it, even today.
Because what those fashion and lifestyle magazines are trying to tell us, us women “sixties plus” is that we should “dress our age”. That brings up images of velveteen leisure suits and polyester floral frocks, stretch pants and cardigans, dressing gowns and slippers. Horrors! Do I see myself slipping into these sometime soon? Not the leisure suit or the polyester, but the others – quite possibly, yes.
Yet what about those wonderful women you see every now and then on social media who dare to stand out, to wear outrageously clashing colours, mix florals and geometrics, drape long strings of inheritance pearls with modern chains and chunky beads, dye their hair platinum blonde if it isn’t already pure white, don huge, round, black-rimmed spectacles, and generally setting new standards for not dressing your age.
Unfortunately for me, most of these role models are needle thin and can get away with wearing strangely shaped outfits. For those of us of cuddlier proportions, we have to be more restrained. We’re not the types that can wear a sack and look lovely.
Turtle-necks and high collars only serve to emphasise our ugly turkey-gobbler necks.
Short skirts expose thunder-thighs. And batwing arms do tend to flap around in sleeveless dresses.
Should we cover everything up? Or should we slink to the gym, tail between thunder thighs, to tone what is beyond toning and remove some of the unremovable avoirdupois.
Over sixty, it feels like a losing battle, one I’ve lost many times over the years, and – apart from losing a few kilos every now and then so I can still fit into my jeans and frocks – a battle I’m beginning to feel is best left to the yo-pros and the upwardly mobile. At our age, everything is downwardly mobile and there ain’t a thing we can do about that. (550)