Ageism in Fashion?

 Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Saint John Fine Arts School

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Saint John Fine Arts School


The other day a client and I were having a Skype styling session and she told me she felt like her mom in the linen jacket she was wearing over a lovely, cobalt, fit and flare dress. It was not an insult to her mom rather it was more of a comment about how she didn’t feel as youthful or authentic as she had hoped in the outfit she put together. I asked her to elaborate and she added that she feared that she tended to dress “too old” in general. It was an interesting self-observation. We worked through a solution with her existing wardrobe and came up with a fresh styling that worked for her and the event she was attending. As we work together, I will be sure to keep that fear in mind.

Later on my usual daily cruise of the triple w, aka: world wide web, I came across a reader fashion advice request on a blog. The reader was asking the blog’s resident stylist if a certain cheeky bag would be too young for her as a 40 year old woman. The stylist assured the reader that no, in fact, one can wear a cheeky purse regardless of age. I agree with this stylist as a fellow style myth buster and anti-ageist. I have said and will continue to say that there really aren’t any far-reaching, you-must-obey-or-be-cast-out-of-society fashion rules that must be adhered to. Rather, it’s about personal style and creating a balanced look for an individual on a case-by-case basis. That’s part of the fun.

These two instances got me thinking, how often does a woman say, “That’s too young for me,” or, “That makes me look older than I really am.” And not in the way at fifteen many girls wanted to look older.  I focus on the ladies because I haven’t heard a male say a similar statement. Thus, I’ll focus on the ladies point of view for this post.

There are times when I see a person and am disappointed in what they are wearing. Not as a judgment on their figure or person, but rather I wished they dressed themselves to their potential. An example is watching an awards show on TV. Take the Golden Globes, for instance. This is an award show that, historically, has been more fashion forward and bold than say the Academy Awards. Lucky for the viewer, we get to gush over the style choices of younger and older actresses alike. For the most part the looks are okay. A lot of lovely looks on beautiful women. But every so often, a woman really shines. I recall Helen Mirren’s, now 68, 2013 sultry showing in which she, in my opinion, out styled and carried herself more youthfully than many women half or a third of her age. Cough, take your pick at any of the Jessica’s, ahem. Not that the others didn’t look nice, of course they did, but it just wasn’t special. A quick Google of “Helen Mirren bikini” is proof that this mature woman has got it going on.

More recently at the 2014 Festival de Cannes, Zhang Ziyi’s, 35, black and white ensemble was far more interesting and bold than Kendall Jenner’s, 18, take. Again, not really a judgment as to whom was the best dressed, as that’s fruitless attempt at subjective categorization, but rather an observation of my personal taste and appreciation for taking style chances at every age. A champion of this spirit is the incomparable Cate Blanchet. At 45, this woman not only makes a spectacular entrance in something daring and stimulating time and time again, but she tends to own the room. A presence and talent her juniors could take a lesson from.

Looking at this from the other side, a more demure approach to style in younger women doesn’t necessarily make them look “old”. Emma Watson’s, 24, styling choices for the Noah press tour were tasteful but not boring while Jennifer Connelly, 43, explored flirty colour, short hemlines equally alongside more classic ensembles. They had fun with it and it showed.

I say age, like a garment’s size, is just a number. If it bothers you, grow up or cut it out, respectively. Enjoy your clothing just like your years. For instance, a bedazzled backpack and superhero inspired sweater.