Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

More mutton observations

Materfamilias observes, 'Generally, I'm looking for clothes with a bit of attitude.' Now this observation seems to me to go to the heart of the mutton question.

Society demands of women over the age of fifty that they go away, be unseen. It reinforces this by trying to sell us what it considers to be 'classic' clothes in bland unflattering shades. In the past this might have indicated a certain timidity and resistance to fashion in older women but we are talking here about the baby boom generation who wore mini skirts, tie dye, false eyelashes, Biba feather boas and Mary Quant purple lipstick.

If we choose not become invisible as we age, we need to find clothes that fit and flatter, that express our individuality, not repress it, but at the same time we should, I think, avoid clothes that are too girly (and by that I don't mean too feminine, not at all.) There is nothing more sad and desperate than a woman of fifty boasting that she can wear her daughter's clothes. It's too do with the contrast between the body and the face.

But having attitude is a signal of self-confidence. Clothes, as we get older can be stronger, not weaker. At the 2002 S/S Paris collections I saw a woman aged circa 80, on the arm of a very young man - probably her grand-son or even great-grandson. She was dressed from head to foot in khaki combats with copper discs the size of small plates dangling from her ears. And she walked through the crowd like a queen.

Similarly a decade ago in New York, two extremely elderly women, making a slow progress across the lobby of the Carlyle in that season's Chanel little black suits.

The point about these three was that they understood that the parade has most certainly not gone by. None of them looked ridiculous, they had elegance and distinction and above all, a strong sense of personal style. You understood at once that their clothes mattered to them, because they understood why clothes matter.

Look at me, they said. And I did.

(yesterday, at the State Opening of Parliament)


Nancy (nanflan) said...

I love the photo of Helen Mirren in that sexy blouse with her readers and that grin. Perfect illustration for your post!

Unfortunately, many women of a certain age have bought into the idea that they should recede into the background. Hence, their concern is more that they shouldn't look wrong, than in looking right. And that's sad.

materfamilias said...

I'm very flattered that you read my post and referred to it as a lead-in to your ever-so-thoughtful and perspicacious follow-up to yesterday's post. Collectively thinking this issue through with other strong women our age, I believe, is very useful in trying to chip away at some of the cultural attitudes about older women's place in the world.

editor said...

i just very very very strongly agree with everything you wrote!

Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas said...

Perhaps this time it will work:

Dana said...

Is that the queen? With pants on under that marvelous coat? If so, that's the first time I've ever seen her dress with attitude! If she can't, who can?

Linda Grant said...

No, it isn't the Queen. We wish.

paula said...

This reminded me of the wonderful poem "When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple" by Jenny Joseph.

Read it here: