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

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Coming soon

The mutton debate goes on and on

Two weeks ago I wrote about Sarah Mower's piece in the Telegraph which advised consulting one's mutton-meter before purchasing a leather jacket. I had just bought this one.

It appears there was something of a backlash against Sarah's original piece as she writes, here:

Talk about lighting the blue touchpaper. When I wrote two weeks ago about the "mutton" question vis-à-vis the inadvisability of wearing leather jackets if you're over 40, the blogosphere lit up.

Leather jackets
Wear with care: leather is not suitable for all shapes and ages

In tones ranging from indignant to incandescent, women of the feminist generation rose up and took umbrage at the suggestion that the middle-aged should take care not to be caught dressing too young.

The London-based writer Linda Grant was put out because she'd just bought a leather jacket. Others raged more generally at the idea of age-related fashion don'ts. "I am going to be 56 and do not intend to disappear!" stormed one.

Another sister skewered me as the voice of patriarchal oppression: "Mutton dressed as lamb, indeed! That women have adopted this expression to police our own appearance is offensive."

Mower goes on to try to redefine what she actually meant:
Pretending to be 10 or 20 years younger than you are always shows. When it becomes truly desperate, people will catch their breath at the sight of you, only to let it out as a laugh behind your back. So all I was saying was this: dressing "younger" can actually make you look older, and absurd with it, so don't get caught out by accident.

Truly, 2007 has been a bad time for this. Though I'm averse to laying down laws, some of the people I've seen in girly above-the-knee dresses oughtn't have worn them - a point comically exacerbated by the addition of "on-trend" 6in-high wedges.

I don't care how skinny you are, or how toned your body: when the face-age doesn't match the dress-age, you look silly.

Difficult to disagree. I certainly wouldn't be wearing that leather jacket, not with my legs. I still think you can wear a leather jacket over the age of 50. More or my views and those of Thoughtful Dresser readers, here and here
But as I argued at the time, style for women of a certain age, is finding the true individual expression of yourself. It requires a lot of thought, and this is what this blog is all about. Thoughtful dressing.

Here is a picture of Agnes b whom I interviewed a couple of years ago.Here's what I said about her:

Agnès b is 65. I don't want to flatter her by saying she looks 45. I want to say that she looks how she must have looked most of her life. She has neither made any accommodation to age, conceding to its strictures about how a woman should or shouldn't dress, nor has she defied it through the surgeon's knife.

I can't even see much make-up, apart from some mascara. She's wearing dark jeans, a black jacket, a black-and-white shirt. Her hair is a tousled blond mop, looking as if she just got out of the shower and ran her fingers through it. She has none of the groomed-within-an-inch-of-one's-life look of fashion divas, and could even be described as scruffy. But the overall effect is of absolutely stylish individuality.

We begin to talk. And the more we talk, the more I warm to her. I'd panicked about what to wear, yet she doesn't look me up and down like a headmistress searching for deviations from the school uniform, which is how I feel when I'm in New York.

'I am making clothes to make people happy,' she says. 'I work thinking of it, of what can make them happy, to have confidence in what they wear. Clothes can be like a talisman, something good happened when they were wearing those clothes.' She points to my necklace, of jade, labradorite and gold, my favourite thing in the world. 'This is your talisman,' she says. And of course she's absolutely right. Whatever I'd worn to the interview, the necklace would have been part of it. She's noticed the one thing that really matters.

Dana in the comments notes of the unsuitable red leather jacket, above:
. . . change the skirt for pants, the super wide belt for a less wide one, and if you're a red patent leather person, go for it, whatever your age. Why not?

Thought for the day

Enter the ateliers of the great couturiers and you will feel that you're not in a shop but in the studio of an artist who intends to make of your dress a portrait of yourself, and one that resembles you. Paul Poiret