As a fashion-forward mid-life woman, I had to laugh out loud when I read an online article the other day titled “10 Things You Shouldn’t Wear After Age 40.” As I read through it, I noticed that most of the items on the “no wear” list were regular rotations in my closet — none of which I have any intention of retiring at this point. My first thought was that this was most likely written by someone who isn’t even close to age 40, who has no concept of what 40 feels like, and who probably can’t even afford the shoes she says I shouldn’t wear.
Between recent articles telling us we can’t wear jeans past our mid 50s, to people saying it’s not okay to wear a skirt above your knees once you hit menopause, it seems like everywhere we look, someone has an opinion about what is and isn’t proper for women to wear after a certain age.
But I refuse to concede my own fabulous style because a small segment of society thinks I need to dress “appropriately” simply because I’m over 40. I can still rock a short dress or tight jeans if I feel like it — and if I’m on the beach, I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear a one-piece with a skirt on it.
There, I said it: Women shouldn’t have to restrict or limit their clothing choices or where they choose to shop based on their age. I often find myself shopping in the juniors’ department, and I’m not going to apologize for it or be made to feel like I shouldn’t be there. Shopping in the juniors’ section is not only fun, it’s often more affordable. You can find designer jeans (yes, jeans!) for prices that are usually lower than the women’s section of the store, and tops and dresses are sometimes a fraction of the price in the typical women’s section of the store. I’ve also found that the juniors’ department is more likely to have clothing that actually fits me; as a petite woman with narrow shoulders and a small frame, I find that junior-sized clothing often hangs better than many women’s sizes on me.
Why I’ll Wear Whatever I Want — And So Should You
We’ve fought long and hard for the right to do and be whoever we want. We’ve broken glass ceilings, raised children on our own, and shown the world we are capable, strong and smart. So why do so many women still feel that they have to conform to some antiquated notion that they can’t wear certain clothing items once they’ve passed puberty? Why is it okay for middle-aged men to walk on the beach in their speedos, beer belly gloriously displayed — yet women who dare to wear something that might show a stretch mark or sagging thigh skin are looked at as if they’ve broken a cardinal law of fashion?
Despite everything we’ve accomplished in our lives, despite living in a brave new world of female empowerment, ageism still rears its ugly head now and again, and fashion is one of the worst offenders. Society doesn’t seem to realize that women in their 40s, 50s and beyond are some of the most powerful spenders in today’s retail market. Known as the “gray dollar,” mid-life women often have more disposable income and with no children at home, are able to spend more money on themselves. We wield a lot of power when it comes to retail shopping, yet we are so often treated as if we are irrelevant, unimportant, invisible. Advertising focuses on the younger set, with ads showing lovely, lithe 20-somethings frolicking in a field while they wear the latest designer clothes. Clerks are dismissive, even rude to older shoppers, blind in their assumptions of who should and shouldn’t shop in their store.
The fact is, we are the ones buying much of what the fashion industry puts out. Women over 40 are at the top of the food chain when it comes to shopping, with women in the 45-year-old age range spending approximately 750 billion annually on clothes. Women in general are still more likely to shop at brick and mortar stores over online shopping, which makes us an important factor in keeping malls and retail shops afloat.
I work hard to keep myself looking good. I eat right, exercise and I think I can honestly say I’m in better shape than I was in my 20s. And even if I wasn’t in such good shape, why does the general public think it has a right to pass judgement on my style choices? Thankfully, the opinion of the general public doesn’t matter to me much anymore, and I don’t really care if the retail clerk at Nordstrom thinks I’m shopping for my teenage daughter. I’m going to work that Paige denim, those cute floral tops, and maybe even that sequined skirt that fits like a glove.
I am woman. I can wear whatever I want.
This post was written by Jody Ellis.