What Does it Mean to ‘Dress Your Age’?

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But how you dress is a statement about who you are and how you want to be perceived. And that changes as we grow up — even more, sometimes, than our bodies or dress sizes (though those, of course, change, too).

Personally, I feel like my years have been hard won, and experience is worth wearing. Which means I have said goodbye to clothes I generally associate with my youth: hemlines above my knees (especially attached to skater and rah-rah skirts), tops that show off my belly button, ruffles, slip dresses. Anything, really, that takes me sliding down a wormhole into an era when I was a much less formed person, or one that I lived through once already. That has as much to do with personal associations as it does with actual years.

It’s kind of like the family reunion problem wherein, around siblings and elder relatives, you find yourself falling back into the role you played at age 12. Wearing clothes from an earlier period, even if fashion has decided it’s time for a new generation to discover them, tends to have the same effect. (That actually may be a rule worth considering: If you wore it the first time it was a trend, you may want to avoid it the second time.)

That is why, I think, I find myself gravitating toward long skirts — ones that fall somewhere between midcalf and ankle — and wider trousers, both of which give me a sort of swishy feeling as I walk. Also, three-quarter or long sleeves. And tucking things in. Being more covered feels more practical and more elegant to me, and both of those words (along with the corollary “pulled together”) suggest values I have come to appreciate. Just as kitten heels and mules, largely by dint of their names, do not.

But that’s me. Which is the point!

When I think about women of a certain age whose style I admire, I think of women who look as if they know who they are and are comfortable telegraphing that to the world: Sigourney Weaver, Isabelle Huppert, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, Lauren Hutton, Michèle Lamy (Rick Owens’s very goth partner-wife-muse). That means making your own decisions about what makes you feel good, wide pants and all. Which is, really, the ultimate grown-up way to dress.

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