You either die or you’re hoisted by your own petard
January 11, 2018 9:30 AM   Subscribe

 
I like this sort of fashion commentary though I can't really put a name to it... practical history perhaps or functional studies or some such?

Anyway, thanks for the link, I've at times felt a niggling in the back of my head that it seems, moreso for women than for men I should say, we've slighted ourselves by not having an easy out for folks to dress into as they age into that older group. I always assumed, in what is perhaps a slight contradiction to this piece's logic, that it was just folks carrying over the fashion of their youth/middle adulthood into their later decades of life.

Regardless, it never seemed (even to this person who is quite apathetic when it comes to fashion and, oftentimes, appearance in general insofar as it conforms to societal norms) to work elegantly outside of my greatgrandparent's and grandparent's generation who perhaps predated this trend noted by the OP. I also wondered if it was the eyes (and pocketbooks) of society that may have changed to be more judgmental and less tolerant of things like plain, even handmade, clothes and handmedowns (as we surely have become).

The exception of academia as mentioned here is noteworthy and I can't disagree with it as I've seen it passing through to nab an undergrad degree but another area where it seems to get a pass is work clothes for blue collar type folks be it coveralls or a plain pocketed Tee or button up shirt. The males of my family have worn those well after retirement age, not in the least because they continued to do hard (or at least dirty) labor on a regular basis, and it never struck me as 'wrong' or out of place.

So, yea, neat thought process. If anyone sees what I venture to call the contrapositive of this article as a sort of Guide for Middle Aged and Later Peoples (men in my case) To Dress Without Looking Frump that'd be great too. The Art of Manliness blog has done similar things a time or two but I'll always pop my head in to keep ideas fresh and to keep myself out of the trap of cargo shorts and jeans forevermore amen.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:44 AM on January 11


Stop trying to make youthquake happen. It's not going to happen.
posted by darksasami at 9:46 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


WTF is a petard? Here is the answer...

" a small bomb made of a metal or wooden box filled with powder, used to blast down a door or to make a hole in a wall, or, a kind of firework that explodes with a sharp report."

Carry on.
posted by Oyéah at 9:47 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Before, girls aspired to wear the sexy draped dresses only deemed appropriate for over-30 women who could handle the consequences of showing off their cleavage.

....the consequences?
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on January 11 [13 favorites]


Turner Classic Movies is basically always on in our house and women's fashion has gotten a lot more... um... a lot less Fashionable across time. I look back on outfits worn by Rosalind Russell or any number of women and I see what is being worn now and really, back then, it was Way More, and now is Way Less.

Interesting article, thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 9:49 AM on January 11


Yes, there are consequences! Hell yes, a lot of useless, and uninteresting conversations with folks who are interested in being near cleavage, viewing, cleavage, and for whom cleavage is not enough.
posted by Oyéah at 9:50 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


Turner Classic Movies is basically always on in our house and women's fashion has gotten a lot more... um... a lot less Fashionable across time.

I've sometimes wondered what was the last movie to have credit for "Gowns".
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:55 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


Hell yes, a lot of useless, and uninteresting conversations

There's a lot I like about this article but I'm not so sure I like the notion that women's fashion should grow more "erotic" and sexualized as she grows older, because she can "handle" the "consequences." Seems very rape culture-y to me - we can't let young women dress sexy, because they can't "handle the consequences," as if it's just the weather and they must protect themselves from it. Meanwhile, older women, presumably worldly-wise, can be expected to have defenses, or to be willing participants.

I agree that fashion turned its back on older women as of the 60s, and have never returned to them. But ideally, we could find a way to dress women for beauty, dignity, maturity and empowerment without assuming it necessarily involves fending off - or desiring to titillate - badly behaved men.
posted by Miko at 9:55 AM on January 11 [14 favorites]




But ideally, we could find a way to dress women for beauty, dignity, maturity and empowerment without assuming it necessarily involves fending off - or desiring to titillate - badly behaved men.

I think Diane Keaton adopted a very suave and mature and dignity-preserving and dare I even say it sexy look years ago and she's stuck with it and maybe she is the future.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's basically coopting male dress but also look at the "dress suit" back in the 40s. Women don't need to be all "here's my body" with their clothes any more than men need to be. A suit is perfectly fine for both genders, and is really attractive when done well.
posted by hippybear at 10:02 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


and women's fashion has gotten a lot more... um... a lot less

Wait for the robot seamstress revolution. The cost of some fashion at the lowest of today's wages makes most detail fiscally impractical. And it turns out automating fabric is hard. But it will come and economies of scale will allow amazing stuff to be custom made.

As for the main theme, don't recall ever giving a fuck about most anything so, guess I'm max'd out.
posted by sammyo at 10:02 AM on January 11


Women should be capable of dressing themselves at any age, and by their taste, create the market for what they want. I toyed with the idea of buying old prom dresses, and using them for my studio shows, and one year I toyed with the idea of wearing a dress every day of one year. But I ended up sticking with the camo colors and clothing in which I can work, and stay warm. As people get older they have trouble staying warm. But, that said, I love "feminine" clothing, and then duck as the idea of what is feminine, or if feminine is a socially acceptable word to use, flies up like a murmuration of death starlings.
posted by Oyéah at 10:04 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


I say, let’s assemble a squad of matronly motherfuckers.

But in the meantime...every time I see a 30+ woman who's rocking her own style, I make it a point to compliment her on how great she looks in her clothing choices.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:22 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I was talking to a few friends of mine--ladies of my certain (40ish) age-- a few days ago about how I was tracking my own midlife crisis by how I positively responded to Queen Elizabeth's daily ensembles on "The Crown." Like at first I felt weird about how much I found myself absolutely riveted by nice crewneck cashmere sweaters and reasonable-length pencil skirts and pearls. Now I'm like, if I had the money I would wear that all the time

But maybe with black nailpolish.
posted by thivaia at 10:25 AM on January 11 [14 favorites]


But in the meantime...every time I see a 30+ woman who's rocking her own style, I make it a point to compliment her on how great she looks in her clothing choices.

Even as a gay man who has been out since 1990 this is a thing I feel I can never do because even before #metoo I felt like women were feeling creeped on by men too much and even when I'm not a creepy man I feel like they don't fucking need people commenting on their appearance like it's some kind of competition every time they leave the house.

Not meaning that to seem so harsh. It was just a realization I came to decades ago and I mostly just try not to say things to anyone about their appearance anymore.
posted by hippybear at 10:30 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


I'm not so sure I like the notion that women's fashion should grow more "erotic" and sexualized as she grows older, because she can "handle" the "consequences."

Are you sure you're not reacting to the unfamiliar (to us in 2018) concept embedded here that older women are inherently sexier than young women because they've had time to grow into their bodies and become sure of themselves? I.e. "can handle the consequences" refers to being at ease dealing with their emotions and consequences of their own actions? I.e, not giving fucks anymore?
posted by Gnella at 10:41 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


That line about a "bold pair of glasses" really rang true for me, as it seems that, on one's 50th birthday, women (and, to a much lesser extent, men) are given gift certificates good only for the purchase of rectangular frames in red, pink or purple. Is this a thing? Like the Red Hat Society?
posted by the sobsister at 10:43 AM on January 11


I am in the process of assembling a capsule wardrobe. My goal is to have few, high-quality items in neutral colors that mostly mix & match with each other. Slowly I am winnowing down my existing closet and keeping only the staple items, which I am augmenting with a few high-quality pieces (goal: trade 5 so-so sweaters for one really nice one.)

Yesterday I went to four stores, scouting pieces I might want to add. I found a bargain on a medium blue cashmere sweater ($32! Reader, it's in my closet now!) but literally none of the other items I'm looking for, at any price. I am astonished at how unavailable quality, classic clothing is to Middle Americans like me.

I know such things are available in bigger cities and over the Internet. I'm planning to make a trip to the Nordstrom in Nashville (which is the closest store to me that has personal shoppers) to get the suits, jackets and the like that I can't source locally. I just didn't think there would be so much of it.
posted by workerant at 10:44 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


No, I think the "handle the consequences" is more about how our culture is rather rapey and how women who are dressed in a manner that reveals their bodies are somehow inviting sexual predation in a way which is not assumed to be something that younger women should dress themselves to invite.

That I'm even writing this is making me nauseous. Jeebus, our culture is awful toward women.
posted by hippybear at 10:45 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Ha I assumed the "consequences" of cleavage when you are older was "wrinkles near the boobs/neck might be visible."

Depends on what you mean by "older" I guess.

I like the line about older people getting cold. But I have ALWAYS been too cold.

Lately this has not been helped by fashion abominations like "cold shoulder" tops and shirts and skirts in general that seem to say "I aspire to be a fairy clad only in a dew-like shimmer of sparkles! Unlike real women I never get cold or need pockets or to hide my bra straps, tee-hee!"

I frequently threaten that, upon retirement, I will shave my head (because my hair is a pain) and wear tshirts and overalls forevermore, amen.
posted by emjaybee at 10:50 AM on January 11 [11 favorites]


Honestly, shaving your head and wearing overalls and t-shirts is a thing you could start doing tomorrow if you wanted.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Not at my job, sadly.
posted by emjaybee at 11:04 AM on January 11


1969-1970 chambray shirt, overalls and hiking boots was my regalia. I gave all my mini dresses to my friends who liked to dress up and go to the baths, weekends in San Francisco. Now I could wear mini dresses as visual revenge, but I don't yet dislike humanity that much. The delicate dance among the 65+ set around here is fascinating and um sad, and Tennessee Williamsish. I go to an antique store run by a guy who buys estates, and he is good at it. He is a soft character, very likeable, and his inventory is astonishing, truly. In the room, the women come and go talking of Cowboy art, linens as property, Native American vases, and some elegant Asian offerings. One woman who staked a claim to the proprietor, and then told me, women love him, and he loves women, I love his stuff. The women come in to sit a spell across his desk, and they are dressed, and made up, and he sells amazing antique jewelry, I really don't get his business model, but it is fantastical. The middle aged to elderly women come in, in every style. We just don't die, when we get older, there are days I think the lucky ones do. Our society leaves a lot of leeway for self expression, even if it is minimal, due to finance, everyone gets something going, even if it is the appearance of not doing this, (my specialty.)
posted by Oyéah at 11:07 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


I'd rather live in a society that lets women shave their head and wear t-shirts and overalls at whatever job they have than have women feel like they can't just live their lives as they choose. How do I sign up for the society I want to live in rather than the one I live in?
posted by hippybear at 11:16 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


> hippybear:
"But in the meantime...every time I see a 30+ woman who's rocking her own style, I make it a point to compliment her on how great she looks in her clothing choices.

Even as a gay man who has been out since 1990 this is a thing I feel I can never do because even before #metoo I felt like women were feeling creeped on by men too much and even when I'm not a creepy man I feel like they don't fucking need people commenting on their appearance like it's some kind of competition every time they leave the house.

Not meaning that to seem so harsh. It was just a realization I came to decades ago and I mostly just try not to say things to anyone about their appearance anymore."


I do, sometimes, compliment female coworkers on attractive apparel, but I make sure the comment focuses specifically on the apparel. Like "You are really rocking that style today" or "Awesome look" and nothing more or further, because I think that's where the creepy really starts.
posted by Samizdata at 11:18 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I've used the phrasing "I don't mean to be a creepy guy but I really like that scarf" or whatever. It is a landmine and everyone at work knows I'm gay and there's only one woman who works at the warehouse but I feel like I have to be careful.

I think maybe all men should feel like they should be careful.
posted by hippybear at 11:22 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


If you are complimenting just the clothing "I love your glasses!" "Those are some great boots!" you can probably come off as non-creepy, provided you then go your merry way.

Earrings/jewelry/hats are usually a safe item to compliment.

I think you can usually say "Great tattoo!" and not come off wrong.


It's trickier for things like sweaters or skirts, because that can seem like you're staring at someone's chest or butt.

Patriarchy ruins so many things.
posted by emjaybee at 11:26 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


> hippybear:
"I've used the phrasing "I don't mean to be a creepy guy but I really like that scarf" or whatever. It is a landmine and everyone at work knows I'm gay and there's only one woman who works at the warehouse but I feel like I have to be careful.

I think maybe all men should feel like they should be careful."


I concur. Wholeheartedly.

(At work, female coworkers tend to leave in groups. I get nervous saying "Have a better evening, ladies!" because I am not sure if that is impolite or not.)
posted by Samizdata at 11:26 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Are you sure you're not reacting to the unfamiliar (to us in 2018) concept embedded here that older women are inherently sexier than young women because they've had time to grow into their bodies and become sure of themselves?

Yes.
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Like, I feel at times that she feels like I'm the only guy she can talk to about the bullshit she puts up with being a female in a blue collar workplace and I still feel like I have to be careful. That's how fucked up our culture is.
posted by hippybear at 11:27 AM on January 11


And I'm not even saying that to wave some kind of flag. I'm just amazed at what she puts up with and she talks to me about it because I'm the only guy in the warehouse who she knows isn't going to leverage it against her and that is truly troubling.
posted by hippybear at 11:30 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Oh no... Heh, I just got brightly colored frames from Zenni a few months ago, and was actually thinking "Fuck it, those look oool." as I picked them out. They are, uh, bright pink. No, they're really awesome, they make my eyes pop and everyone whose opinions I care about have been really positive and like "Daaaaaamn what?"

Even better, they seem to make the kind of people whose opinions I don't care about visibly uncomfortable. Like I can see the gears laboriously turning over in their head about where to pigeonhole me, wondering if they want/need to say anything shitty or homophobic. If I'm paying attention I'll usually give 'em a little bit of laser eyeball and a smirk and then they usually make a point to stop staring and not say anything, because, seriously, taunting the oversized witchy/Ozzy looking weirdo is probably not a good idea.

Granted I also picked up some very boring black wireframes for being more serious, but those have mostly stayed in their case as backups.
posted by loquacious at 11:35 AM on January 11 [8 favorites]


I was talking to a few friends of mine--ladies of my certain (40ish) age-- a few days ago about how I was tracking my own midlife crisis by how I positively responded to Queen Elizabeth's daily ensembles on "The Crown." Like at first I felt weird about how much I found myself absolutely riveted by nice crewneck cashmere sweaters and reasonable-length pencil skirts and pearls. Now I'm like, if I had the money I would wear that all the time

But maybe with black nailpolish.


You have perfectly encapsulated a style that I'm working hard to find more pieces for in my personal wardrobe after the day I wore cute but comfortable heels, a plain black pencil skirt, a comfortable grey three-quarter length shirt that wasn't really a blouse but is a little dressier than a t-shirt, and a giant goat's head pendant necklace. One of my friends saw me and said, "You look like Satan's secretary."
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:37 AM on January 11 [54 favorites]


I find myself gravitating more toward artwear as I get older. I never really thought I'd be that person, but post-punk-cowgirl-retro doesn't seem to be moving along with me in any sensible way as I get older, especially in a professional context. So I am finding myself now getting into asymmetrical jackets, wide leg pants, statement shawls and stuff like that. I also really like simple tailored pieces that you can flair up with a scarf or jewelry. I still hang out in jeans on the weekend, and don't like to fuss with my clothes much, but at least I feel like I'm not dressed like wallpaper when I wear arty stuff.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


I'm astonished that post-punk-cowgirl-retro is even a thing and Miko I have loved what you do here in MetaFilter for years if not decades and so hang out in jeans and if we ever coincide in time and space let's have a drink (alcoholic or not) and you're amazing.
posted by hippybear at 11:46 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Oh, and another way I've run out of the wrong kind of fucks to give is how to offer an appearance-based compliment that isn't creepy. It helps that I live in a small town and see a lot of people regularly, and that they know me and know that I have an eye and taste for clothes. To the point some of my female friends will actually ask for advice because they know I'm going to tell them the truth if it's unflattering or weird or not.

But it's really nice to be able to recognize someone's style and effort and watch them perk up and react to a genuine and totally innocent compliment. It's a very cool superpower in that you can make someone's day with just a few well selected and positive words.

I've also learned to enjoy compliments and not feel weird about. Like, I totally love it when someone notices my hair is looking especially good that day or, say, when people noticed my new glasses. I have a couple of shirts that routinely get compliments, too, and that's nice.
posted by loquacious at 11:46 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I used to have shirts that got complements, but then Alexander Julian retired. *sigh*
posted by hippybear at 11:48 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I'm 42, and have been kind of flailing a little bit between staying comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt and wearing things that are a little more outlandish. Occasionally I try to fit into my self-imposed style brief, which is Bond Villain (a military-detailed jacket and more severe hair and perhaps some red lipstick if I'm feeling extra). But frequently I'm either too lazy or my job that day entails moving heavy things around which means that stuff that can't be abused a bit needs to stay home.

I do, however, have a pair of purple glasses that I love. And I've tried to up the quality of some of the t-shirts, even if paying that much money for something simple occasionally gives me hives.
posted by PussKillian at 11:50 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


One of my friends saw me and said, "You look like Satan's secretary."

I have to share a portion of DSime's (criminally underappreciated) comment on finding their style:

"After a while of addressing the simple, practical problems, I'd solved most of the functionality issues I was having and was able to address the more 'emotion-based' wishes I was making. 'Everything I'm wearing fits, but I wish I looked more grown-up'. 'I wish that I could dress in a way that implied no one should try to talk to me on the bus'. 'I wish I looked like an elegant witch'.

"I started to notice a lot of similar thoughts - in my case, most of my wishes were urging me to dress more conservatively. After a time I realised that this was my true style speaking to me. When I actively tried to dress in a very severe, tailored way, my 'I wishes' quitened down. I started looking at myself and thinking 'I look good today' instead of 'if I made this change, I could look good'. I went through my wardrobe and put together a lot of combinations that I thought would work and that would also speak to this new style of mine that was emerging. After a while I realised that what I was wearing was making me feel really put together and preapred for the day, instead of merely 'acceptably covered by society's standards'.

"At this point I took another look at this closet full of clothes that I'd dialed in on, and thought 'if I were to walk into this closet as a stranger, how would I describe the person who owns these clothes?' That's how I came up with my 'severe Baroness' description. From that point on, whenever I went shopping, I brought my imaginary Baroness with me. Now when I look at clothes I think 'would the Baroness wear this?'"
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:52 AM on January 11 [27 favorites]


> PussKillian:
"I'm 42, and have been kind of flailing a little bit between staying comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt and wearing things that are a little more outlandish. Occasionally I try to fit into my self-imposed style brief, which is Bond Villain (a military-detailed jacket and more severe hair and perhaps some red lipstick if I'm feeling extra). But frequently I'm either too lazy or my job that day entails moving heavy things around which means that stuff that can't be abused a bit needs to stay home.

I do, however, have a pair of purple glasses that I love. And I've tried to up the quality of some of the t-shirts, even if paying that much money for something simple occasionally gives me hives."


I haven't ever seen you, but I must express admiration for anyone who's style briefs include "Bond Villian", expecially if you can do one of those harsh, vaguely British/vaguely Germanic announcement voices (like, say, the announcer in Team Fortress 2).
posted by Samizdata at 11:53 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


I don't know how I'm supposed to participate in a culture where women make fashion choices that give them hives.
posted by hippybear at 11:56 AM on January 11


I've used the phrasing "I don't mean to be a creepy guy but I really like that scarf" or whatever.

Please, leave off the "I don't mean to be creepy but..." prefix; that's usually a huge warning beacon that whatever follows is going to be horrifically creepy. "That scarf looks great on you!" is fine. Or even, "nice scarf!" if you're in a hurry.

For the most part, the actual words don't matter nearly as much as the attitude and body language that go with delivery. (This apparently confuses the hell out of "I'm a nice guy!" creeps, who keep looking for the Magic Words that unlock women's affections.) Keeping the tone light and appreciative, instead of intimate and acquisitive, is more important than the exact words.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:56 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


I think it’s really important to get people—especially younger ones—to recognize and question ageism. I teach college and regularly encounter students who consider themselves enlightened with regard to social justice, and who give at least lip service to respecting and protecting the rights of people who are marginalized in ways they are not, but who haven’t given any thought at all to ageism and their own ageist assumptions.

For example, I’ve shown my gender classes images of acne creams marketed to teens that also promise to also keep skin young and prevent wrinkles, and asked them to critique the products. The students quickly criticize the creams for adding to American teens’ bodily dysphoria. Teens are being encouraged not only to view themselves as ruined by pimples, but to worry about wrinkles when they are still basically kids. Students easily present a gender critique—the product ads show only girls, while boys are given a pass on worrying about wrinkles at 15. Some bring up the issue of colorism, noting that the girls in the ads are mostly white, and those not white are still fairskinned with European features.

But when I point out that the idea that one should want to prevent wrinkles is itself something open to critique, as ageist, the basic reaction I get are puzzled head-tilts. When I ask them to reconsider the idea that we should “fight the signs of ageing,” I get a lot of pushback. They have been well-trained to lump “fighting ageing” in with eating well and staying fit as import for health and self-care and as moral projects. It has been easier for me to convince them to let go of the idea that being fat is a poor moral choice reflecting lack of self-control than it has been for me to convince them that of course, everyone should want to stop looking any older once they hit 25 or so.

And yes, I realize that most of my students are around 20. You could argue that it’s only natural for young people to disdain the old, and to sneer at both those who look aged, and those older people whose efforts to appear young fail or seem forced. But as this article points out, this is not a universal attitude of Western youth. One way you can see that is that the fashion world used to respect the matronly woman.

Saying only older people can be expected to care about ageing is like saying only women can be expected to care about gender inequality. Yes, it’s endemic that people privileged along some axis don’t think about those marginalized on that social axis, but a central project of social justice is to get people to stop that. And I agree with a thesis of this article—that the reason this hasn’t happened much with regard to ageism is that we’ve inherited since the 1960s an association between being a hip activist with disdain for the old. And that’s a problem.
posted by DrMew at 11:59 AM on January 11 [25 favorites]


I'm 47, and am gravitating more and more to the wardrobe I always wanted when I was a kid; a little bit hippie, a little bit outdoors-y, with flowy fabrics and cuddly sweaters and natural fabrics. Nothing too short or skimpy, but just enough. These days there's lots of plaid and long vests or cardigans (for the cold) and a lot of bit shawls and wraps and scarves, and shirts with peasanty detailing, and jeans and boots or sneakers or loafers. Basically, if Stevie Nicks were more of a tomboy and grew up in New England, that's what I'm going for.

I've also got some outfit ideas pinned on Pinterest - and I realized that there is a certain red carpet look Judi Dench goes to that I've pinned repeatedly: black silk top with long sleeves and a boat neck and black fluid pants, and a brightly colored pashmina shawl type of thing hanging over one shoulder and hanging down to her knees in the front. I think I would go with navy instead of black, but otherwise it is my jam.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:03 PM on January 11 [10 favorites]


Please, leave off the "I don't mean to be creepy but..." prefix

I'm literally the only gay man working in a blue collar warehouse that has fewer than 10 employees and I'm on good terms with the woman I'm talking with. If you think my saying that is somehow signaling anything than a shared joke than I will leave it out from future interactions.
posted by hippybear at 12:03 PM on January 11


And yes, I realize that most of my students are around 20. You could argue that it’s only natural for young people to disdain the old

8-year-olds disdain the old because they cannot imagine themselves being that way.

20-year-olds disdain the old because of ageism. They certainly do imagine themselves with a career, in a marriage (or happily not-married and enjoying a single lifestyle), owning a house and two cars and a vacation home in Hawaii (they may not believe those are attainable, but it crosses their mind that it'd be awesome to have that). They just don't imagine themselves with lines around their eyes and a squishy midsection and greying or thinning hair. They have no problems associating age with material goods; they've been trained not to associate it with human physical changes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:07 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


I'm literally the only gay man working in a blue collar warehouse that has fewer than 10 employees and I'm on good terms with the woman I'm talking with.

Sorry! If you know the women, it's all fine. With strangers, "I don't mean to be ___, but..." is a warning flag. With people you know, the rapport you have is what matters.

(I work in an office building in downtown SF with several thousand other people. Everyone follows "stranger rules" for communication.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:09 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Like, literally, I have 50 years of learning under my belt and basically all of those lessons are under my belt and I feel like most of the rest of society doesn't get it and I spend most of my life going "JEEBUS HOW DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THAT" and so yeah, I get it and yay and fist bumps and hugs if you want them but not required.
posted by hippybear at 12:11 PM on January 11


Relax, Mr. Bear. You're not the patriarchy, and your heart is warm.
posted by loquacious at 12:14 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


and oh god is even offering hugs a bad thing like it was totally friendly and I don't even know anymore.
posted by hippybear at 12:15 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


“What came in with Youthquake in the ‘60s is very, very different. It’s inexpensive, young, long hair, a body style that’s almost pre pubescent... with long legs and a thin body,” Twigg says.

Twigg seems to be describing Twiggy. Eponystericalish?
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:22 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this goes hand in hand with the poor quality of a lot of modern clothes. Mrs. Exeter-style clothing sounds pretty substantial, and modern clothing for women is typically not. I would love for well cut, substantial clothing to be widely available. (Cue my rant against Banana Republic failing to carry even ONE option for a navy pantsuit a year ago in the spring! NOT EVEN ONE!! I mean yes they have the super tight Sloane pants that I would never wear to work, but they weren't even color coordinated with any of the navy blazers! What??)

I'm 31 and I have a hard time telling the difference between fashion changing and me wearing "older woman" clothes to be comfortable and office-appropriate. I recently thought "turtlenecks are making a comeback!" and then I realized maybe I'm just dressing my age. Or are they making a comeback?

I also realized that when I get dressed for work, I don't think much about how I look beyond checking the appropriateness box. I have some shirts in which I don't really like the way I look, but I wear them to work without thinking about it. As a teenager and probably even somewhat as a twenty-something I HAD to wear clothes I felt good about or I had a terrible day. I still like getting dressed up, but the work uniform is so routine I have failed to register it unless I really like what I am wearing.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:44 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


> hippybear:
"and oh god is even offering hugs a bad thing like it was totally friendly and I don't even know anymore."

You and me both, buddy, you and me both.

I'll take one of those hugs, if you've got a spare.
posted by Samizdata at 12:55 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


I should clarify - I get hives from spending the money because I am weird about money and don't make much. But I've finally hit the point where I've realized that spending more on a t-shirt that doesn't stretch out in two washes, turn tissue-thin, and will actually hold up well is worth it. It's just more money than I'm accustomed to spending on a t-shirt. But in essence it's part of a move towards better-made clothes and away from fast fashion. I'm not consistent about it but I'm trying to be a little more mindful.

And emjaybee, your wish made me think of this person I follow on Instagram, because I love her style: Overalls and shaved head. I too think about short hair but don't think it's the right look for me. It would just be so freeing. I do have the same overalls, though. They're pretty awesome.

And Samizdata, going to start working on that impression today. This is as close as I've gotten to Bond Villain but I plan to keep trying. I may have to grow my hair out and learn how to do a coronet braid for extra points.
posted by PussKillian at 1:07 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


> PussKillian:
"I should clarify - I get hives from spending the money because I am weird about money and don't make much. But I've finally hit the point where I've realized that spending more on a t-shirt that doesn't stretch out in two washes, turn tissue-thin, and will actually hold up well is worth it. It's just more money than I'm accustomed to spending on a t-shirt. But in essence it's part of a move towards better-made clothes and away from fast fashion. I'm not consistent about it but I'm trying to be a little more mindful.

And emjaybee, your wish made me think of this person I follow on Instagram, because I love her style: Overalls and shaved head. I too think about short hair but don't think it's the right look for me. It would just be so freeing. I do have the same overalls, though. They're pretty awesome.

And Samizdata, going to start working on that impression today. This is as close as I've gotten to Bond Villain but I plan to keep trying. I may have to grow my hair out and learn how to do a coronet braid for extra points."


That works (he says, uncomfortably eyeing the keyboard next to her)...
posted by Samizdata at 1:21 PM on January 11


I want old lady coronet braid. Must figure out how to do that, by a May wedding.
posted by Oyéah at 1:51 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


The glasses in funky colors, in my case, are because I never needed glasses until I had the cataract operation. I also dress in flats, basic slacks, cardigans, and soft shirts because comfort is essential, but I do make a concession for color (purples, blacks, rust, things that I enjoy). As an older woman with gray in my hair and wrinkled cleavage, I am by definition already wearing a suit and pearls no matter WHAT I wear.
posted by Peach at 2:37 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


o... Heh, I just got brightly colored frames from Zenni a few months ago

I bought a pair of small purple frames 5 or 6 years ago and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more compliments on a piece of apparel. I’m preparing to get a new pair of frames soon which will be bigger and even purplier. Otherwise my wardrobe, especially in the winter tends toward what I call “archivist Will Graham.” Today I am wearing boots, cords, a plaid flannel shirt, and a loden green vest. It isn’t cold enough for a scarf, unfortunately.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:44 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I've used the phrasing "I don't mean to be a creepy guy but I really like that scarf" or whatever. It is a landmine and everyone at work knows I'm gay and there's only one woman who works at the warehouse but I feel like I have to be careful.

I think maybe all men should feel like they should be careful.


I think all men should feel like they should behave professionally in the workplace, behave politely but with appropriate emotional distance with strangers, and behave thoughtfully and sensitively toward female friends, family, and others who are close in that way.
posted by clockzero at 2:44 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I think all men should feel like they should behave professionally in the workplace, behave politely but with appropriate emotional distance with strangers, and behave thoughtfully and sensitively toward female friends, family, and others who are close in that way.

And I've learned that this is definitely part of the art of offering an appearance-based compliment. A huge part of it is just not offering one at all. I avoid them at work unless I have a rapport and it works. There are a ton of rules, you have to be able to read the room, the situation and your relationship with the person you're trying to compliment.

I think it also helps is that I rarely offer compliments in general, so when I do offer one it's sincere.

Another part of it is simply intent and genuineness, which is the part "Nice Guys" get hung up on and don't get. People can tell when you're offering a compliment to insinuate, flatter or try to flirt or worse, just sniffing around your ass. Or even worse, just straight creepin'. Or why bullshit like "You should smile more!" doesn't fly at all.

It isn't just what you say or how you say it. It's what you actually mean. I have friends that I can offer very specific and even overtly physical "wow, you're looking hot!" type compliments to that are just innocent, well received compliments because that's totally what they're going for, and they know I'm definitely not hitting on them, either.

But I wouldn't dare offer this compliment to one of my more shy friends, and if I were to offer them a compliment it might be quietly and not in front of a lot of other people or only among friends.

There's also the knack and timing for certain kinds of compliments. "That is really flattering on you!" could be really insulting when unasked for, but can be spot on if someone is actually asking "Does this look ok?"

I know a lot of this is basics for a lot of people, but I'm excited about this because I wasn't really very good about offering compliments at all and always felt a little awkward about them, perhaps justifiably.

But I've learned it's really nice to be able to actually brighten someone's day which just a few well timed words, especially a friend.
posted by loquacious at 3:02 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


I want old lady coronet braid. Must figure out how to do that, by a May wedding.
I got that covered -- the Halo Braid, also ten faux braids, and ten easy braids for short hair.

Also, this recent AskMeFi from cadge has some inspirational approaches to the sophisticated woman silhouette. Seconding Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Lauren Bacall as icons of mature style.
posted by TrishaU at 3:07 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I want old lady coronet braid. Must figure out how to do that, by a May wedding.

Coronet braid instructions for medium-length hair. I'm going to start playing with this style and seeing if I can make it work easily for me - my hair's a lot longer than that, so it should.

I've been trying to figure out hairstyles that don't involve cutting my hair and aren't "ponytail" or "bun that leaves me with a heavy lump on the back of my head."

... and then later, sigh, maybe I can find outfits that don't make me feel like I'm trying to pass for 23 years old, which I passed more than a couple of decades ago. Some of this pinterest set look okay; some of them just look like "no reason grandmothers can't wear college-student styles." Apparently, older women should be wearing a lot of beige and taupe.

My hair is teal, and long enough to sit on. I am not wearing taupe.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:08 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]


I've been trying to figure out hairstyles that don't involve cutting my hair and aren't "ponytail" or "bun that leaves me with a heavy lump on the back of my head."

This is really basic, but I only recently learned how to reliably part and wear loose behind the ears pigtails. They are actually surprisingly comfortable and functional and it's nicer to my hair than a plain old ponytail or bun, and it fits nicer under a hat. Also, if the tails are too long you can also double them up in half and rock that 90s kind of thing. It also usually gets me a ton of compliments from the people I care about and a bit of side eye from the ones I don't.

I also want to learn how to braid but that might be asking a lot, as I also can't knit for crap and just have some kind of defect when it comes to this kind of turning messy things into something that's not. A couple of months ago a friend braided my hair in kind of a modified french braid with tails and I didn't want to take it out for a week. It looked cool and fit well under a hat, and didn't really start to untangle or get frizzy for a good 4-5 days. It was also incredibly comfortable, which I didn't expect at all.

I always thought they'd be uncomfortable and a general hassle to have in and wear, but no, braids are actually really functional and they make you look and feel totally fierce and put together.

Also, I just want to take a moment to appreciate living in a town full of retired hippies and younger weirdos. It's not at all uncommon to for me to see friends and folks around town in their 70s rocking purple hair, and fashion styles range from granola tie dye yoga earthy everything to strictly classic/professional, dapper old grandpas and also urban witch and even a little Satan's secretary and whatever else, black nail polish and all. (See my profile pic and check my hands, heh!) Heck, there's even a bunch of younger genderqueer kids around town, so beardy hippy dudes in a skirt or AFAB pangender person rocking a masculine cut suit just barely registers and makes a stir.
posted by loquacious at 4:01 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


I've been known to wear black nail polish from time to time. Although mostly when I do go for nail polish it's a dark green.
posted by hippybear at 4:32 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Also, if this thread turned into a total celebration of how people just decide to dress and express themselves in their daily lives through simply being in the world, I would not be upset about that. I decided years ago to grow my beard long because those fucking Duck Dynasty assholes were giving long beards a bad name and it's a thing I go out into the world with every day as a deliberate choice and while I don't make a giant point about why I did it all the time I do like literally exist with this thing on my face all the time and it's a fascinating experience and you just have to own it if you do something like this.
posted by hippybear at 4:35 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Okay, I just did a google image search for "judi dench red carpet" and now she's REALLY my style icon.

I mean, look at this. Or this. Or this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:26 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


But this is the kind of thing I was talking about earlier and I am so totally going to actually wear that very outfit one of these days.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


Judi is a luminous being gracing our plane of existence.
posted by hippybear at 5:39 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


loquacious: But it's really nice to be able to recognize someone's style and effort and watch them perk up and react to a genuine and totally innocent compliment. It's a very cool superpower in that you can make someone's day with just a few well selected and positive words.

As a guy, I have found saying "That looks sharp" or "That's a great look" -- without a gross leer or anything -- is as far as I feel comfortable going, but it also seems to be received well.

Here's a question: is it constructive to be a guy who offers simple compliments, without harassing overtones, as a way of building a healthier atmosphere? That is, can we ever make this culture less gross without adding appropriate behavior?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:44 AM on January 12


Personally, I love a compliment. And I think I can tell if it's a genuine reaction as opposed to a come on, or a leer, etc. I like giving compliments too, although now I have real anxiety after I do. I recently complimented a woman about her amazing skin. It was noticeably luminous. She seemed thrilled. She smiled, really smiled, said I was so kind, said she had been worrying about it being dry, etc. I don't think she felt attacked. I think we had a warm human connection. That is the joy of a compliment.

One thing regarding clothes and my aging body and fashion of days past is that I cannot stand being restricted. My 50 year old waist doesn't want a corseted fit. While they look stellar, I don't want a jacket made of material that is structured but makes my arms feel trapped in the armholes. So I appreciate the new, softer materials available today. However, they aren't great for creating that hourglass look the article discusses. That tidy, formal look. Things tend to hang out more and ripple more in a comfortable cotton-blend. Mabe excellent tailoring is what's missing today?

The comment MonkeyToes linked to above has the best advise, I think. Don't buy something just because you love it, and it looks great, and it's a great deal, if it isn't your style.

Oh, we need an entirely new thread to discuss the ageism that (some) younger activists are blind to.
posted by bluespark25 at 10:45 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I'm a female academic in my late 40s (fist bump to all my fellow stalled-out and exhausted associate profs!), and while I'm apparently one of the few allowed to actually age, it's still very complicated. This article is helping me get closer to articulating some of the discomfort I feel about "dressing my age", especially as it relates to menocore and the critique thereof. I've always found Eileen Fisher clothes rather repellent, personally, but perhaps they are the closest thing we have right now Mrs. Exeter's wool crepe suits? I don't want to be mutton dressed as lamb (or as the German expression would have it, von hinten Lyzeum, von vorne Museum), but I don't want to drape myself in expensive linen either. What to do?
posted by pleasant_confusion at 1:48 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I feel like a bit of a downer saying this but honestly, I think that even when you're super-well-intentioned it's probably mostly a bad idea to compliment women on how they look -- if only because it reinforces the idea that how we look is important, and maybe the most important thing about us. I know I have felt kinda deflated by compliments on my appearance a bunch of times: like, 'thank you, but is that really the thing that most needed to be said?' I do smile and thank the person, but inside I am not thrilled. (It's different if it's a random spontaneous interaction, like, a woman on the street loving my scarf or something. That is fun. But if I know the person and they're not a close friend, then ugh.)

So I try to make a point of complimenting women on their skills/abilities/actions (the same way I do with little girls), to try to counterbalance all the social programming we get to focus on surface stuff.

I do make an exception with women for whom 'how they look' is visibly a big part of how they express their identity and creativity. Like, I have complimented women on their witty taste in hats, or their super-sophisticated ability to mix patterns and textures, or their cleverness in creating some particular kind of look. But even then I only do it if I think our taste is similar, because otherwise there's no reason they would care what I think. I try to not do it in front of other people, because I don't want to normalize the casual evaluation of women's appearances nor do I want to perpetuate the idea that all women should care about this stuff. And I try to be careful to avoid seeming to buy into or to perpetuate ideas like feminine=good, young-looking=good, expensive=good, or even effort=good.

I also like to compliment men for stuff like having awesome skin or good hair :) Only when I actually mean it, but also with the goal of complicating things a little ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Susan PG at 1:59 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I read those articles about "menocore" and...don't know how to feel right now. I'm a little angry and I don't really know why.
posted by PussKillian at 2:53 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


PussKillian: "I hate to break it to them, but these days, the only women doing menocore are in their twenties. Actual menopausal women? They have more style."
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:35 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


WTF is a petard? Here is the answer...

" a small bomb made of a metal or wooden box filled with powder, used to blast down a door or to make a hole in a wall, or, a kind of firework that explodes with a sharp report."

Carry on.


posted by Oyéah

The word "hoist" in this context means lifted, or blown up. However the definition above of small bomb or firecracker is not quite complete. The word pet means fart, in French. A petard is a small fart. (Sixty years ago they used to sell a lovely bit of French pastry call pet de nonne or nun's fart, but they had to rename them religeuse.) Anyway, hoist by your own petard conveys a range of embarrassment running from the gamut of stinking yourself out, to killing yourself through incompetence.

I am just old enough to remember how clothing was sold in different size lines including misses, juniors, petites and women's, and women's were the most sophisticated. (I do like being older! I feel so worldly. I am that old because I used to cut out paper dolls from the Sears catalogue and incidentally read about the sizing while I was making sure cutting out a figure wouldn't ruin any figures on the other side of the page that I also wanted to cut out. My entire wardrobe was either hand-me-downs originally purchased from the Salvation Army for my oldest sister, after my middle sister had outgrown them, or clothing handed down from my boy cousin.) Women's was definitely the most sophisticated line, but they were all for female persons who were adult height except the petites which were for women who were short-waisted or simply short. Petites also generally looked quite sophisticated, because petite women were trying not to look like girls. But younger women wore petites too if they had to shop that department for the fit, so the styles ranged from quite young to quite chic.

My sister, who reached her adult height at twelve. would have been expected to wear juniors until she reached high school when she could start considering herself old enough for misses. My mother, at thirty plus a year or three, did not usually wear women's because she couldn't carry it off. But neither did she wear petites either, because at six feet tall she couldn't carry that off either. Back then I didn't know at what age you could consider yourself old enough to carry off women's but it was not until you were old enough to wear a girdle. Of course not all women wanted to or had to wear a girdle, but you also couldn't wear one until a certain age. Or that would have been lamb dressed as mouton cordon bleu...
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:06 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I feel like a bit of a downer saying this but honestly, I think that even when you're super-well-intentioned it's probably mostly a bad idea to compliment women on how they look

I don't disagree with this at all, and your qualifications are very similar to mine. I'm much more likely to compliment someone about everything else, especially skills and achievements. Also, I'm not just playing the pronoun game here because I am actually talking about complimenting people, not just women, or just because they're women.

It might help to know that I'm coming at learning how to actually give (and take) a compliment as a pretty seriously awkward outsider where I just didn't at all, particularly appearance based ones.

And, y'know, so no one gets the wrong idea that I spend my day shotgunning random compliments at strangers or providing some kind of running commentary about women's appearances in general - that's definitely not me.
posted by loquacious at 9:45 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


"and oh god is even offering hugs a bad thing like it was totally friendly and I don't even know anymore."

I, a lady, can personally vouch for the high quality and utter non-creepiness of Hippybear hugs.

(Wait. Was it creepy that I said that?)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:11 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I strive for not creepy at all. And thanks. I've tried for decades to learn how to not be creepy. I'd hug you again anytime!

(Wait. Was it creepy when I said that?)
posted by hippybear at 11:08 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Hey guys, can we keep this thread about women's fashion being a thread about women's fashion as opposed to "oh mercy how are men supposed to cope with the post me-too paradigm"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Responding to "rectangular frames in red, pink or purple" . It's so you can find them if you put them down!
posted by andreap at 9:51 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I'm in the stage of life under discussion in this article know exactly what I would like to wear every day for the rest of my life.

In fall and winter, lined wool A-line skirts, a cotton or merino wool t-shirt, and a hardwearing merino/nylon blend crewneck cardigan, with tights and either oxfords or boots, depending on how cold it is.

In spring and summer, cotton A-line skirts and t-shirts, with either canvas tennis shoes or sandals.

All of these items used to be easily available at stores like the Talbots of the 70s and 80s. Just try finding a nice lined wool skirt anymore, or a merino cardigan that's not tissue thin. But the thing that really dictates what I wear is my feet. The only shoes that don't kill me anymore are sneakers and hiking shoes, so I end up wearing what looks okay with them, which is jeans. It's not how I want to dress, at all.
posted by HotToddy at 6:11 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


HotToddy, I also have issues with my shoes dictating the rest of my outfit. I’m currently trying to decide if there are actually shoes in the sneaker family that fit me, are at all affordable, and genuinely look good with dresses.
posted by PussKillian at 7:21 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The only shoes that don't kill me anymore are sneakers and hiking shoes

Have you thought about actual boots? Like, I wear work boots all day and am on my feet for hours and have zero problems, but if I wear sneakers I'm good for maybe 3 hours standing.

I don't know what sort of boots with that kind of support would be available in styles you would be interested in, but it's just a tiny suggestion of something to investigate.
posted by hippybear at 7:24 PM on January 13


hippy bear, I do have a pair of Merrell boots (actual boots!) that pretty supportive, and as a result I am able to dress the way I like most often in the winter. But the rest of the items are still a problem. The cardigan thing is so vexing to me. Such a basic staple and they're all crap now!

PussKillian, I think Keds-type canvas sneakers do look genuinely good with summer dresses, but I have yet to find any that work for problematic feet, and I think I've tried them all.
posted by HotToddy at 6:36 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I also have the "shoes dictate what I wear" issue. That and a post-surgical belly have ruled out most skirts and dresses for me for the most part.

Although - I'm toying with getting a few SuperFeet inserts so I can have multiple sets to stick into multiple shoes. That may help; I have a set of inserts I got with some trail hiking shoes two years ago and oh god they are awesome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


My form of "not giving fucks" is that I embrace my true fashion destiny: John Denver, minus the hat. Right now 100% of the clothing I'm wearing, including my bra, is from the Duluth Trading Company.

I don't have a job, so I don't have to dress to please anyone but myself. The downside of this is that I recently went to a party with a "dress to impress" theme and had nothing in the slightest bit impressive (maybe my Thin Mint costume?).
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:09 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


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