What Am I Supposed to Wear: An Essay on “Age-Appropriate” Dressing

When I was younger fashion was my middle name. I would look for the latest trends on the hottest movie stars, scour magazines for outfits I could duplicate, or just combine them all for my own look. Now all the “fashion” I have is plucked from clearance racks, then washed to it is threadbare. I’ve even been known (on more than one occasion ) to root through the dirty laundry or pick up a discarded item off the floor (sniffing for cleanliness, of course) and toss it on without a further thought.

As horrifying as this may sound to most of you, it comes with working at home and not having to impress anyone with my daily attire (the delivery guys hardly ever flinch anymore when I open the door). 

My age also doesn’t help (mid­forties). It’s like the clothing manufacturers have completely disregarded this category. Most of the clothes on the racks are either young-­hard­-body or old-­granny style. ­ I have an elderly mother and I don’t want to shop out of her closet.

My problem is I like the younger fashions: ­they’re colorful with funky designs and look adorable on the rack or those teeny-­bodied mannequins. I start out with such enthusiasm, too, thinking how cute I’d look in one of these spaghetti­-strapped numbers or tight­-fitted jeans, but my bubble is soon burst.

It usually starts with the sales person (some young thing with her perky breasts and fresh skin) and the look on her face that says…I think what you’re looking for is on the other side of the store, Grandma. However, ignoring her I anxiously take my cute clothes and pick out a dressing room (as far back as possible) shut the door and await my transformation. I quickly shed my bargain bin attire, careful not to look in those full-length mirrors (that would kill me instantly, why are they so unflattering?) then begin the struggle.

Hmmm, the label says it’s my size…

As I wiggle and pull the tight little number into place it’s usually at this point that my muffin top rebels; why are those zippers so short? And realization dawns on me. Actually, it doesn’t just register it screams, YOU’RE NOT TWENTY ANYMORE!

But being the sucker for punishment that I am, I still have to look in the mirror hoping it’s not as bad as I think.

WRONG! It’s worse.

My middle ­age spread is oozing over the top of the jeans like melting ice cream and the top is so stretched along my chest I fear I may lose an eye when the buttons begin to fire off like hot popcorn.

Hmmm…perhaps now would be a good time to call the snooty salesgirl over…

With one more quick glance in the mirror to make sure my self­-esteem is totally shot, I quickly peel off the offending outfit, get dressed and get out of there only to be greeted with the smug look and voice of the salesgirl asking me, “how did it go?” If the previous scream of horror and my face completely drained of color didn’t tell you, then nothing will.

So what am I supposed to wear? Do I just throw on a pair of pajamas and wait for old­ age so I can shop from “the other side of the store?” Or hole up in my house so I can safely wear my bargain ­bin finds?

No! I stand proud and march myself right back into the cute section of the store. So what if I’ve gained a little weight? That’s a sign of my ambition as a writer. So what if the styles of today make me look like I’m trying too hard? That’s a sign of confidence in who I am.

Middle­ age is a state of mind. Wear it with pride and be happy with who you are. And if a snooty sales girl has to lose an eye in the process, well that’s just years of wisdom teaching the younger generation a lesson.

Sandie Muncaster

Sandie Muncaster

Sandie lee is a freelance writer that lives in Ontario Canada. She has been writing for over 20 years and loves to "tell it the way it is." Middle-age is a state-of-mind, unfortunately, my butt isn't!

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