Sunday, 6 June 2021

These rules are made for breaking

What is wrong with this picture?

It's been a while since I've had a chunter on here about fashion and age, but sadly that doesn't mean that the issue has gone away. Over the last week, there has been a fair bit of discussion in both the older-sewist and vintage-wearing online communities about (yet another) article which listed a whopping 55 things which women should avoid because they are 'ageing'.

What made this particular article stand out in a crowded field of such drivel was the illustrations it used. Rather than spend money on stock images, the author had simply lifted photographs from people's Instagram accounts, and without their knowledge or permission had used the images to demonstrate how allegedly poor their clothing/makeup/hair choices were. There has been some debate in various forums about the legality of this, but a quick glance at Instagram's small print would seem to suggest that by putting something in a public account you relinquish all rights over how it is used - it's the price you pay for using the platform.

One person whose photograph was included was the lovely Debra (@tooshorttopincurl), who wears beautiful true vintage outfits. A picture of her in a 1950s dress was used to illustrate the allegedly ageing properties of florals. Apparently, there is a danger of them making you look "gaudy", which the more cynical readers (including me, of course!) interpreted as "not totally invisible".

Some things seem to have made the list because the author or her friends associated them with 'old ladies'. And some, such as not immediately replacing your prescription glasses whenever frame styles change, suggest a failure to grasp the economic reality of many people's lives. Others just seem like common sense to me - clothes which don't fit and colours which make you look ill are unwise choices at any age, not 'ageing'. But apparently, looking older is the worst thing imaginable.

And this, I feel, is the crux of the matter. Ageism is increasingly feeling to me like the last acceptable prejudice, a view which this article supports. Time and again I see people on social media repeating, or even perpetrating, comments about age which I know they would (rightly) loudly condemn if someone else had made them about race, size, gender or disability.

A much cheerier note was struck by the responses to Debra's post about her experience. Lots of people donned their most floral clothing in support, and posted pictures with the hashtag #floralpatternsareout.

Spoiled for choice, but I went for this one

Many of the comments pointed out that ageing was vastly preferable to the alternative. There was also forthright support for the view that one of the joys of getting older is having the confidence to do, and wear, what you want. And a fair number of people (again, including me) wanted to know what the other rules were, in order to break as many as possible - preferably all in one outfit!

Some of them (head-to-toe pastels, head-to-toe black, jeggings) will never be an issue for me, so I narrowed the list down to the ones which could be applied to vintage dressing. Even in this subset, there are some which I can't imagine encountering. For the others, I am now a woman on a mission. To paraphrase slightly, Gotta Break 'Em All!

Florals - guilty as charged. The picture at the top of this post only shows my spring/summer dresses. My winter wardrobe (and my stash) are just as bad!

Big hairdos, or any hairstyle which requires hairspray - I don't wear many 1960s styles, so beehives aren't a big part of my look, but hairspray is a necessity for keeping 1940s rolls in place.

Large or gaudy jewellery - see the bangles I'm wearing with my floral dress above!

Matching jewellery - I don't have any (yet), but this may change.

Brooches - I do have lots of brooches, but rarely wear them - this could be just the prompt I need!

My brooch collection

Cardigans/Long sleeves - the website where the article appeared is based in San Diego, where such things may not be necessary. Other climates are available, and I live in one of them.

Cardigan-wearing and proud!

Tights - I'm including stockings in this one, beloved by many vintage wearers.

Small, stiff handbags - pretty much all vintage handbags, then.

Shoulder pads - essential for both 1940s and 1970s-does-1940s; two of my favourite looks.

Florals, stockings, shoulder pads and handbag - if only I'd worn a brooch!

Unbelted styles/Kitten heels/Short heels

Another multiple offender - needs more hairspray, though!

Tweed - it's a long-term project, but it's not going away.

On the distant 'to do' list

Out of date glasses frames - adding cat's-eye shades to my wish list.

Decorative scarves - not something I wear, because I never know how to tie them, but definitely one to investigate now.


And now, onto the rules I'm unlikely to rush to break. (Some because they're not my style, others because I did them the first time round!)

Jersey clothing - under no circumstances should you dress like this woman.

Coco Chanel - famous for jersey clothes (and tweed), sporting some 'gaudy' jewellery

Overplucked eyebrows/Sweater sets, aka twinsets/Capri pants - bad news for any 1950s fans.

Floor length skirts/Blue eyeshadow - and bad news for any 1970s fans.

Maybe not . . .

Too much blusher - been there, done that, already.

Party like it's 1979

Baggy clothing - see mid-to-late 1980s. I can't believe I ever wore stuff like this - it's not ageing, it's just ridiculous.

For those days when you just want to look like a rectangle

Actually, what started out as a rant has become quite entertaining. The whole thing is so ridiculous, and presents so many opportunites to 'misbehave', that I'm looking forward to working my way through some more allegedly inappropriate looks!


  1. What a great note, thanx!
    Goodness, so what's's skivvies?? Love loose clothing especially in warmer temps but I think the "Others" are calling it Cottage Core so it's acceptable! The only thing I stay away from is 1970s stuff -- be there, done that, and hated the whole decade.

    1. You're welcome! My love of some (and I stress, some) 1970s styles is well documented here but yes, I can think of plenty of other elements of that decade which I avoid like the plague!

  2. I practically live in jersey clothing. I agree with no unbelted styles but only for some women, it all depends on what you're comfortable in. If I don't have any waist shaping I feel wrong in my clothes, but I've seen some women wearing things that would look like a sack on me, but on them they look like couture pieces. There are some things that don't look right on some women, but they look amazing on someone else of the same age is my point. Age is no barrier.
    The only look I can think of that really looks awful on the older woman is the slut look, but that's not exactly wonderful on the 20 somethings either, lol.

    1. Indeed - if something is not the right look for you then it will do you no favours, whatever your age. Equally, if you like something and wearing it makes you feel good, then you should go ahead and wear it, regardless of 'rules'.