Women’s Fashion

birthday cake

Image by freakgirl via Flickr

A friend turns fifty today. It’s one of those “milestone” birthdays of which are scare once a person passes the infamous twenty-one. Passing from one decade to another though ceases to be momentous after a certain point because, in my opinion, many of us peak in terms of knowledge base and ability to add to existing skill sets.

My friend is not one of the stunted folk, which isn’t a surprise in a earth sign. In fact, I’ve only known one earth sign in my life who was a tool and my assessment is based on his rather twisted personality rather than a lack of innate intelligence.

Being female, however, this friend rather lamented the run up to her inaugral year in a new decade. The AARP didn’t help with it’s welcome wagon membership privileges either. Fifty is harder on women than men though my own darling husband is hurumphing and grim-faced about his own fiftieth later this year. He, at least, has the decidedly unfair advantage of the myth that men improve with age while women merely get old.

There is nothing “mere” about what happens to women as they get older nor is it appreciably different than what happens to men, but in a society that worships youth in the female form and exhorts women to look to 12 year old actresses as beauty standards, it’s understandable that many women dread and even fight aging with everything in their arsenal.

Being of a certain age myself, I am torn between grace and battle. My hair has been graying since my late twenties – it happens with redheads – but I’ve hidden it with highlights because I am blessed with that pure white replacement rather than the steely variety, but there isn’t enough of it to allow it dominance. Blonde simply lightens me in a way whitening red does not.

For the moment, I do nothing, but I think about doing something and that is maddening. Because why should I think about doing something anyway?

Not long ago I ran across an article bemoaning the fact that Elle Fanning is the new fashion “it” girl, the one designers love and hype as the “perfect female form”.

She’s twelve. And who wasn’t sparkly and full of feminine promise at that age?

Of course it’s her rack that attracts both filmmakers and haute couture pimps alike. She’s coltish with a ballerina body type, blond and fair. She’s the fantasy. The idea that for some reason maturity ruins females. Roundness and hair in the wrong places, and oozing once a month render us worthless. Not to mention that it is the beginning of the end. Age will take us and if it takes us – it can take men too.

Maybe that’s the real appeal. Men look at scandalously young females and see themselves in a way that defies the mirrors they ignore.

But why should my friend lament fifty? Why should anyone?

It’s not like many of us would willingly relive twelve. No one but the most stunted long to be teenagers again in any way. And, for one, resent the suggestion that I should emulate a 12 year old. It’s insulting and not just a little creepy.

In mythology, women travel from maiden to crone, but crone is powerful. The form she takes is of her choosing really, and that is the beauty of aging. Choice. And the wisdom, experience  and means to make ones that suit us. Let a 12 year old claim that.

At twelve, females are objects. Too young to know that, they smile and accept inappropriate and dangerous to them ideas and attention. At 50, not so much.

Happy Birthday then to my fabously fifty friend, who is wise and wily and wonderful.

Blond long-haired young lady woman watching th...

Image by mikebaird via Flickr

Dee insisted on having her long hair cut to shoulder length just before the start of the current school year. I quizzed her extensively right up until the stylists began shearing because Dee’s hair has always been long and I wanted no teary trauma in the aftermath.

But she has been quite chipper and pleased with her shorter do. I don’t see her growing it out again and in her dream world, it would be shorter. She balks at pixies only because her curl would never succumb and she isn’t a fan of fussing with her tresses.

I admit to toying with the idea of cutting my hair as I watch my daughter delight in her new look. Aside from the curl, our hair is not of similar texture or thickness. My locks are dense, coarse and the only way I could go short without adding fuss time to my daily routine would be to have myself sheered like a sheep.

And then there’s the whole aversion to short hair thing I have.

Part of it stems from my parents’ stubborn insistence that I have short hair as I was growing up.  It was a curly tangle that I resisted allowing anyone to comb when I was quite small which accounted for some of their stance, but it was also a way to deal with the fact that I was not as feminine as they hoped I would be.  If I would not be a proper girl, then perhaps I should look more masculine.

I talked them into letting me grow out my hair when I was in fifth grade.  It made it to my shoulder before my father ordered my mother to take me to the beauty shop and have it hacked back to my ears.

I liked it long. He didn’t. The battle was on until I simply declared my independence as a junior in high school and let it grow out. I didn’t do more than a cursory trim and thin for the next ten years. In college, it hung to the middle of my back. As it was the most feminine thing about me, I treasured it. And as it attracted the most attention from men, I wore it down as often as I could.  For a girl who’d never aroused much male interest, I saw my long hair as a plus.  It enabled me to shake labels like “tomboy”.  A notion that I still regard as an attempt to force me to be someone other than who I was.

When I hit my early thirties, the questions about when I would finally go back to short hair for good began.

I watched as some of my peers cut their hair off, prompted by birthdays or babies. And I noted that in the press there was an obsession with fashion gurus and their opinions that long hair and old women didn’t mix.

There’s lot of bunk about hair changing as we age and that it simply looks ratty on older women. A lot of that though is damage to hair caused by the shampoos, dying, heat from blow dryers and curling irons and other artificial things we do in the name of shaping and styling.  Hair, like skin, changes but probably not as drastically as the movers and shakers in fashion would like us to believe.

Long hair as seen as a desperate attempt by older women to retain youth.


I see more desperation in boob jobs, Botox and extreme dieting, but oddly that is largely ignored or worse, is seen as a rational response.

Long hair is an act of rebellion. Women have their life stages, right? Maiden, Mother and Crone. We should go gently shorn into that good cronehood. I question the “crone” stage. I am betting that it’s a male term plastered over a much more realistic female one.

My hair began in rebellion but it remains because it just works better for me.

Whether women can go short is more about hair texture, face and skull shape and neckline/length. The same applies for adding inches.

And then there is personal style, temperament and image.

Many other intangibles as well.

So I bristle at the “old” thing. My hair length, like my laugh lines and the sag of my breasts are all mine to embrace or reject or remold.  Not society’s and certainly not some fashionista’s from the world of Make Believe where women are deemed obese beyond a size four. What would someone who doesn’t deal in reality know about real women anyway, I ask you.

Someday, when I am quite old, I may shave my head completely. Just to make people wonder why and to get a good look at my head – which really hasn’t been seen since I was about two and a half. But until then, I will maintain length.


Just to prove the muffin top is not limited to LA

Image by Malingering via Flickr


Though there are likely more than 12, I am guessing that the number one bad fit is some sort of trouser. It gathers unflatteringly at the crotch and produces a muffin-ish roll at the waist. It’s too long or a tiny bit too short depending on the female in question’s inseam because in America it’s 30″, 32″ or 34″. Period. With 31″ being the inexplicable default when manufacturers’ feel that catering to girth is duty enough.

What strikes me as amazing is that pouring ourselves into pants that obviously don’t fit has been in vogue for so long that women, more or less, can’t tell when they are wearing the wrong size.

Take muffining for example. Most young women spill over the waistband. Even those who are thin – by real life standards or Hollywood ones – feel that unless they are being squeezed up and over the top of their pants – they must be too big.

What a fantastic bit of salesmanship! Fashionista Americana must still glow pridefully for pulling off that neat trick.

A recent U.K. study* revealed that women, generally, have at least 12 outfits in their closets that don’t fit them at all. Too big.  Or, more likely, too small. And the decades old nonsense of buying something too small to encourage yourself to lose weight or get in shape is still one of the culprits behind this unsurprising revelation.

When I posted a link to the article on my Facebook feed, my sis, DNOS, replied that she probably had more outfits than that. Her husband is forever imploring her to thin the unwearable herd.  If I lived closer, I’d offer to help.  Some of the flock is mine.  Things I grew weary of or decided didn’t suit me. I bet that a good portion of my college days wardrobe is currently huddled together in my sister’s closet, discussing their days of yore – when someone actually wore them.

My youngest sister still wears a couple of my old pre-Dee pair of jeans I gave her during one of her many cash-strapped periods. Whereas DNOS will accept much of what I offer (though she considers my style and colour preferences fuddy-duddy), BabySis – a beggar if ever there was one – is choosy as hell. The only items she’s ever accepted were jeans and sweatshirts.

I pruned my own closet again mid-summer in anticipation of a garage sale that will have to wait until spring now. As I glanced through the closet the other day, I realized that Rob takes up most of the space. I would be hard put to find 12 ill-fitting outfits, but I could probably rid myself of four or five that I don’t truly love anymore.

True love is my criteria for keeping or purchasing clothing.

Which brings me to a list of sad statistics about women that this study also (re)discovered:

  • most women own at least three different sizes of clothing to accommodate their yo-yo dieting
  • Just 2% of women were happy with their looks
  • Most women think they are “frumpy”
  • 1 in 10 women thinks she is fat

I accidentally discovered I’d gained a bit of weight and am farther over my “happy weight** than I have been in a long while. The interesting thing is that I didn’t have much of a reaction. I happen to think that I look pretty good at the moment. The yoga I am doing has added a bit of muscle – which accounts for some of the weight – but it’s also changed how I “fill out” so-to-speak.  First time in my life that the number on a scale hasn’t sent me into a dieting free-fall. It was kind of nice.

It is nice.

I am whittling down my fabric possessions. It doesn’t have much to do with ill-fit. Much of what I sell or donate doesn’t fit my life-style anymore and what I can’t garage-sale, I have to pitch because it’s simply worn out. I have so few pieces of clothing that I am actually wearing them out – like I did when I was a kid.

*Boggles me a bit what people get paid to study.