Too Old to Dress Young?

May 30, 2006

Clearly this MSN.com column is an advertisement for the clothing it touts at the end. But it raises a good question: At what age does it become a social faux pas to dress “young?” Here is how this columnist’s two college-age daughters reacted when their 45-year-old aunt got her belly button pierced:

My two college-age daughters were horrified when their 45-year-old aunt got her belly button pierced. They say they’ll remove their belly rings when they have children, because it’s “inappropriate” for moms to wear them. They also think women my age (53) are too old to wear fitted jeans with sexy tops and pointy mules. The irony is that they couldn’t wear jeans wherever they like if it weren’t for our generation: We broke the rules on appropriate dressing decades ago.

What does age-appropriate dressing mean to us now? My friend Tessa, a glamorous 53-year-old personal trainer, bristles when she sees her contemporaries baring their midriffs off the beach or dressing like their daughters. “I don’t care how fit these women are,” she says. “Their faces don’t match their clothes.”

Tessa’s reaction mirrors my own: Ewwww! I don’t know what the aunt’s abs look like, but even at 29, I would never pierce my sagging pooch.

Admittedly, I have grown more conservative in dress and style over the years. I still like colorful, form-fitting clothes, but I expunged many of the baby tees and daisy dukes in my drawers years ago.

Maybe it’s the body changes I underwent after motherhood that has naturally made me more modest in dress. I wear a two-piece bathing suit, but I replaced the hot pink “Guess” suit I wore for years in favor of a more modest one by GAP — and a sarong. I let the hole in my nose and 2nd and 3rd ones in my ears close. It was too much trouble to keep them open, particularly the one on my nose. (Ouch!)

While I agree with columnist Kim Johnson Gross that women of her generation (thankfully) rewrote the rules for “appropriate” dress, I know I will do another major purge of my “old” clothes in my 30s. The last thing I want is for my poor son to see me jogging around the block in a J-Lo running suit.