Mutton Dressed as Lamb and the Style Police
Isn't the phrase 'mutton dressed as lamb' one of the worst ever dreamed up to keep older women firmly in their place? Last week I wrote about being styled with clothes from a new clothing range, Hope Fashions aimed 'at the over 40's and this provoked some comments on Facebook along the lines of "I HATE being told that I must wear certain things 'at my age." Whilst I heartily endorse that sentiment, I would also argue that there are still plenty of taboos for older women in terms of what is deemed acceptable over a certain age. The style police are everywhere just waiting to tell us what we should and shouldn't be allowed to do.
Leather Trousers. A few months ago Angela Ripon (71) strode out wearing black leather trousers and some fancy knee high boots. She is still enviably tall and slim and I think she looked fantastic. But she got loads of negative comments like the following one posted in a thread on a social media site for older women:
"Have just watched Rip off Britain where Angela Rippon was wearing leather trousers. She is 70, is it just me who thinks that's a no,no ?"
"I agree leather trousers look fabulous on a nice tight, young bottom and hideous on an old saggy one"
Angela's riposte to them was perfect: "When I was buying my leather trousers I didn't notice a label in them saying "Only to be worn by twenty somethings.'...The problem is, when you get to my age, the style police say you shouldn't wear this or that. I say knickers to that!"
Colourful Whacky Clothes. I love it when I find examples of women or styles which are unusual and slightly whacky. I am not remotely like that myself and don't feel that I can pull off that ethnic/boho/hippy vibe at all but I really admire it when I see it done well. I recently came across someone called Saramai who epitomises what I am talking about. I've also posted some wonderful Ari Seth Cohen photos on Facebook showing this kind of style and been amazed by some of the comments from the style police, like this one on our FB post:
"These ladies think they look fabulous and I think they've come off the wrong end of an argument with a rainbow and need to get back to the asylum."
Long Grey Hair. This one really gets the style police foaming at the mouth! There is something about allowing your hair to grow really long when you are older that seems to offend lots of people. I have written blogposts on this subject in the past because I was genuinely astonished when I first experienced this phenomenon when we were doing the makeup for a photo shoot with White Hot Hair. The wonderful Nicola Griffin (56) was one of the models so I took a photo on my phone and posted it on Facebook and these were two of the comments I got:
"She needs to have her hair cut it would take years off her."
"I personally don't like long hair on our age group..A sharp bob would be very smart on such lovely thick hair and such a good looking women."
Red Lipstick. It seems that at a given age (not sure which) lips are no longer suitable for the kind of attention that red lipsticks draws to them. The reason is probably similar to the one for cutting hair shorter the older you get. Red lips and lustrous locks are associated with a certain kind of allure and attraction thought no longer to apply to older women. Again, negative comments about this from the style police amazed me when I first read them. I have always loved red lipstick and wear it now for special occasions for sure, but I also apply LFF vibrant Cherry Red Lip Colour whenever I am in the mood to do so. I see no reason for anyone to object to that, but object they do! When I posted this photo by Ari Seth Cohen on Facebook I got this comment:
"I think that red lipstick looks hard and ageing with those ridiculous glasses and all that widows black."
Does any of this matter? Not if you genuinely don't give a damn what other people think like the wonderful Iris Apfel who at 94 breaks all the rules. However most (including me) aren't that brave. Having just looked at all five of the photos on this page, I have realised that my mother would have disapproved of them all! She is my own internalised style policewoman who believed in 'standards' and was by nature deeply conservative. But the style police are everywhere leaving comments like the ones above designed to keep us all in line. Maybe we need to take a leaf out of Angela Rippon's book and say in unison: "knickers to you, I'll wear what I like!"
Have you ever experienced comments from the style police? Have you become braver as you have got older or are you afraid of being seen as 'mutton dressed as lamb?'
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