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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rules Are For Breaking, So Say The Middle Aged Goddesses

For most of my life I have been a rule-follower. I have never been late with my taxes, I come to a full stop at stop signs, I go out the out-door. My car registration is up-to-date and prominently displayed. I have never parked in a handicapped spot, not even in the pouring rain, when I just needed a quart of milk. My strict upbringing instilled in me the value of conforming to society's guidelines, and the harsh penalties (including Hell!) for Having a Mind of One's Own.

Lives in my head

In my twenties and thirties I outgrew my fear of independent thought, but I have continued to be a strict rule follower in most areas. And in most areas, this is an admirable quality. We can't have middle-aged women suddenly deciding to blast through red lights or refusing to pay taxes, can we? What's next, divorcing our husbands, dying our hair red, and moving to Vegas?

Well, bouts of mania aside, I've been mulling over the myriad rules for "How to Dress Over 40." You have seen them, I'm sure, because you are blog-readers and you care about fashion. There are a lot of reasonable suggestions in these lists, that apply to all ages, like:

  • Don't go about town with your personal parts exposed
  • Short shorts and bare tank tops are best for the beach and barbecues only
  • Same for flip-flops
  • Wear your best colors
  • Etc.

Some other items on the lists are quite limiting and, well, boring. Even at 50+ I find I like to bend and break the rules, and I admire other women who do. My sidebar of favorite blogs contains many bold and beautiful women of a certain age who are not confining themselves to navy blue skirt suits.

Some of the ways I enjoy messing with the rules are:
  • Leggings: love them with skirts and boots
  • Speaking of boots: cowboy boots in the summer, a "young" look that I love for myself
  • Maxi skirts, slim or full, with a big chunky belt
  • Dangly earrings with a sense of humor
  • Going hose-less even though my pale legs are far from youthful
  • Skinny jeans

I love this look, from Manolo for the Brides

I'm not sure all of these things are the "very best" looks for my age and body, but i enjoy them, and I feel great in them. There are many more items I will not wear because I know they don't flatter me and/or they are truly too "young" for me. (The short shorts would most definitely fall into this category).

How about you? Breaking any rules today? Vegas, anyone?

Reminder:  Tomorrow, July 11th is Visible Monday, a group posting for anyone who'd like to participate. The simple guidelines are here. Basically, just post something that makes you feel wonderful/visible, and send me a link to it. I'll post all the pics and links here!


  1. I applaud your post, and your attitude! I have found that my careful cultivation of ignorance as regards "the rules" has provided the freedom I need to dress as I wish. And as I am self-employed, I can define "dress for success" (remember that term?) as I see fit. Now I just have to learn to indulge my own desires rather than upbraid myself when I make a choice in favor of more conservative dressing, even when that's what I really want to do.

  2. Fashionwise, I don't go about breaking the rules for the sake of doing it but I hope I have a sense of what looks good and decent on me,in most cases. So in this sense I surely break some rules and I don't even know it.

  3. I guess I reframe "rules" as suggestions. If you want to look thinner, wear clothes that skim the body, say. If you want to minimize a larger bottom half, wear darker colors in simple cuts there. If your thighs aren't your favorite feature, try bermuda shorts. Cap sleeves accetuate the shoulders and upper arms--great if you want to balance narrow shoulders--not so much if you have heavy upper arms.

    Other suggestions are along the lines of, "You know, especially at your age/for this event/in current fashion you are pushing the boundaries of 'good taste and style' when you wear go-go boots, showy earrings, low cut tops, low rise pants, pleated pants, calf-length skirts." Go ahead and do it, just be aware of the impression you are making, fwiw.

    A lot of women have no idea that, say, high-waisted, pleated pants pegged at the ankles with a broad-shouldered longer jacket--a zoot suit someone just described this as on Corporette, is very early 1990s and makes a certain style statement--they think it's classic, good style. I have a friend from Paris who wears this look all the time and carries it off very well--but I also know many women who seem to have bought all their work clothes before 1990, and look like it, and maybe don't care, but maybe do.

    It's like I have gray hair, on purpose. I realize it makes me look older than I might be able to pass for (I have good skin) if I dyed it. I don't care. Other friends make a great effort to color their hair-- covering gray or lightening it. Some look great--others could try harder to avoid either the shoe-polish look or the Frost n' Tips look-- they really want to look stylish, but miss the mark.

    That's why I enjoy these blogs--they provide a sanity check--am I presenting myself they way I'd like to?

  4. I did get a divorce, cut off all my long hair, dyed it red and started skydiving! It was fabulous! LOL 20 years later, I still don't follow too many rules. (Have to pay those taxes though!)
    I wear what I like, as long as it looks good. My days of mini skirts and short shorts are long thank goodness. So much pressure gone when I figured out I'd never have to shopping for another bathing suit in this lifetime! ;)

  5. kbfenner:

    I agree, if one is departing from the usual guidelines, it should be a conscious decision, not an act of self-delusion. Some people can get away with things that others can't. It depends on the person.

    Another suggestion that applies to all ages:

    Just because you can fit into something doesn't mean it's right for you.

    I stopped wearing hose during the summer a few years ago, despite being very self-conscious about a childhood scar and now I have some age spots. It's too damned hot.

  6. For most of my life, till about 43, I worried that I might do something someone wouldn't like. Rules? My mom changed them daily. Society rules, or roles, moved with me into marriage with someone not suited to free thinking. But.....
    Now I am mated with a 25 year younger person, (22 years together). After breaking that rule, not much else matters.
    I don't wear stockings or tights or boots. To me they are uncomfortable.
    I don't wear tight clothes. To me they are uncomfortable.
    I don't wear high heels. To me they are uncomfortable.
    I do wear color, big jewelry, and I carry a big purse. I am a big person. And I'm not sure what the rules are for someone at 66. Whatever they may be I don't have time left to worry about them. I guess I'm not following the rules either.

  7. I enjoy those "don't" fashions! I have tried leggings, straight jeans, no hose (I hate hose), maxi dresses, dangly big earrings and tall boots with a skirt in spring. I haven't done the cowboy boots with a summer dress but I love it. I don't own a pair of cowboy boots, yet, but now you've got me thinking! Debbie http://thriftygirlvintage.com

  8. Rules? I don't know no stinkin' rules!
    Really, I don't show any skin from above the knees to the collar bone(except a little cleavage). No Disney characters. No advertising. And no traditional retail but shoes and socks. Everything else is up for discussion.

  9. Pat--I have a post up for Visible Monday at this link:


    I am working on a strange computer and cannot get to your e-mail. :)

  10. Thank you Terri - I've got it and you are in!

  11. I've spent life as a chronic Good Girl, too, so this made me laugh. You know what they say: Well-behaved women rarely make history. Breaking fashion rules is half the fun! My biggest rule-breaker is probably wearing chunky, "tough" shoes rather than dainty, ladylike ones, thought to be more flattering. I just like badass shoes better!