Roxane had this question:
The standard fashion advice for older women (over 40) regarding jeans always seems to be to go for a more formal look (dark wash, lack of trendy decoration, etc. etc.). I understand this if the question is about how to wear jeans in a business-casual outfit or another “dressy” look.
I’m not talking about throwing on poorly-fitting jeans with a bland, stretched out t-shirt (since most of us interested in fashion aren’t looking for that). And the seriously acid-washed stuff can stay in the 80s, as far as I’m concerned. I’m almost 42, and the whole reason I own jeans is to be casual. I wear them with scuffed up boots or funky shoes, graphics-tees (something else I’m supposedly too old for), or to dress down something sparkly or glam. None of my jeans (all-boot leg or straight) are very dark.
What is it about being “older” that means “not casual” in a particular way?
This is a fantastic question, and one I’d never really pondered. Why on earth do we all think that women “of a certain age” must suddenly downshift to dark washes for the rest of their days? I’ll get to jeans specifically in a moment, but first the larger question: Why do we expect older women to look dressier than their younger counterparts?
My guess is that it has to do with the loathesome concept of “letting yourself go.” This is snarky, judgmental code for “caring less about the beauty standard and making choices that suit you instead of the patriarchy.” I know that sounds harsh, but seriously, how awful is it that we come down on women for choosing comfort over stylishness as they age? Ever heard someone tsk-tsking about a man who has “let himself go”?
One of the ways we encourage older women to resist “letting themselves go” is to keep their clothes from getting too casual. If you’re dressed smartly, you’re showing the world you still care. If you leave the house in sweatpants, you’ve obviously “given up.” Dark wash jeans are dressier than lighter washes, and considerably dressier than any jeans with whiskering, sanding, or distressing. Ergo people tend to believe and recommend that women over 40 should stick to dark washes. Or, anyway, that’s my educated guess at the social and psychological forces at work.
But the idea that it’s dark washes forever after the big 4-0 is absolute bunk. Peek at Grown and Curvy Woman or Style at a Certain Age to see two stylish women over 40 rocking a variety of jean styles and washes. All style rules are merely guidelines, and age-related style rules are even more guideline-y than the rest, if you ask me. I don’t believe that fat women should never wear formfitting clothes, I don’t believe that short women should never wear long skirts, and I don’t believe that women of ANY age should be automatically excluded from any garments or styles. We are informed adults who know our figures. We can make those calls on an individual basis.
- Reader Request: Age-appropriate Dressing
- Loose Style Guidelines for Women Over 40 (In which I recommend dark wash jeans! Hah!)
- You’re Too Old to Have Fun with Fashion
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