What does that mean? My dad always used to say that to me, or my sister, Angharad (Angie) whenever he thought we were dressed inappropriately. If we were wearing something that made us look older than our chronological age. Like too much makeup. And in the era of Big Eyeshadow, my "eye-con" was Donna Mills, from her Knot's Landing days. So maybe he was right!
But, now that I've turned 35, what does it mean to "look my age"? I had a bit of a crisis about this a while back. Having gone through the size and shape transformation of being pregnant, having kids, trying to slim down again, and working. How do you dress for all that? Where were the style guides? Where do I turn for help? This was a big huge problem for me.
When I was 30 and slim, a working woman, on the go, living in a big metropolitan area, I had an idea of myself and my style. There was a part of me that held back, but for the most part, I dressed the way I wanted to - lots of black clothes, lots of polyester from thrift stores, sensible shoes since my feet hurt, eye make-up every day, a shoulder-length or shorter cut for my straight brown hair.
While pregnant, both times, I borrowed some clothes, and bought most of my maternity wear at Target. I went through a period where I didn't really lose the fat I wanted to, and wore clothes that were really too big for me. And I struggled to determine my own style. But how? Where could I go? Was there a magazine out there for me? A column? A Blog? I didn't feel like anyone was speaking to me.
I suggested that my friend, Lakshmi, could start writing a style column. She had moved to an even more fashion-conscious metropolis than Philadelphia (if you can imagine that!). She was facing some of the same issues about defining one's style, and after many talks I think we helped each other, but also realized how at sea we both were. Another member of a discussion board we were both on was going through a similar thing, and so I put my research skills to work. I found a book: Looking Good: A Comprehensive Guide to WardrobePlanning, Color & Personal Style Development (Paperback)
I bought the book. Its drawings are a little bit 80's focused, but then, so am I. It talks about style in ways that I can understand. I'm middle class, and don't want to spend gobs and gobs of money on clothes all the time. The book has a very good way of explaining how to allocate money for your wardrobe. The author suggests plotting out how you spend your time. Do you work outside the home, care for children, cook, clean, volunteer, exercise, etc.? You need different clothes for those different activities. So, base your expenditures on how much time you spend doing each thing. Brilliant! I did this exercise and realized that I had definitely not spent enough money on my professional outfits.
The author then suggests getting a true picture of what your body shape is (with a trusted person) by drawing an outline of your body to step away from and evaluate: where are your "trouble spots" and where are your assets? I always thought I had an overly-short waist. Turns out that's fine. There are areas I can accentuate, and so I should dress to accentuate those areas. Are solids better for me? Patterns? Short hemlines or long? V-neck, collars, turtlenecks, what necklines work for me? Angie and I worked through it all and tried to figure it out.
All good stuff to think about. I tried to think about my "style" and that's the part I'm still struggling with but I've made a few fundamental decisions:
- I want to have my own style, an evolution of my black and polyester days - the funky side of professional (and in my career that works).
- I want to accentuate the positive while I have it, so that means v-necks, tops that show my curves without flaunting, long hemlines for my long legs - knee-length at the shortest - and, based on the recommendation of another friend, heels. I wear walking shoes on my walk to work, and then change into heels at the office.
- I want to maintain my figure - not go crazy with it, but keep it at the state it's in, or better.
- Continue with the makeup style I've evolved, and start upgrading the brands I use. At my age I can move away from the 99 cents bin at the drugstore.
- Keep my hair longish, no bangs, but longer than chin-length. Again, accentuate the positive!
- Finding the kinds of clothes I envision in my mind's eye is the problem. I continue to search.... So far for professional clothes I go to Ann Taylor Loft - it seems to combine what I like best - black and polyester with a teensy bit of funkiness appropriate for work.