Fashion faux pas for the 50s (nearly)

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All I want is a top. Perhaps, two tops. Okay, definitely three. That’s all. It’s not like I’m asking to take Aidan Turner’s inside leg measurement, is it?

Actually, I think wiping down Poldark’s excess sweat would be a much easier challenge than being a near-50-year-old searching for clothes.

I went to the usual suspects who have served me so well over the years – H&M, Zara, New Look – but the collections failed to impress. Well, I say failed to impress; what I really mean is failed to reach over my nipples. Crop tops are one fashion I will not be harvesting.

And so I turned to the wonders of the web, only to be hit by some of the worst clothes I’ve seen since Kanye’s last catwalk show. Big floral prints, sequinned motifs, pinafores – PINAFORES? Who wears pinafores outside of Call the Midwife? Yet these collections – and I use that word loosely because the only thing collective about them was a lack of style – were labelled as “classic clothing for the older woman”.

It seems I’ve entered the twilight zone of fashion: too old to emulate Miley Cyrus, too young to follow the Duchess of Cambridge’s style…

So what are the things that got my knickerbockers in a twist, I hear you ask. Seeing as you insist…

Scarves. Now I like scarves and there’s a place for them in every wardrobe, but I don’t want to wear them everyday, yet that’s what all the Fabutastic at Fifty websites advise. It’s like a uniform for women who’ve been made to feel their necks are ugly because they’re old. And yet I haven’t seen a man hide his aging Adam’s apple in a cravat since Des O’Connor last graced our television screens so I figure what’s good for the goose is good for the gander – and my turkey neck.

Knee-length skirts. According to the “rules”, mini-skirts are a no-no once you’re past 40 and yet, so are ankle-reachers. Women over 40 should wear skirts just on their knees, apparently, which would be great if I were a trainee celibate nun with a penchant for brown corduroy. But I’m 5ft and a teeny bit – that teeny bit is getting teenier too – and have calves that Giant Haystacks would be proud of so the only thing I can say to knee-length skirts is: get thee to a nunnery.

Sleeves. Careful, It Jiggles! screams the headline of a Huffington Post piece (which I will not deign to give clicks to by adding a link). What were they talking about? Why, older women’s arms, of course, and the snotty article underneath made it clear that the writer felt that after a certain age, you had to cover up, like it or not. Ways to do this include shrugs (because it’s the 1990s all over again), stoles, cardies (*shivers*) and illusion sleeves – aka tights for your arms. Tights for your arms, I ask you.

Bosoms. There seems to be some magical world where women of a certain age loose their breasts and develop bosoms. Big matronly mounds like the Queen. What else can explain the fact that so many clothing sites for women of 40+ start don’t do anything smaller than a UK size 12? Mind you, that isn’t too upsetting.

Prices. It’s not just my chest that hasn’t got the message that it’s meant to expand, my purse is obviously severely deaf. One newspaper column discussing clothes for the older lady advised going shopping in the likes of LK Bennett, Whistles, Hobbs and Vivienne Westwood and that if it doesn’t fit, you should get your tailor to alter it. Aye, right, and you can get your lady’s maid to take it for you while you pop into Lidl.

Pastels. I’m an adult woman, not a newborn nor a contestant on Come Dancing. The only pastels I want are Fruit ones.

And while we’re at it, no: ruffles; frills; sequins; beige; elasticated waists; sensible shoes; crimplene; and anything labelled classic, smart, comfy or from M&S. Obvs.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. Women have always been told what they should or shouldn’t wear and many of these rules are just a continuation of that, pigeon-holing us into looking a certain way – and that seems to be a very staid and uniform way. “Don’t expect any attention, old woman,” say these sites. “Hide those parts of your body that show your age; camouflage your age.” Even the Guardian, in a piece on dressing in your 50s earlier this month, used 20-year-old models for its photos.

But I don’t want to look 20 – I’ve looked 20 and have the acne scars to show for it. I don’t want to look like someone whose life is ahead of her because I’ve had a great life, filled with amazing experiences, and I’m going to put that on show. You can keep Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner; give me Iris Apfel, Daphne Selfe and all the Fabulous Fashionistas.

And Aidan Turner.

We’re a new generation of older ladies, brought up on punk and new romantics and Bananarama. Gone are the days of housecoats and pearls and cauliflower perms. So lets have fashion that embraces that; fashion that shows us off, not hides us away; fashion that the 20-year-olds envy. Fashion that shows us for the fabulous women we are. Jiggly bits and all.

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