Am I Too Old to Wear a Mini Skirt?
No! Let's ignore the body-shaming ageism and just enjoy dressing up again
I usually love all things related to Oprah Winfrey. However, O Magazine Creative Director Adam Glassman pissed me off several years ago when he wrote an article telling women over “a certain age” what not to wear. Among his no-nos: mini skirts, shorts and ripped denim. He wrote that “a skirt should be an inch above or an inch below the knee,” and that we should never expose our stomachs, even if we “have rock-hard abs. It’s never appropriate.”
I’m an Aries girl who usually doesn’t hold a grudge. But I’m still worked up about this story, which remains on the magazine’s website.
I wonder if Oprah knows about this.
Funny thing is, I have unapologetically worn every one of those controversial items since turning 40. I have a background in fashion journalism and love to experiment with clothes, despite apparently having aged out of some. Hear that, Mr. Glassman?
I sometimes wonder where “style experts"—especially those of the male persuasion—come off telling women what they should or shouldn’t wear. They’ve done it so often that I even hear women my age repeat the outdated mantras to one another: “That top is for a 30-year-old.” “That dress she was wearing was completely age-inappropriate.” “If I were only 10 years younger I could pull that off.”
The generation beneath us has made it clear that “body shaming” is unacceptable. It’s absolutely not OK to tell a woman she is too large or small to wear something. Clothing retailers now feature models of all silhouettes on their websites and in their ads. We are finally embracing the fact that women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that they’re all beautiful.
But somehow, it’s still OK to tell a woman her body is not young enough to wear a certain piece of clothing?
Now, I’m not recommending that a 50-year-old woman allow her butt cheeks to hang out from underneath short-shorts. Or that she scoop up all the latest glittery trends at Express. (Although my late Aunt Terri, who spent the better part of her 40s partying at Studio 54, shopped at Forever 21 until her mid-70s.) All I’m saying is, let’s leave it up to each woman to know her body and what looks good on her.
Let us decide for ourselves.
I’ve always loved fashion, and I want to creatively express myself through my wardrobe as long as I possibly can. I’ve spent decades in this body, so at this point in my life I can safely walk into a store, scan the women’s section and, in minutes, hone in on clothes that suit me. I’m sure you can too.
My current style is an extension of the one I’ve been developing since my late 20s, with some tweaks and upgrades. In general, I’ve stayed true to my basic vibe and let it evolve as my lifestyle and wardrobe needs have changed. I’m still brave enough to wear what I want, including short dresses and slightly cropped tops, although these days the skirts are slightly longer than they once were and the tops show less skin. I accessorize with better quality shoes, bags and jewelry. I own more jackets than I used to, along with a few more formal dresses. However, I love jeans as much as ever, and the heels on my footwear (with the exception of my running shoes) have remained characteristically high.
I have to admit that once in a while, even I question whether I might be going too far by wearing a trend that might be perceived as “too young” for me. But as long as the outfit is appropriate for the occasion, it fits me well, and I feel confident wearing it, I usually end up going for it. One of the great things about getting older is that I don’t care as much about what other people—especially male fashion writers—think.
OK, so I’ve made it clear that I hate fashion rules, especially restrictive ones. But if I had to offer any guidelines, it would be these simple ones:
Don't jump on every trend. It’s fine to experiment with new looks. But while fads come and go, your personal style stays with you forever—so take the time to develop yours if you haven’t already. My friend Gail, a fashion editor who chats with me on this week’s More Beautiful Podcast, emits a cool-girl vibe with her wardrobe of jackets, jeans and chunky shoes, while I favor more dresses, skirts and flowing pants. But we each have a distinct style and have built a wardrobe around a collection of classic and/or workhorse pieces. For me, these include a little black dress, a black blazer, a tailored white shirt, skinny jeans and boyfriend jeans, silk wide-legged pants and silk joggers, a leather moto jacket, a couple of bodysuits, several cashmere sweaters, and a few blouses in gorgeous colors and prints.
Put your own spin on a look. Every type of clothing comes in many styles, so find a version that suits you best—just as you did when you were younger. For instance, I wouldn’t wear a romper (another item often seen on over-40 “don’t” lists) that exposes too much or is super tight. But I will wear a classy tailored romper paired with pumps for an evening out.
Wear the best fabrics you can afford. Toss the cheap, environmentally toxic “fast fashion” and go for earth-friendly organic cotton or more durable options such as silk, linen, wool and cashmere. The planet will thank you, and so will your body when you wear clothes that feel good against your skin.
If you don’t feel comfortable, change. We’ve all gone out in something we end up feeling uncomfortable in, whether it’s an overly snug pair of jeans or a too-short skirt. If you can’t sit, walk, dance, eat or breath easily in a getup, what’s the point?
In the end, it comes down to confidence. To paraphrase Lizzo, if you can walk that fine ass out the door feeling good as hell, that’s all you need.
But wait, there’s more…
Be sure to scroll all the way down for this week’s More Beautiful Weekend picks and a link to this week’s podcast episode. Meanwhile, here are some celebs who’ve clearly broken the fashion “rules,” plus a few of my own indiscretions.
If celebs can do it…
So can we, ladies…
Go ahead, call the fashion police. I’m happy to do my time—in fact, I hear those orange rompers are all the rage.
Please share with me something you’ve recently worn that “pushed the limits.”
Have a More Beautiful Weekend…*
READ: Every woman remembers what she was wearing during pivotal moments in her life. Ilene Beckman’s Love, Loss and What I Wore, which was adapted into a play by Nora Ephron and her sister Delia, traces one woman’s life journey through her wardrobe selections.
WATCH: Every autumn I lament the fact that the “September issues” of my favorite magazines are no longer the influential tomes they once were. If you’ve been missing them too, rewatch the 2009 documentary that chronicles the making of Vogue’s fall blockbuster. Nothing was perfect back then—including the lack of diversity on editorial staffs—but the film offers an enthralling look back at a bygone fashion era.
EAT: Pretend you’re in Milan for fashion week and whip up this Pappardelle alla Boscaila for your most stylish friends. The dish also makes for a cozy date-night supper after Daylight Savings ends on Sunday, Nov. 7 (yes, this weekend).
DRINK: We all know it as Carrie Bradshaw’s poison on Sex and the City, and for the last two decades this cocktail has been unfairly dismissed as no longer relevant—just like the Manolo-wearing protagonist who threw it back in every trendy restaurant in Manhattan. But there’s no denying the pink-and-potent Cosmo is an oldie but goodie.
LISTEN: Who can get enough of Meryl Streep’s diabolical editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada? The soundtrack is as good a time as the movie.
SPLURGE: As the temperatures drop, you can snuggle up with this cashmere wrap that’s also great for tucking into your carry-on bag for holiday airplane travel.
PAMPER: SK-II’s Facial Treatment Mask is a cult fave for one reason: the glowing skin that emerges after you peel it off. If there’s any liquid gold—er, serum—left in the packet after applying, spread it on your décolleté, elbows, or anywhere else needing some TLC.
CONSIDER: “I say, dress to please yourself. Listen to your inner muse and take a chance. Wear something that says, ‘Here I am’ today.” —Iris Apfel
*Some cool stuff I think you’d enjoy (and nope, I’m not making a dime from these companies)
Listen to the More Beautiful Podcast!
This week, I chat on the More Beautiful Podcast with Fashion Editor Gail Goldberg about why we should ignore the fashion pundits, our style picks for a night out, and women who are rocking over-40 style. A new episode drops every Thursday. If you have suggestions for topics or guests, message me on Instagram. Thanks for listening!