Aging is an Attitude: Sweatpants on a plane

I’m not the most fashion-forward woman I know, mainly because I’ll always choose physical comfort over what’s trending, or what’s considered standard women’s wear for sex appeal (3 or more inches of heel). Still, I love to follow fashions, both here in the U.S. and abroad. I used to sew a lot (not so much lately), and appreciate luxe fabrics and a finely-cut garment. I also know, from experience, that well-fitting clothes can totally change a woman’s “swagger” in a meeting or other important public setting. For women, clothing often projects how we feel, or want to feel, at any given moment.

One of my favorite pastimes, while I’m stuck in an airport security line or just waiting to board, is to observe how women dress for travel: the amazing variety and self-expression of their clothing! No woman I know who’s planning for a flight of any duration (5 or more hours) doesn’t give thought to personal comfort, pre-flight. Having said that, the vast chasm between a designer-outfit with coordinating accessories, and sweatpants, hoodie and flip-flops, makes me want to get into these women’s heads just a little, to speculate about that pre-flight consideration. How important is comfort and utility, versus how we might be perceived but others? What does a totally pulled-together outfit, perhaps completely impractical for travel (wrinkles, constriction in all the wrong places), telegraph about a woman? By contrast, what does a pair of sweats and Birks telegraph about a Sister on the same flight?

If we consider women’s fashions (for centuries, a highly lucrative industry), the plethora of clothing options we have, and how individual women choose to dress in public venues, we can look through a window to observe a woman’s attitude at the time she was clothing herself for ‘whatever’ situation. As we become older, wiser women, we may give more care, or less care to what we wear. We might now begin to feel limited by our body shape, changing face and hair, and physical issues (sagging this, or bulging that, etc.) We might also now struggle with feeling a need to keep pace with Youth, straying into styles and “looks” that don’t feel authentic to who we’ve become.

As older, wiser women we recognize life stages, and accompanying clothing, as we make our progress. We’re young and single: perhaps more sexually alluring in our choices. We marry and “settle down” (a term coined by a man, I’m certain): we become more relaxed in the security of having attained unconditional and committed love and our sense of style reflects that. We become Moms (and perhaps executives at the same time): our work-outfit is “suiting-up”, but we don the comfort clothes as soon as we get home. Middle-age and beyond is a time of transition: the children are grown, perhaps with their own families. Women are either in relationship with someone, seeking a relationship, or happily alone. In ideal circumstances, the older, wiser woman now has the freedom to choose her “look”. Some of my friends are clearly in a battle with what they perceive as “getting old”, as far as clothing and general appearance. Others might project “diggin’ on being a Grandma”: relaxed, sensible, sexy-neutral. Far too many women of a certain age, it seems to me, accept “shapeless and bland” as their style, with no middle ground options between youth and decrepitude.

Whatever the age or stage of life, a woman’s prerogative is to dress herself according to how she feels and how she wants to be perceived by the world. The cost or cut of clothing is less important than feeling good, when you catch yourself in a store window’s reflection. Older, wiser women may experience a feeling of “invisibility” in the world, and therefore disregard the importance of our own joy in our appearance. I say to all women, resist that notion as a trap of your own making. Make an honest appraisal of your wardrobe and of your body. Change things up if they need changing, to reflect who you are and how your precious Self wants to feel. You’re not in competition with anyone, and giving-in to Despair Due to Aging is not the loving response to any age-related fears you may have. Women are living longer and better lives. You may have a lot of interesting living to do, just ahead, so pack lightly, but pack well.

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