Express Yourself (At Any Age)

Photo: Ari Seth Cohen

Photo: Ari Seth Cohen

Another dress?

That sounded like a verbal eyeroll if I ever heard one. It came from my husband, eyeing up my latest purchase a vintage dress in a perfect spring colour (helloooo, pink!) and in absolutely perfect condition.

Where are you planning on wearing this dress?

That’s a funny question. I dress up for grocery shopping, to the library, any errand, really. Or I don’t. Last time I went to the library, I wore vintage mechanic’s overalls with high-tops. Depends on my mood. One thing’s for certain, I have fun expressing myself with clothing. Always have, always will.

Always will? Yes. Taking pride in one’s appearance, or having fun with it, isn’t something that you grow out of. The New York Times wrote a great piece last week called “Vanity is Not a Deadly Sin. It’s One of Life’s Last Vital Signs.” The article visits a group of senior citizens who live in upscale retirement homes in the states.

Writer Ruth La Ferla spoke to retired New York real estate agent Shirley Freitag who is in her 80s. Keeping up one’s image takes work, Freitag told La Ferla. Still, “I don’t even walk my dog without putting lipstick on.”

Photo: Ari Seth Cohen

Photo: Ari Seth Cohen

“If you had style when you were younger, it never goes away,” Eve Greenfield told La Ferla. Greenfield loves shopping and swimming. She’s 101 years old. As La Ferla writes: “She is part of an aging population whose sense of vanity remains intact: if not the last vital sign, as may be supposed, a reliable index of energy and self-regard.”

Greenfield is so passionate about looking her best, she occasionally holds classes at her Florida retirement home, giving fashion and beauty tips to interested fellow residents.

It’s a refreshing story. I personally love hearing about older people’s takes on life. It’s nice to get confirmation from older cool cats that personal style has no expiration date, and that there’s nothing wrong with reflecting who we are as we evolve. Do what makes you happy. If you’re looking for further inspiration, check out Ari Seth Cohen’s fantastic book Advanced Style: Older & Wiser.

An interesting note on the comments. There were several people who bemoaned the fact that these women were affluent. Of course they can dress nicely, they said. They have the money! While I suppose that’s partially true, why make such harsh judgments? As mentioned on this blog before (Slow Down Fashion) personal style can be cobbled together a variety of ways, including combing your local vintage and consignment stores (even the online ones are good these days!).

There was also the assumption that because these women were wealthy, that they didn’t give back to their communities. Huh, what!? As Ali wrote in the comments section: “You can wear Yves St Laurent red lipstick and give to animal charities. You can coordinate your shoes with your dress and write your Congressman about climate change. You can start Pilates at 90 and help your millennial grandson with college. If you want to continue to care about your appearance as you get older, great - more power to you. It's not vanity to take pride in wanting to present yourself well, within reason.”

Exactly.

Have some fun out there, people!