Monday, 3 June 2013

Do clothes maketh the woman?

Many years ago when I worked in Human Resources, interviewers were warned not to judge applicants by their appearance. As an obvious example, if a young blonde woman wearing a mini-skirt walked into the interview room, it would be very wrong to assume that she was a bimbo: chances are that she's better qualified than the interviewer! I remember one place that I worked at where our receptionist used to give us the low-down on candidates: "Dirty finger nails - a bit scruffy looking." "Stuck up. Totally ignored me." It was hard not to be biased against certain applicants after her comments!

Candidates too are warned to wear appropriate clothes: "If you are going for an interview at a finance company, then dress conservatively" is the standard advice. I guess that I've always been a slight rebel at heart, as I have always been of the opinion that if a company didn't like the way I looked, then it wasn't a company that I wanted to work for. Having said that, I kept denims for out of office wear unless it was a dress-down Friday.

Now that I've retired I don't have to worry about dressing appropriately for work, however I think I am even more aware about what messages my appearance may be sending to people, although the rebel in me doesn't really worry about it! Women over 60 used to be told that they shouldn't wear jeans, to cover their knees, and to avoid the latest fashion trends like the plague. The one terrible fate that we wanted to avoid was appearing as mutton dressed as lamb! Our grandmothers and great aunts seemed to spend their time in the kitchen with their pinnies on and, to our younger selves, seemed positively ancient. Does the picture below look familiar?

Many of our grandmothers didn't go out to work, were practically chained to the kitchen sink and dressed dowdily, whereas my generation of women expects to have a career outside the home, to be treated as equals and we enjoy wearing more flattering clothes.

The good news is that there are lots of older role models out there: Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon immediately spring to mind. However those of us who haven't been born with their natural beauty and talent, and who definitely don't have a film star's budget, have also learnt to make the most of our assets.

Being interested in fashion, I am fully aware of the styles and colours that many other older women wear. They look stylish in a low-key and age appropriate way, which used to be my aim too. Their wardrobes contain black, navy, grey or other neutrals, all beautifully matched and stylish. However over the last year or so I have embraced my inner rebel and started wearing more colourful outfits. Why? Because they make me feel lighter, happier and because I think that they flatter me more. What do you think?



  1. Love the colors! Your necklaces are lovely, too. I don't think women over 60 (or over 40 for that matter) should have to wear only neutrals and play themselves down. The way you dress is totally age-appropriate and you look like a fun and approachable person.

    If you like black (as I do), then for all means wear it, but wear some colors, too. I think the colors look better on you than black would, with your fair coloring.

    Keep up the great work! I'm enjoying catching up on your blog posts today...

  2. Some people wear neutrals well, and are overwhelmed with too much color. I love color, but as a soft summer (deep) I need to stay with dustier colors. Too much overwhelms me. I have long worn vibrant colors (when not in uniform) and now realize I was being worn. So, sure, go crazy for color, but do be aware of our best colors when we do.

    Did you decide on a packing wardrobe once and for all?

  3. Debbie and Robin, you both make some very good points.

    Debbie, I used to like wearing black too but now I am in my 60s it looks too harsh on me.

    Robin, you are quite right in saying that bright colours can overwhelm some people. The message that I am trying to get across is that we are all individuals so, rather than listening to the style experts, we should use our own judgement on what colours suit us best.

    I am about to select my travel wardrobe as we speak! The forecast is variable so it is definitely going to be layers. I hope to have time to post photos before we leave.

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