Choosing clothes can be easier than you think.
How do you get dressed in the morning? Do you ask yourself ‘What should a 60-year-old wear?’.
The current lockdown has changed how many of us get ready for the day ahead. We’re all experiencing a change of lifestyle and, with many home working, there is less pressure to dress for the office. Perhaps some of us are just attending to the ‘top half’ for online meetings.
Instagram is my favourite social media platform as it’s usually the friendliest. But I have noticed occasional slightly judgemental comments creeping in, such as anxieties about weight gain, questions of who is still getting into their jeans and comments about wearing PJs all day.
Okay, anxieties about body image and how to dress will be an issue for many of us. But with everything else that’s going on, it has made me pause for thought — particularly concerning the subject of ageing.
I like fashion and admire stylish women. So, given my demographic, it’s unsurprising that among the Instagram recommendations I receive are accounts that focus on fashion inspiration for older women.
The premise of these recommended accounts seems to be that as women get older, they should remain fashionable and stylish. It’s no surprise they feature classically beautiful women looking fabulous and of course, that’s fine.
But the distinction based on age perpetuates the idea that, as we age, we need encouragement to maintain a certain look. And that suggests we should be a certain way.
As a person who has struggled with food and eating in the past, I have often felt ‘terrorised’ by the fashion industry. Let’s face it, the reason fashion models have tended to be super thin is that clothes generally hang better on that body type.
As a result, I now know my clothing choices have in the past been based on attempts to hide my body — generally loose, dark and a bit plain. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy clothes or shopping, just that I have always felt my choices were limited.
I have often been disappointed when some of my choices, likely based on images designed to invoke an inspirational lifestyle, haven’t had the desired effect. Why has it taken me so long to understand that clothes won’t change the way I feel about myself? So many wardrobe disasters I could have avoided.
A relative, who dresses in a far more flamboyant way than me, once commented, without a hint of sarcasm, that my choice of plain clothes was a sign of my innate confidence. To her, hiding in plain view would only be a personal choice if you didn’t feel the need to be noticed. In other words, being noticed was her cover for a lack of confidence, not a means to show off. I had never thought about it this way.
So, I am happily wearing the same type of clothes in my sixties as I was wearing in my twenties — mainly jeans and simple tops and the occasional pair of dungarees. This is my choice, because it suits my lifestyle and more importantly, suits the person I am and who I want to be. I dress for me and so have no trouble deciding what I should wear today!
Whether you are bothered or not by your image, whether you make a lot of effort or not, the way you dress influences how people see you and the way it makes you feel says a lot about you.
Years ago, when I was a District Nurse, I had to wear a very distinctive royal blue uniform with a round felt hat and, for the Winter, a black cape-like coat — very superhero. I never thought much about this, until one particular day. I was off-duty and not in uniform in a supermarket, when I was approached by a man who said ‘Oh it’s you! I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on’. Needless to say, I got a few strange looks from fellow shoppers and felt compelled to reply loudly: ‘You mean not in my uniform’, though I’m not sure that made things clearer.
What it made me realise though was how my uniform sent out a message of who I was and what I represented. In a way, that made me slightly anonymous but that was the point.
Like most nurses’ uniforms at that time, they were impractical for the work I was doing and, although there is nostalgia for the uniforms of old, they didn’t make sense. But having to wear a uniform made it easier to get ready for work — no decisions about what to wear.
Later in my career, when my work changed, I still needed to look professional, approachable and friendly. On reflection, choosing work clothes was a lot more straightforward than deciding what my home wardrobe should look like. I made far fewer mistakes with my work wardrobe because I had a clear idea of my desired image. That was not the case with my day to day clothes because I lacked the confidence to wear what made me happy.
Since retiring, and with great pleasure, I have sorted and donated many items of clothing that I would never wear again. Clothes I bought for work but never felt entirely comfortable wearing and never thought to wear on days off. Now I wear clothes based on how I feel, the weather, and what I’ll be doing that day. And always choosing what makes me feel comfortable. Yes, I care about how I look, but confidence, poise and contentment is far more important
So, what should a 60-year-old wear, what should I wear today?
It’s easy to be influenced by marketing and chase after the person we think we should be. But it’s far better to realise that we’re absolutely fine the way we are.
It’s your life, you can wear whatever you like…