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Sarah Cawood

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Dressing Your Age

Posted: 30/08/11 11:23

I turned 39 last week. I am now 366 days away from fashion armageddon (no, my maths isn't up the spout: 2012 is a leap year). This inconvenient truth has provided me with a dilemma I have been musing upon for a while now, and that is: can I follow fashion the way I did in my 20s and 30s? At what point do I have to step away from the wet look leggings and denim hotpants and start dressing (and indeed acting) my age?

I have never been one of those women that is a dedicated follower of fashion anyway and I'm often in awe of the bang-on-trend girls I see in Topshop and in the back pages of Grazia magazine. I also truly believe that style is something that one is born with an inherent sense of, and not something that can be taught. That said however, I like a general nod in the direction of whatever is current and I'm now in a quandary wondering what is still socially acceptable in women of a certain age.

It is certainly a case of what defines mutton dressed in lambskin but it is also so much more. Not only do I ponder whether it is acceptable to wear leather trousers at my age but also, how much of my nearly 40 year old flesh should be on show? If women like Liz Hurley and Elle MacPherson still have the tits and ass of a woman half their age, does that mean they should be dressing accordingly? Personally, I think not. Now my humble opinion may just come from a place of bitterness and petty jealousy but I think when one hits the big 4-0 it is time to pack away the itsy bitsy teeny weeny things. Flesh flaunting can be charmingly naive in a 23 year old but just looks a bit desperate in a woman of advancing years: it screams "please can you all acknowledge how amazing I look so that all the pain and deprivation are worthwhile!!" Yes ladies, we KNOW you look incredible for your age and we are all green with envy (although probably not as hungry as you) but please can you PUT IT AWAY NOW? Not that I am suggesting that we should all throw in the towel and buy a burkini (sorry Nigella, I know that you and the sun are mortal enemies but haven't you heard of sitting in the shade???)

What I guess I'm trying to say is that perhaps there is a compromise to be reached at this point in my life. That certain trends and looks should be avoided (I remember the 80s first time around: it was the decade that style forgot and I still have REAL problems with the revival). That if we are going to wear a thigh skimming skirt then the cleavage has to stay under wraps. That sexy at our age does not need to be obvious. (think Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary: all pencil skirts, high necked shirts and seethingly understated sexiness).

It is also wise to remember that having an individual sense of style can be more fashionable in it's own way than all the colour blocking in the world and marching to the beat of your own fashion drum can be timeless.

So moving forwards I will be mindful of a few things:
That what looks good on Fearne Cotton may not, nay WILL NOT always look good on me.
That keyhole cut swimsuits look good on VERY FEW PEOPLE regardless of age (WAGS take note)
That understated is far sexier than in-yer-face.
That it is perfectly possible to dress age appropriately and to still be fun: after all, a mischievous glint in one's eye is one of the most timeless accessories of all....