Recently, a client asked me to go through her husband’s closet with her to see what he had selected to discard. Her husband commented, “My polo shirts alone will last me for the rest of my life.”
I was quite taken aback. I had never thought about someone’s wardrobe in terms of its longevity before. But clearly, he had a point. Do we really need much after a certain age? Who are we trying to impress? What would we rather spend our money on?
I think, in part, he was simply reflecting a sentiment rippling throughout the entire culture these days. Many elements are putting a damper on the enthusiasm we all have had for investing in practically anything. A quick scan of the news reinforces this.
When nearly every post on social media is about political fear and uncertainty, people tend to hang onto their wallets. When we see hundreds of thousands of refugees who barely have access to food, we have difficulty justifying buying luxuries of any kind. Our problems are clearly First World ones.
But in addition, a lot of my Facebook friends and readers have been expressing a deep frustration with fashion and the fact that the industry doesn’t “see” them any longer. Although this spans the age spectrum, it is particularly prevalent among older women and those who are not a size 4.
Another constant complaint is that what is available these days is cheap looking, made from synthetics and lacks any unique personality or style elements. That pretty much describes the simple silhouettes of what is called “Normcore.” Normcore disgust runs rampant lately, particularly among my older readers.
So for all those reasons, as we age we tend to opt for comfort and familiarity. We have a good idea about what worked for us so far and we’re not enthusiastic about experimenting, particularly when we don’t like what’s available. Besides, if we think we have enough to last for the rest of our lives, why should we shop?
For a lot of us having joyful experiences carries more importance. A desire for connection, knowledge, and deeper understanding motivates us more than being seen as fashionable. But those are the very things that validate the value of continuing to dress up and refresh our clothing – our personal statement to the world.
As my friend life coach Anna Urrea says, “Every time we get dressed we tell a story about ourselves.” What is the story we are telling, and are we happy with that story? Or, is our story one of resignation? If the latter is true, then a fashion reboot is not a bad thing.
Here is why. As we age we like to stay within our comfort zone. But life is change. It’s the great disruptor. It’s what destroys our complacency, our plans and our routines. Life will intervene, knocking us on our bums, particularly as we age. The more we are able to feel comfortable outside our comfort zone, the more we are able to ride those waves of change. Fashion, in its small – and yes, superficial – way is one way to step out of our complacency.
For those of us who have a closet full of things we love and that have withstood the test of time, we certainly don’t want to toss them and start over. But I suggest that going for a shopping expedition, even if we don’t buy anything, has value, particularly as we age. Fashion reflects the changing times, whether we like that change or not.
When we explore what is new in the world of art and fashion, it changes our brain a little. It expands our vision of possibilities. It opens up the intuitive, expressive side of our brains. And besides, it’s a fun exercise. It helps shift us from thinking about our wardrobe as a measure of mortality and seeing it as an expression of our creative, ever-changing, ever-growing self.
So – do you still like to shop? And if so, how much are you willing to experiment with something new? What is the story that your clothing tells about you? What do you think is the essence of fashion over 60? Please share in the comments.