Recently, I was looking at old pictures with my friend Susan. We have been friends since college and I mentioned when looking at old photos that I looked better than I remembered. “Yes, me too,” said Susan. “I was pretty cute back then. Why didn’t I think so at the time?”
According to a study by Dove, 77% of girls age 10-14 describe their appearance in negative ways. Many said they were ugly or fat. Maybe we need to find another way of considering the whole idea of beauty. We need to abandon the concept of having one yardstick for beauty and attractiveness that lines women up in order of appearance.
When I was in middle school, the magazines at that time featured long straight hair and of course small noses. My hair was curly and my nose was not that small. I taped down my bangs and ironed my curly hair. I am glad that I did not get a nose job like some of my friends.
The hippie days saved the day and brought liberation. Those days freed me to have curls and dress in flowing skirts and tie dyed shirts. Yet, while I thought I was bucking the styles of the magazines, I remained in their grip.
Fifty years later, I’ve had an epiphany. What if we approached beauty from a different angle, the idea of “style”? Every single person has her own unique style. Every day each of us makes choices about every piece of clothing: our shoes, our jewelry, even our nails. We decide how we wear makeup or if we wear makeup at all.
Another thing about having style is that it does not have to depend on how much money we have. For example, when I travel to the Nicaraguan rainforest, I love to look at the styles of the women in that remote area. At home, one of my friends is a master at nail design. I always ask her to paint my toe nails with flowers. A bottle of nail polish costs very little and she turns my toes into a work of art!
As an adult, I continued to be influenced by the styles from hippie days in the 60s. I have never been one for wearing a lot of makeup and I have never owned diamonds. My hairstyles have always had a natural look. Yet, that is not totally the case.
In addition to flowers on my toes, I have gotten my eyebrows waxed and highlights in my hair. Now, I like wearing jewelry beyond the bangles and beads I used to wear. So, I have made choices all along the way. I always have had my personal style, although I did not appreciate the fact at the time.
Now, I have a new way of looking at things. When I am out and about I love to watch people and uncover their style. I look at the different types of glasses people wear. I observe their color combinations, shoes and hats.
Jeans have managed to survive for years and are worn by people of all genders and generations. The women from India who live in my town wear flowing saris with intricate designs and these very cool billowing pants that look so comfortable. Younger people are painting right on their bodies with tattoos.
Men have their style too. On a plane recently, I saw one man in cool cowboy boots. Another man across the aisle had dreadlocks, a black tee shirt and baseball cap. The guy to my left wore a business suit and tie. It is fun to notice all the different things people do to express their style. Beauty is all around us.
Another friend of mine from college days stopped coloring her hair and let it grow out. Now she has beautiful long dark curls mixed with white streaks. She has survived many health challenges, including a kidney transplant and said to me, “I want to be an old lady.”
For her, living into her 60s is a gift and blessing she wants to cherish, not take for granted. She also said she wanted to be “cool.” That night, she was off to see her favorite rock group. I guess for me “being cool” means keeping active in the world and mixing with all kinds of people of all ages.
As I appreciate everyone’s style, I can enjoy my own. I am learning to appreciate my own style in a different way. I do not have to be bound by appearances that are expected of me. Rather, I can play with style. I have started enjoying scarves and dangling earrings. I like wearing long tops and leggings.
Now is the time to drop the worry about not looking like the women in the magazines and start setting our goals to be healthy and physically fit. Along with that, it is time to enjoy the beauty that comes from finding our own personal styles that match our excitement and curiosity and reflect the way we are living our lives.
As we well know from all the blogs found on “Sixty and Me” we have many choices about the way we age. And our attitude makes all the difference. So why not expand our repertoires and experiment with style?
What have you discovered about your personal style? Does the way you dress reflect your unique individuality? How has your style evolved over time? What do you think is the essense of style after 60? Please join the conversation.