Blurred Lines of Age Appropriate Fashion
I can vividly remember the time in my life when I began wanting to dress "older". I was in middle school, and starting to outgrow my tomboy tendencies (well, some of them any way). Being involved in sports meant dressing up on game days; which in turn, meant dressing more like a lady, and leaving behind the knee-length, plaid shorts and slouchy, No Fear T-shirts (laugh it up, but you know you had one...or five). It meant that I had to go shopping for some nicer things. The problem was that up until that point in my life, "nicer things" meant puffy dresses with bows that tied in the back with lace edging, little white anklet socks, and black patent shoes. That wasn't going to do, I was a big girl now, and I needed to dress like it! Enter the desire to dress "older".
Luckily for my mother, the older girls whose styles I chose to imitate were not of risky nature if you know what I mean. The style I was after was one that was more mature-almost in a business sort of way. Think Jennifer Aniston aka: Rachel Green in Friends. It was pretty dorky now that I think back. A young girl wanting to dress like a business woman on a super cool sitcom. But you know what? When I look back on old photos with my little girls, I'd much rather be laughing about how nerdy I looked rather that trying to explain why I looked like I just stepped out of a night club. Here is the bottom line though...even if I would have wanted to dress a little more risky, I had a mom that knew it wasn't appropriate for my age and wouldn't have let me regardless (thank you Mom).
While I'm certain that trends have always been present across the board, there was a time that those trends differed greatly depending on your age. Young girls dressed in things that were "cute" not "hot". They might have had t-shirts that read "hug me" or "I love ponies", not "Diva" or "OMG WTF". When fathers pulled clothing out of the dryer, I'm certain there was never a discrepancy over whether it was the wife's or the daughter's.
The hottest trends were reserved for the 20 and 30 somethings. They were for women who had paid their dues wearing the "cute" clothing and were now old enough, and mature enough, both in mind and body to wear the latest and greatest in the fashion world. If they chose to wear something that was form fitting, a little low-cut or off the shoulder, it was okay. They were in their prime, and it seemed acceptable.
Fast forward to High School, I was starting to get a better taste of what was to come. Fashion was now on the radar and I remember looking forward to having the opportunity to express myself with clothing the same way I saw the girls in the magazines doing. I graduated from high school, went to college, and was quickly welcomed into the real world....going to college is expensive, supporting yourself is expensive, paying for a car and gas is expensive, and by the time you have worked to pay for all of these things, there really isn't much left over for those clothes that I was now old enough to be wearing. Credit card debt was not an option, so, being the problem solver I was, I ditched my part time gig at the men's clothing store, and went to work for Nordstrom, where I could actually use my store discount on clothes that were meant for me-a deer, a female deer! Now we're talking! I was so excited! Only you know what I started to realize? The customers (I worked in Brass Plum at the time), just kept getting younger and younger. I remember thinking, to myself...
"Umm, are you lost little girl? I think you missed your turn at the children's department back there! Yep, see, they are handing out stickers and lollipops, with every pair of anklets sold. Go! Run little girl, run as fast as you can!"
But they just kept coming. Younger and younger these little girls kept coming, dressing older and older...and their mothers let them.
Fast forward yet again to current day. I am a 33 year old woman with 2 young daughters of my own. What has come of this blending of fashion trends affects me in two ways. The first of which is personal...very personal (and I bet there are a bunch of you out there who can relate). We waited and waited, and waited, for what seemed like forever to be at a place in our lives where it is appropriate, by age, financially, and physically for us to "dress our age", to wear the clothes that say, "I'm a mature woman, who both respects and is responsible for the body in which I live." And guess what happened ladies? We got robbed!
We got robbed by a generation of young girls who didn't have mothers to tell them no. Who weren't made to be patient. But don't go getting your panties in wad, because I don't totally blame the young girls, or their mothers for letting them dress too old, too young. I blame the fashion industry.
Yep, I blame the industry that decided to go all Robin Thicke on us and cause these blurred lines in age appropriate clothing.
Because, if big brands wouldn't have started making it widely available for me to get my infant child a matching outfit, none of this would have ever happened. I would have chosen my appropriate 20-30 something year old outfit without any hesitation that the the high school girl at the grocery store would be wearing the exact same thing and life would be so much easier. Which brings me to beef numero dos.
I get that it's cute in a humorous kind of way to see a little baby in clothing fit for an adult. But come on people, really? These perfectly innocent little bundles of joy have the rest of their lives to be, and dress "grown up". For cryin' out loud- Let them be little! But really, it's not the infant clothing that gets me fired up, it's the clothing out there for little girls that is truly disturbing.
When I took my daughter school clothes shopping for first grade, I was shocked that I would have to explain why a good 50% (and that's being generous) of the options were not appropriate. What is even more sad is that I had a difficult time explaining why they were inappropriate...because words like trashy, sleazy, and slutty, weren't part of her vocabulary at the ripe age of 6. Ok, so those words are a little harsh, but honestly, I remember trying to explain that she is little and needs to keep her body covered. Her response- "Why?" She is so young and innocent that she doesn't even have a clue that the top with only one strap, that reveals half of her chest, and her shoulder can turn a boy on-or what "turning a boy on" means for that matter! I understand that it is our responsibility as parents to teach, guide, and demonstrate what is appropriate for our children. But I also believe it is ok to have some things that are held aside for adults....like beer and R rated movies. It wouldn't be so cute to see a first grader pull a longneck out of her lunchbox now would it? Same goes for clothing...let's keep the high heels and platform shoes in Women's sizes only, thanks.
So, now that I've gotten that off of my chest. What do you think? Have you ever felt like you missed your opportunity that you waited so long for? Ever catch yourself thinking, "Wait, is it that I'm too old or are they just too young?" I'm not saying that I was really looking forward to showing off my body. It's not about that at all, it's just that it would have been nice to reach the age where you could dress fashionably, without looking like a teeny bopper or a frumpy old lady. My solution?
I say we do our best to have fun with fashion while keeping it classy!
I think those are the two key factors that set us apart and get us what we want. By bringing some fun trendy pieces into our wardrobes, we are keeping it fresh and up to date, but by balancing that with the class factor we step it up a notch from the younger crowd. I like to blend current trends with my love for cowboy boots and jeans, by pairing them with a stylish top, little military jacket and some funky accessories. The jeans ground everything, the boots are true to my own personal style, the jacket is more of a classic piece, and I let loose, have fun, and show my personality with my choice of jewelry or fun scarf.
So what's your fashion strategy? Leave us a comment below, maybe you'll help spark some ideas for other women out there looking for guidance.
Until next time...keep it classy ladies!