Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part I

Many a woman who got into vintage wearing while much younger has now reached her 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. A woman over 40 may just now be considering getting into wearing vintage. Are there any rules for wearing vintage at 40+ years of age? These are some of my thoughts.

In her 40s in the 1950s

40 is the new...something else. No way is the 1950s-era middle-aged woman stereotype the norm. Being “appropriate” was never before such a vague concept.

Younger women color their hair grey while older women color their’s pink. Many factors blur the edges between young and old, and more than anything your age is a state of mind and what you make of it. That said, with many years of wearing, observing and selling vintage fashion under my (vintage) belt, I can offer some advice for those of us who are somewhere around 40 and up, starting with:

Quit acting like you have something to lose

There are times in your life when you will want to play a certain role that your clothing will costume. If you take a job interview at a law office, you probably know to wear something professional and somewhat conservative; a funeral is not the time to break out your colorful party dress; overly slinky isn’t right for most mothers-of-the-grooms or brides.

By the time you reach midlife, you are starting to have fewer things to costume for, and yet many women continue to dress themselves as if they will be judged by someone who can make a great difference. By all means wear something appropriate, but do consider the ways in which you have paid your dues and are where you want to be. Don’t just be appropriate.

How does this intersect with vintage fashion? I have heard and seen the results of a mindset that considers vintage fine for young women, but not women who are middle-aged and older—that it is “playing dress up.”

If you follow the Advanced Style blog, movie and/or book, you know that there are women and men of a certain age who go all out, dressing each day with careful thought and flair. Whether you go for hot pink, bold jewelry and statement hats, or tweeds, silk scarves and Grace Kelly handbags should be up to you. The way you see yourself is how best to dress yourself. And just as anyone else wearing vintage fashion, you may find the best fitting, best quality, most you items in vintage.

Just one of the many super stylish vintage-wearing women shown in the Advanced Style blog

It doesn’t matter who else is in your life; they either love, respect or appreciate you or they don’t for the right reasons, not because you dress to please them.

Next time: Pin your style

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Louise said...

I'm 42 now, and I find that I care a lot less what others think of what I'm wearing! I totally agree with what you wrote above.

Laurence said...

At 37 years old, I'm quite feeling old in the vintage community... but I can see that a lot of 20s girls are more into repro than vintage...
I think you must choose your clothes to make you happy not to be part of a group or show something to someone else.
You know, I think I'm prefering my actual self more than my 20s one...
But even in vintage fashion, our style can change with age... I for example wear less petticoats that I use to wear...

Anonymous said...

When I started wearing vintage in my 20's there were some things I couldn't pull off because I didn't the panache that I gained by my 50's. For example, the Bette Davis off the shoulder black dress in All About Eve...I would have looked silly attempting it back then. But now out and do fasten your seat belts!

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

I'm 46 and have been wearing vintage (but not solely vintage) since I was 16. I've always dressed mainly to please myself. I'm lucky that when I did work in an office, it was not overly conservative, so I rarely felt I had to dress in a way I didn't want. My style has changed through the years, though I'm not sure how much of that is due to age as personality whims. One thing that is important to me now, and which didn't matter to me in my teens or 20s, is that I'm much more interested in quality, well-made pieces and responsibly produced clothing. So aside from the vintage sourcing I do for my job, I shop *much* less than I used to, and vintage has become even more important to me.

Great, thoughtful post!

BetterDressesVintage said...

Maggie, thanks for this series. I'll be 50 in a few months, and I wear more vintage now than ever. I find it looks better, flatters more, and is aligned with my values --> I've been avoiding newly made, mass-produced "Fast Fashion" clothing for more than a year now.

People rarely realize that my dress or sweater or skirt is vintage, because I wear it as part of a modern ensemble, not as a costume. UNLESS.... I am going to a vintage event, or working as a period movie extra, and going full-on, head-to-toe, stylized vintage, which can be immense fun.

Fortunately, I've found a few likeminded friends to dress up with. Not a one is under 40. We've found that the 20somethings tend toward stuff we call "old clothes" and weren't thrilled with the first time around, back in high school ; ).

Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie, I too enjoyed reading your series. I have been wearing Vintage clothing since I was a teenager. My favourite era is the 1960's but I wear vintage clothing from Victorian up until the 1970's. I always wear Vintage to work, I think people like it as most workers are fairly conservative in their business attire. I like to think I am giving these clothes a second life. They are so well made and so glamourous they deserve to be out of the closet cheers Monica.

Anonymous said...

In my 20s it was what I could afford. A had one 1940s suit I thought was the bomb. In photos now ai can see it wasnt a great fit! Now I prefer to get things tailored just right (something it took another 15 years to learn about) & to dress for my figure/shape in a flattering way that gives me confidence insteaf of trying to make wiggle dresses work for me cause they are "sexy". I also dont feel need to show as much cleavage... Plenty of other ways to feel dynamite in a dress! I too like buying clothes made ethically and love that repro stitches are a lot less hard to bust than vintage stitches/ fabrics on the dancefloor. Lastly have learned that while repro may have the next size up, the gal next to you at the party may have the same dress. And... Vintage girls... ALWAYS chech for moth signs and dont be afraid to walk away because of evidence in a store or sweater: JUST not worth it!

denisebrain said...

Thank you all for your great thoughts...I've included many in my posts (particularly the one on reader tips and advice and appreciate all the angles from which you see the subject!