Style Guise: How to Dress for Your Age

My Mom has been referring to me as “30” since I turned 20:

“[Insert comment about something wrong with my life]. Come on, yas are 30 years old!” (She has a distinct New York accent, especially when perturbed in any way.)

I’m actually STILL a couple years away from that, even as I write this.

The hardest part was when she told me not to wear a certain pair of shorts around Miami because the bottom of my butt peeked out just a bit. Now, despite their popularity, I never really did feel totally comfortable in the kind of daisy dukes that would make a daisy turn pink, but these shorts had torn a bit higher since their initial purchase, and I figured that due to their rise (they were high rise shorts too) as an acceptable fashion staple and the fact I’m still pretty content with my booty, wearing them around MIAMI would be okay. Because, it’s Miami.

But as soon as she saw them: “Come on, ya 30 years old.”

I know she meant well, and I agree that there are certain standards I particularly like to portray on a typical outing, regardless of my artistic openness to some exposure (though I think that is entirely up to an individual); however, just a few years ago my mom was still commenting on a photo of me in “festival wear” for a trance themed party (before it was even cool again-ZBT fraternity was on the cutting edge, guys) about flaunting it while I still got it. On the same trip as the shorts debacle, she even said gave me positive reinforcement about my bikini body. So what was different about going out in shorts that weren’t a quarter as revealing as what I saw a typical 20 year old skipping around in mid-2016? I don’t know that it was a generation thing, because my mom literally lived in hot pants (tiny spandex workout shorts) until I was 8 (but she also had me at 21…and being in my late 20s, this still doesn’t totally sink in). Thus, I could only conclude that I was getting “too old” in her eyes-whether that be due to my actual numerical age being on the wrong side of my 20s or my own life experience just not fitting into itty bitty shorts anymore.

I don’t know why, but this bleak observation put a distressed-jean sized hole in my heart. In fact, the year to follow would bring an exaggerated response to the years creeping in (that my mom adding a few extra years to prematurely didn’t help-even though again, she didn’t know it). I had a major health episode that lead me to think I was dying, followed by another incident that made me believe younger women-regardless of qualities-had an advantage. In addition to believing I truly could die at any moment, I felt like many of my “peak” years went by too quickly or too slowly, spent largely in bed with mere spurts of going out in a crop top. I’ve felt like my early 20s were collapsed into a couple months-like they’d all been blended together and all I could taste now were chocolate chunks of hospital visits and trauma. Where had the time where I could dress and go out like “young adults” do actually gone? A few sorority socials and trips didn’t feel like enough.

The year I started acting seriously again, I took back some of my confidence since getting sick at 15. Prior to that, I never fully accepted myself as someone who was physically attractive. The year I began adult acting classes helped me embrace my body as I used art to recover from horrible relationships and illness ravaging my college years, during which I felt miserably out of control of not only my looks but abilities-whether I was too skinny or too pale or too weak or gaining weight. People think if you’re thin (a category in which I’ve spent much of my time being sick), you feel good about yourself. When you’re ill, it’s more about strength and control-the ability to take care of yourself and have a say in how you look, whether it’s bigger or smaller from eating as you like or not, working out as you like or not. I decided that if I couldn’t keep my gymnastics muscle or olive skin tone, I’d at least keep my shorts, boots, and crop tops-and I’d honestly never felt more confident. My style was something I could control, even when everything else seemed to be spiraling out of it.

Fashion can seem trivial. It can be argued that what we wear doesn’t REALLY matter in the grand scheme of things. I go through phases of caring so little about it as to not remotely pay attention, and some in which I think of it as an indisputable art form. Materialism and superficiality can feel so overwhelming at times that I want to throw my phone in a lake and wear peasant skirts and grow out my unibrow at times-yet I know that when I dress to feel good…I feel good.

The truth is, I spend 75% of the time in leggings, a messy bun, and no makeup with this illness-but when I’m auditioning or going out to socialize, doing so in a style and a bit of makeup makes me feel more awake and tells my body “we’re on now”. It provides a definitive delineation between life being ill and living it up, even though I’m still in pain no matter where I am. So, it stands to reason that dressing in a way one might deem “youthful” or fun would make me feel that way as well. Maybe your husband’s argument for eternally wearing character t-shirts has something to it!

After skipping a grade and spending my after school time taking advanced dance and gymnastics classes, I became used to being the youngest amongst my peers in most cases. So, it’s been an interesting transition to hanging out with the slightly younger as I approach an age that seems to inevitably converge with many different social demographics. This past week, I found myself at a local concert to see a favorite local band (The Out of Body Experience) comprised of group members in their earlier adulthood, with friends who are also around that age. While I didn’t actively consider it, I donned a crop top (purchased, ironically enough, at Forever 21) I’ve had for over 5 years-one that some might argue should have been in a box and on its way to Goodwill when the clock struck midnight on my 25th birthday, lest it turn into a knitted sweater.

I felt great, but there was a voice in my head that told me I should feel like I was holding on to something that was no longer mine. I know this is probably more tainted for me by the fact that I’m sick, not married, and I have more than one cat-but it was there. I told my friend Tiera about this complex as I sat at the bar in my crop, and she assured me I had the body to do it and looked young enough to pull it off. But you know what? None of that matters.

I could also sit here and defend my age-afterall, 20s are the NEW 30s, right? I’m not even 30 yet! But it’s hardly the point. Our age does not define us. WE define our age. If it’s not true, why do people like Baddie Winkle and the pink and green ladies thrive so beautifully, even in a world in which they are not the norm. Secretly, we all know the secret.

Pictured: Baddie Winkle

Image found at: hellogiggles.com

Pictured: “The Pink Lady”

Image found at: blog.joybird.com

Pictured: “The Green Lady”

Image found at: digg.com

I “classed” up the crop top to reflect my current mood, style, and the weather-not my age. The last couple times I’ve worn it, I was frolicking around theme parks in it with short shorts, dripping off more pounds in the Florida heat. This time, I was in Portland rocking out at an indie music concert in high-waist paints and a fringed, black denim jacket because cold, current me liked it better.

22-24 year old me in crop top:

Current me:

My fly may be slightly down, my posture unreflective of my current fitness, my eyes tired, but I loved my outfit.

Do not dress for your age. Dress for your own sense of morality and humility-whether that’s a to-the-neck frock or fishnets and a two piece body suit. Dress for your mood. Dress for the mood you WANT to have. Dress for your means (or a little beyond it to tell the universe what’s up). Dress for the occasion or the venue. Dress for you.

How do you dress for your age?

You don’t.

Notebook:

Current photo: Nick Leali

Crop Top: Forever 21

Necklace: Opal Moon Jewelry

Earrings: Lucky / Nordstrom Rack

High waist black denim jeans: Hollister

Jacket: Levi / Macy’s

Lipstick: Mac “Bombshell”

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