Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why can't a woman dress like a man?

So how can I dress in l'age without succumbing to fashion trends, spending needlessly, resorting to the cliche 'sexiness at any age' nonsense, or looking like a victim from another decade? How can I assemble timeless ensembles that are tweaked rather than overhauled every year or so? How can I manage this without looking eccentric like Madame below. I mean it's fine for her, but for me, darling ....

As these rare streetstyle photos of women in l'age illustrate, it's not about a suit and tie. It's about style & chic, with a strong dose of practicality.

I've long been frustrated by this dilemma (well, since turning 40)and it is challenging to find role models. Idiosyncratic style is just that, works for them not me (and more power to them), and so I go to the reliable sources for non-celebrity style, streetstyle blogs for inspiration and solutions. So few to be found of women in l'age - although Advanced Style is doing admirable work for the over 60 crowd (which dips down occasionally to include the lovely Jenny featured above in the fur-collared coat - gorgeous at 57).

Men in l'age, on the other hand, are well documented. Scott Schuman makes no bones about searching for role models to help define and refine his own style as he moves through l'age moyen. And he finds many fine examples. Women in l'age, not so much.

When I review his photos of men, many and perhaps most have little to do with fashion trends: They wear the tried and true, a great cut that fits their physique, reflects individual style, are fully functional, and most importantly helps to communicate something of their personalities.

Of all the women photographed on his site, I found only a very few who matched this criteria and I've shown them above.

Now there's nothing wrong with looking like this

or this

Yes, they are quite lovely, but these are expensive clothes, and not so practical - at least not for my life. I suppose if you are editor for Italian Vogue you need to dress the part. I forgive Carla. But a woman in l'age of modest means finds few photos for inspiration - plenty of women in their '20s looking chic on the cheap.

More to the point, I have no desire or need to buy from a certain store or sport a designer label to feel 'right' in my clothes. That's over and I'm very happy for that. Nor do I want to be fully dictated by traditional views of what is 'age appropriate'. But I detest the thought of trying to look 35 forever. Oh my.

And that, my friends, is the daily challenge and motivation.

Whom do you admire? What are you after and have you nailed it? Photos could be fun....

Advanced Style (fur collar)
The Sartorialist (all other photos)


  1. I so agree with you. While I don't mind a whimsical touch here and there, I'm not eccentric or a fashionista, and don't want to dress that way.

    Tish at "A Femme d'un Certain Age" blog lives near Paris and often shows street style shots of French women "of a certain age." But there really is a dearth of well-dressed women in street style blogs, which seem to feature the very young, the very pretty, and/or the very oddly dressed.

  2. Great post - very much to the point.

  3. couldn't agree more -- perhaps we should be taking to the streets with our cameras looking for models, but as Tish (mentioned above by Pseu) has attested, that takes more courage than I have . . .

  4. Hello to all and thanks for checking in.

    We all know they're out there but capturing them is another thing. I'm a terrible photographer so I'm trying to encourage a talented pal of mine to get out there and get snapping. Keep you posted, so to speak. ;)

  5. snapping is nothing... finding the right subject is the tough part! :)

  6. As a man it's interesting to hear your views from the woman's viewpoint. In my search for middle age style, which I've started to try to describe on my blog, I've realised that the answer is classic styles, as you suggest here.

    Aren't similar classic styles available to women to wear without having to resort to expensive designer stuff?

    Grey Fox