I’m about to turn 40. So why won’t I dress like it?
I assumed there would come a day when I would always look effortlessly stylish, smart – mature. In well-cut clothes and tasteful jewellery with a ladylike bag to match. I assumed it would be when I was about 40 – but that is 32 days away and I am currently coveting logo sweatshirts and white trainers. What is going to happen in the next four and a bit weeks to turn me from dressing like a teen to looking like a grown-up woman?
I blame the kids – of course. Because of them I no longer wear heels, necklaces, non-machine-washable clothes or white.
Apart from the immediate threat my children pose to delicate items and dangly earrings, there is the change of lifestyle. The only time I need to look smart is when I go to parents’ evening. I don’t watch rugby in the pub, I watch it on the boggy sidelines of my son’s junior club. The only Tube I enter now is the tunnel at the park.
But it’s not just for practical reasons that I want to dress down – I feel like I will look even older than I am if I am too “done”. I know there are thousands of fab and 40 women for whom this is just not true, but I have not yet found my place among them. Every time I find a grey hair I buy (or crave) another grey logo Tee – which I then only wear round the house because I feel silly wearing it in public.
That’s not to say you can’t wear a whimsical or tongue in cheek item past your 30s. There are no rules, indeed. It’s all so dependent on personality, figure, confidence levels and everything else bound up in our sweaty paw before we type the credit card details in. When I was in my 20s, I wore clothes that felt much older than my years – on purpose. To be taken seriously in the office (where the suits-only rule necessarily brought me into check), and to look chic. When you’re that age, you can wear pretty much anything and look good, provided it suits you (and even if it doesn’t, mostly), I realise now.
But with the onset of haggardness, I fear that if I wore a blouse and a trouser, I would look dowdy or frumpy, however fashionable the individual items were. I wouldn’t look ironic, or cool, just…old. So I stick to my uniform of jeans, shirt and (almost always) grey jumper.
It’s not the fault of my years but my shopping habits, perhaps. With very little time or inclination to shop in real life or online, I end up buying different versions of the same things I always buy. This is definitely a change that has come with age – with the years bringing, in my case, a busy young family. As an office worker in my 20s, I had plenty of time to browse in my lunch break and spend whole Saturdays shopping. If I had a Saturday free now, shopping would be the last thing I would choose to do. I would spend it lying down alone in a quiet room eating champagne truffles (my ideal Valentine’s Day, incidentally).
But what all those years of fashion frolics has taught me is – what suits me. Which necklines, skirt lengths, jeans styles, colours, fabrics…Of course, there’s still plenty of scope left for me to make dreadful purchases, but at least I’ve narrowed the field a little.
Perhaps all this change is what makes me want to keep my clothes constant – the only reminder of who I “am”? As I approach 40, I may not know who I will decide to be in my 40s, but I will know what she looks like.
Do you feel like your wardrobe should grow up with you, or are you hanging on to your hotpants for dear life?
There has to be a middle way between Taylor Swift and Elizabeth Taylor?