Are you age appropriate? Woman, Lady, Female, Girl – all terms we use to identify with an age or point in our life but also preconceived categories each with assigned expectations. These expectations will cover everything from how you speak and address the opposite sex to how you act and what you wear.
Now, most of us would like to think we appear as a certain age whether it be our actual age or not. A lot of the time this may be down to peers, fear of growing older, fear of looking infantile etc etc. As women, fashion can be a huge obstacle for many reasons and it is so important we address this stigma around looking “age appropriate.”
When it comes to our personal style, we all take inspiration from somewhere, whether we are totally conscious of this or not. I always found inspiration through my Mum’s old clothes she wore through her late teens/early 20’s, I always put that down to the 80’s and 90’s being two of my favourite fashion decades but maybe there are more reasons than just that…
As I’ve learnt more and more about the evolving and repetitive industry that is fashion, I can see why there are so many disagreements on what we should be wearing at certain ages. So let us address the three most common stigmas and see why they can be so damaging but also so ridiculous.
“Honey, why you acting grown??”
This may very well be something we have all heard at some point probably between the ages of 11 and 18. A lot of us wanted to wear heels to a party, shorter skirts and make-up to school. I remember what was worn by the majority of girls my age when we were 13/14 and there is no denying how times have changed for those of that age now. Make up has played a big part in this evolution of the teenage girl and this definitely contributes to the stigma around us being age appropriate.
There is definitely a lot of concern around younger girls passing for an adult and the possibility of risks this could bring. It is understandable that parents especially may have cause for concern due to fear their child may be taken advantage of or treated inappropriately. However, surely if their mentality is still that of someone their age then is shouldn’t be seen as a problem. I think the problem would be when a girl acts and wishes to do things of someone a lot older. This is a more difficult part of the discussion as there is obviously fear for girls being sexualised and sexually active too early if they appear older.
It is obvious that the age of girls wanting to look older gets younger and so rather than trying to prevent this, our take is that young girls who aren’t yet adults should be nurtured to understand how their appearance can land them in particular situations and simply knowing how to deal with these. Self-respect and self worth are key when speaking to younger generations of girls about what to wear. This shouldn’t stop them from being able to glam up, have their legs out, or post a party selfie – none of which are actually illegal for U18’s.
“Stop playing around and act your age rather than your shoe size.”
Personally, this is the stigma I have experienced the most. I love to wear colour and I have the occasional LDN Clubkid night where the pink Buffalos, Lycra ensembles and overkill of accessories come out to play. But this is me. I feel having fun with personal style is escapism in a way but I also I simply get a kick out of it. It’s always a buzz going out in a look I’m excited by but sadly some can’t see me as a responsible 22-year-old adult with her shit together if they see this side to me. But then again if these people are on a night out surely they know we can switch our work/responsibility button off for a couple hours in a club, doesn’t mean are reckless or immature, this balance could keep us sane whilst “adulting.”
A lady I’m sure many of you may be familiar with is Baddie Winkle. This gal is 89 years old and still pulls off sequins, crop tops, tongue-in-cheek slogans, dizzy prints and some pretty crazy accessories. I admire this and think if you’re ever in doubt as to whether your outfit choice is “too much” or “too fun” then take a look at her Instagram here to remind yourself you can still be responsible and respected as an adult so wear the fit, do your thing. If people can’t see past that then I’d say they are pretty simple-minded.
“You’re basically Mutton dressed as Lamb.”
This term is usually used in quite a derogatory manner. Many celebrities such as Madonna and Grace Jones have been accused of this plenty of times. It is usually aimed at older women who have become mothers or are past the 40-year mark.
I know that most of us have an idea of what our Mother and older female family figures should and should not be wearing but have we ever thought about how this could make them feel? Yes some of us may feel we want to avoid social embarrassment but isn’t it just more important to stand by a family member or respective elder. A lot of the time we discuss how it again makes an individual look irresponsible and out of control but this is so narrow-minded. We can’t speak for this age category but from our perspective it may be a form of escapism too but also it may just be that someone has found their style years ago and felt comfortable with it therefore felt no need to change. Regardless, it’s non of our business.
We shouldn’t start the analysing someone’s character before we understand or know the individual and so this may just mean seeing them as an individual with their own style, not someone trying to act another age. It is so important that regardless of how we choose to dress, we remain respectful and true to ourselves. As well as this, as women, we shouldn’t be dragging each other for what we wear, this is the most draining and boring waste of time and frankly, I don’t think we have a right to tell anyone what to wear. If we really must debate with each other let it be about more pressing matters than a cleavage and vintage cable knit jumpers. Who are we to tell someone to dress their age? Age ain’t nothing but a number.
By Jessamy Mattinson