Friday 17 July 2015

Another Year Under My (Diamante) Belt

My 21st birthday wearing a Miss World (Hole) T-shirt

I turned 42 last week, and it got me thinking. In fact, I'm pretty much always thinking about it - getting older. When I read a recent post by Jessica from Chronically Vintage, it struck a cord. It was about fashion for the over 40s (specifically, vintage fashion), and as I read it I realized it was about me. My heart sank into my DMs. Should I still be wearing the clothes I have hoarded from the 90s? Skimpy slips I used to wear in a Riot Grrrl style with DMs or patent leather Mary Janes? On reflection, hell yeah!

Mary Janes from the nineties

I don't just wear trashy slips. I love the ladylike vintage clothes, too. And jumpers. And berets.

I guess I am aware that I haven't got that much time left to wear these crazy looks, so I'm just going to enjoy it while I can. My thirties blinked by, so my forties aren't going to be any slower.

I do feel like the old bird in the room a lot now. Not when I'm with my girls, but in the vintage scene. I took a long break from dancing and DJing when I had my son, five and a half years ago, so I feel a bit out of the loop. But being older means I have a lot more confidence, and a don't-give-a-shit attitude to most things. I guess I just want to look 30 (not 20, I'm not greedy), but be 40+, with all the wisdom acquired along the way. I could do without having to cover my grey hair every month, though. I found my first white hair at 19. As a feminist, I should probably let it show, but I just CAN'T. I know very few female clients in the salon where I work who have stopped covering the grey, but there are definitely more now than ten years ago. I totally support their choice, but I can't go there yet, or maybe ever. However, I've seen a lot of blue and pink rinses that I could rock.

On the way to Mixtape for birthday fun

Do I have any rules for what I wear now compared with how I dressed 15 or 20 years ago? I certainly don't take as long deciding, or trying things on. It was part of the fun back then. I don't go out nearly as much, so that means less chance of people seeing me in the same thing over and over. I went to Westfield shopping centre this week, and had a good look at the clothes in H&M, Topshop, etc, and as usual, was completely unimpressed. However, tt was worth the trip to see my daughter dance to Justin Timberlake's 'Like I Love You' in the mirror at Topshop.

I definitely dress with comfort in mind now - no squeezing into too-tight shoes and trousers anymore. I have a better idea of what is flattering to me, so shapeless shift dresses are out, along with hipster flares!

I love the vintage look, but I have to say I actually find it more ageing sometimes. The tight curls and shingled waves of the early 1930s, worn away from the face, are very severe, as are some of the clothes. Pallazzo pants though? I can't get enough of that action! And floor length bias-cut tea dresses? Bring it on.

I'd like to get a forties suit, as I think that could be dressed up or down, and is the perfect accompaniment to vintage knitwear. And the knee-length dresses from the 1940s are so easy to wear. But the heavy makeup look is not so easy on older skin. I've just started watching Agent Carter on television, and Hayley Atwell suits that look down to the platform wedges, and she can get away with the strong makeup, but I find it too ageing on me. That's why I veer more towards the 1930s, it had a more natural, feminine look, as long as you keep your hair soft, and your makeup light, especially the eyes. What I do like about the 1940s was that very few of the models looked like girls. They were women. If anything, they looked older than their years. Teen fashion hadn't been invented yet. Teenagers hadn't been invented yet.

So, I'm going for the look above, but I'm way closer in age to the woman below. Depressing much? Why did they frump up women this young? She's probably only 50, if that. OK, so 50 is not young, but really.

You'll notice I've not mentioned men, and their wardrobe dilemmas when they turn 40. That's because they don't have any. They're not under the same scrutiny as women, in that or any area of their lives, really. They can carry on wearing whatever the hell they want without worrying about being accused of looking like 'mutton dressed as lamb'. Still, I don't have to give in to these societal pressures to stay young - I'm just vain, I suppose. And I'm having fun. Dressing up to go out was always about so much more than wearing the latest fashion,. In fact, it was never really about that. Dressing up was, and still is an opportunity to become a different character in your life, be it a 1930s screen siren (Joan Crawford) or an angry feminist agitator (Kathleen Hanna).

I will continue to age. I just hope I can do it with grace and humour. And tiaras.

On the 29 bus to Camden Town, 1994



  1. Happy Birthday, I know where you are coming from next year I will be 50 ! add being 'plus size'...their phrase not mine... into the mix and I quite often get strange looks in my local co op ! My early dabblings with Punk then New Romantics it seems I have always worn 'unusual garb' I wore 40s in the 80s too.I love the 30s style but alas it does not suit me as the slinky silhouettes are something I struggle with, You on the other hand rock it, 32,42,52 it's just numbers and what do men know :) I love your style and it's nice to see someone who loves clothes and who doesn't just 'wear' them , I think you've got it right x

    1. Thank you so much Mim. I would love to have been in the New Romantic scene. That was such a great time for fashion and music, when young people really went for it - boys as well as girls. I think the sign that you're not getting it right is if you don't get strange looks in the Coop!

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  3. Happy Birthday for last week :)

  4. They were strange times, I queued with Alison Moyet or Alf as she was known to see Culture club play in Basildon, my Hubby trained to be a hairdresser with Roy Hay of culture, and I once played charades in the attic of a derelict house in London with Marilyn who was Boy George's squeeze at the time it was a Club called the dirt box that used to move around and host club nights in disused and abandoned properties - good times :)

  5. Happy birthday! I must say I nearly fell off my chair when I read that you're 41! I sooner would've thought that you are 31. In my opinion you can still pull off whatever you want to wear!

    1. Oh Renee, you sweetheart. The cheque's in the post! 😉

  6. Happy Birthday! I totally agree with Renée, I would never in a million, have said you were anywhere near 40 (though thats not old, but then I'm not that far from it myself) I'd have said 30 at the oldest!
    I am with you on the hair dye, my barnet is overdue a colour which makes me convinced that people are staring at the greys so I been wearing my hair down to hide the worst, I would love to be liberated enough to not care (it would help if the greys could start somewhere other than right around your face) but I'm not ready yet, though I guess that might change when I've got more greys than brown! xx

    1. Thanks Wendy, it wouldn't be so bad if we weren't brunettes, that white hairline just screams at me! That's why fringes are so good. Oh well, them's the breaks!

  7. If you can still get into it, wear it! I'd still be wearing some of my 90s stuff if it fitted.

    I know what you mean about vintage mags frumping up older ladies. I have an article somewhere from the 1930s where it says it's ridiculous and undignified for a woman over 40 to play tennis, she should leave that to young people and stick to light exercise like gardening. Bah to that, say I. If there's one thing that's good about the 21st century, it's that older women aren't pushed into irrelevance quite so quickly - though there is work to be done on that front.

    And happy birthday!

  8. I hope you had a lovely birthday. I think you should keep wearing whatever you like, you look great in your outfits. I enjoyed seeing the earlier birthday photos! I am with you on the hair dye, I have been dying mine for years as I can't face the sparkling white strands! I plan to just keep going. I wouldn't mind a purple rinse though!


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