French First Lady Brigitte Macron looks phenomenal in her minidresses and skinny jeans. She’s svelte, and her legs are lean and toned. She’s also 64 years old.
During the recent state visit of US President Donald Trump to France, his wife Melania was endlessly compared to her French counterpart in the style stakes.
While Ms Trump, 47, a former model, wore dresses with conservative midi hemlines—a red Dior Bar skirt suit, a floral sleeveless Valentino—Ms Macron picked fashion-forward looks from her favored label, Louis Vuitton, the hemline resting an inch or two above the knee.
These short shift dresses are staples of the petite Ms Macron’s wardrobe, and style pundits agree that she looks trés chic in them. She’s also often seen in skinny jeans and trousers, usually paired with tailored jacket and high-heeled pumps or boots, and even sneakers—not the typical picture of a grandmother (she has seven grandchildren).
So why are we talking about it? Because it’s 2017, an age when women are running countries and corporations, and still society prescribes what a woman can and cannot wear—after a certain age.
We rally a woman who defies conventions, but we also frown on her when she exercises just that. We praise women who “don’t look their age,” but run them down for their audacity to look more youthful than their chronological years. Men, meanwhile, can wear whatever the hell they like. It’s all arbitrary.
“She’s old, how dare she wear a dress that short! It’s not age-
appropriate.” But many women like Ms Macron today are as fit as their granddaughters—they take care of their bodies, they’re confident, they’re successful, and they can buy and wear whatever they want.
Closer to home, there’s Dr. Vicki Belo, who also prefers clothes not unlike the Frenchwoman’s. The fit and shapely celebrity doctor’s Instagram is filled with photos of her in tight dresses with thigh-high hemlines. (Like Ms Macron, whose French president husband is 25 years her junior, she just wed a younger man.)
In one photo, Dr. Belo writes, “I’ve always believed in the power of wearing what you feel like wearing—regardless of age, weight or body type. Dressing up in clothes that make you feel good gives you confidence, a good mood, and the feeling that you can do anything. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.”
Sad truth is, not many are as brave as the doctor and the French first lady. Hurray to your achievements, but no, that’s too short, too tight, too much skin, society will say. Once you reach a certain age, you’re no longer allowed to feel or look desirable. You’re expected to recede into the background in frumpy clothing.
We asked style insiders and outspoken women to weigh in on the concept of “age-appropriate dressing.”
JC BUENDIA, fashion designer
In my opinion, if you have a toned body at 60, it’s perfectly okay to wear miniskirts and shorts. French First Lady Brigitte Macron and Dr. Vicki Belo are fine examples of women. They add their brand of panache to clothing that most of our tita wouldn’t dare wear. I often see the Fores women in short shirtdresses with their perpetual tans and huge sunglasses; I think it’s very soigné. Coco Chanel once said that no woman over 21 should wear anything sleeveless—well, I believe she was just encouraging women to wear her suits.
ROLAND ALZATE, fashion designer at Queen Street West Makati; Inquirer LOOK of Style winner
This is very relative to me because my clients are mostly over 40, “beautiful-rich-with great legs” type of women. I believe dressing is about individualism, style and elegance. It’s about staying true to yourself. Over the years I’ve come to understand that the way women dress is relative to their personality, originality, and their freedom to do or wear what they like. Women feel good when they’re not restricted, that’s why many women “past their prime” can be seen wearing skimpy outfits.
I am never against it as long as you can pull it off. Looking good is not the same as feeling good. You may feel good in high slits, minis and exposed cleavage, but does that mean you look good?
I think it’s one’s individual choice that needs to be accepted. It’s a very compelling time for women today because they are not allowed to age. Ultimately we ought to respect one’s right to happiness and self-expression so we can all move forward.
RIZA TORRES, head of marketing, Lucerne Group
Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and stylish. If one has great legs and a fit body, there should be no problem wearing minidresses and shorts regardless of any age.
I think women know instinctively what feels right and comfortable as they mature, without having to consider norms of society. We all should have the freedom to wear what feels right at a particular time or occasion.
Does the perspective of double standard refer to a gender issue? My answer is yes. Men are not subjected to what they can do and say at any age.
RUBY GAN, VP for marketing, Bridgestone Tires Phils.; owner, ShopManila Inc.; founder, Kickass Manila Sports & Fitness Expo; power lifter and bodybuilder
I don’t subscribe to the concept of “age-appropriate” dressing. Women and men should be allowed to wear whatever they want. Nothing should limit them just because they’re of a certain age. That’s unfair.
Society is quite confusing. There are so many dos and don’ts on dressing. Ang daming gustong makialam. Media does this a lot. It praises women like (nonagenarian American fashion icon) Iris Apfel, and yet it also features “fashion at such and such age range.”
Let’s admit it, people care what other people think. That’s why these rules still exist. But if you really think hard, if I wear what I want to wear despite my age, I am not hurting anyone.
There is just too much emphasis on beauty and perfection, and this is then carried on from one generation to the next, until someone realizes this is wrong.
RONALD MABANAG AND CHRIS JUAN, bloggers, Handpicked by Ron and Chris
Women today are more confident and informed, which is a great thing in all and many aspects, even state of dress. Style being the sum of decisions, choices and life experiences, it’s not just about clothes but a way of moving in the world. In a time where youth is exalted, storied women such like Cher, Isabella Rossellini, Iris Apfel, Linda Carter, Sophia Loren, Tats Manahan, Josie Natori, Lulu Tan Gan, Linda Ley, Margie Moran, Annie Sarthou, Duday Tuason, Cherie Gil are carving a niche of attention with flair and gusto that goes beyond the concept of age-appropriate.
More than wearing a trend, their style is a sum of choices and experiences that makes them confident to choose what they want to wear. Society imposes double standards. But when women row against the tide of the expected, their style and story ultimately come through beautifully.
FAITH FERNANDEZ-MONDEJAR, director of communications, Avon Cosmetics Inc.
I say, let them! It all comes down to how the wearer feels about what she is wearing. If at age 60 you finally mustered enough courage to wear clothes that are decidedly more daring than what you wore at 16 and you feel good about yourself wearing them, then by all means, enjoy. When one feels good about what she wears, she looks more confident, happier and yes, more beautiful.
I do not subscribe to age-appropriate dressing, though I am a staunch believer in occasion-appropriate dressing.
I don’t think double standards will ever cease, but I honestly believe there is an openness now to the new and untried. People who are quick to judge are still there, but more and more are also speaking out about their personal beliefs.
MALU FRANCISCO, Vancouver-based former fashion retail marketing communications manager
There are fabulous-looking women over 60 who can get away with minis and shorts, and not necessarily because they have the bodies or legs of supermodels, but because of their attitude, confidence and elan.
It is really up to a woman to decide for herself when she should stop wearing certain trends, or at least adapt them to something more suitable for her body type or lifestyle. I don’t even mention age here. Instead of “age-appropriate,” I would think of “body type or lifestyle appropriate.” Or maybe even personality-
appropriate, if there is such a term.
It isn’t about age at all. It’s your attitude and confidence about how certain looks still work on you considering the changes in your body.
Sometimes I think the reason people “frown” upon nonconventional dressing but praise women who defy social conventions is that they are secretly wishing they could, too, but are restricted by many factors —e.g. spouses’ opinions, scruples, self-consciousness about their bodies. Women who dress different and carry such style with panache and confidence can elicit negative from society in general, yet at the same time these women are actually their idols or “OOTD goals.”
INGRID CHUA, TV presenter and blogger aka The Bag Hag
I do subscribe to age-appropriate dressing, but this is something that applies only to me. I see women who are above 60 who still manage to pull off bodycon dresses well. Generally, though, I don’t find it off-putting as long as the bodycon dresses they wear don’t reveal too much flesh. The dress can be low-cut in front or in the back, but not both. The dress can be low-cut but not too short in length—an inch above the knee is acceptable, but not an inch below the buttocks!
There is a fine line that must not be crossed by women over a certain age, and it’s this: dressing in something overly revealing—unless you are on the beach or on holiday in a tropical place where it is the norm to wear similar styles.
Society does have stereotypes and, sadly, we won’t be rid of them any time soon. Miniskirts worn by women over 60 are all right as long as they are styled tastefully—a miniskirt with a more covered-up top, paired with non-platforms, court shoes or sandals. No to a bodycon tank top with a miniskirt and platform heels. Women who wear the latter will raise eyebrows and will inevitably be talked about in a negative light.
Bottomline, though, women can still look incredible at whatever age without having to reveal too much skin. It is really all a matter of styling trendy outfits appropriately and tastefully, and remembering that they are no longer teenagers.
LESLEY MOBO, London-based fashion designer
I’ve never believed in age-appropriate dressing. The loosening of age roles means more equality for women. Of course, as women get older you can’t avoid the longer list of saggy bits, but again I believe it’s more of the question of confidence and how proud you are of your age.
There are a lot of women now in their 60s still wearing daring clothes, but then again you have to look at what those women are still doing at that age. Most of them are still actively running huge businesses. You have inspiring women like (octogenarian Instagram star) Baddie Winkle or Donatella Versace out there, both role models to a generation of people refusing to act their age. These women overcome personal tragedy, to overcome and reclaim their sense of self as they grow older and to have fun is a wonderful thing.
It’s good to break rules and to not be afraid to play around, whatever the age. It’s important to keep that rebellious spirit alive. When teenagers are dyeing their hair gray and grandmothers are wearing cutoffs and studded miniskirts, the generations have become as blurred as my eyesight.
MAUREEN DISINI TEICHERT, fashion designer
I am in awe of women who can wear tiny shorts and skirts and be able to pull them off at that age. It takes a lot of confidence. I am all for age-appropriate dressing but I also think that women should be able to wear what they like regardless of age and gender. As you grow older, you would know what looks best for your size and shape. Women should ignore what others say. Remember, it’s your body and no one else’s.
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