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Women have a secret language — clothing. We speak with what we wear. As we age, our language changes.
I’m not saying we live like a fashion statement, but we connect immediately when we gush over each other’s outfits because it’s a subtle way of saying “I see you, I like you and we can be friends.”
Our culture looks at aging through the lens of outward appearance. Younger women are seen and valued for their beauty and energy while older women struggle with invisibility. They feel unnoticed in a society that demonstrates a lack of love for women over 50.
Women of that “certain” age who reach out to me for advice tell me styles that used to work, don’t anymore. They’re frantically trying to figure out what to wear as small seeds of doubt creep into their psyche: Is this trying too hard? Can a woman my age wear this? My experience is that instead of dressing too young, many women are dressing too old as they start to lose their mid-life fashion mojo.
Fifty looked very different 40 years ago. Aging is changing. We don’t look or act like our grandmothers and we don’t dress like them either. Our appearance doesn’t diminish, it changes, that’s all.
One thing I am sure of is style survives fashion. The more we learn about who we are as we adventure through the decades of our lives, the easier it becomes to develop an authentic style.
Long before the Sex and the City characters, Rose, Blanche and Dorothy charmed us as they played women in their fifties in the long-running television series The Golden Girls. They were well-dressed women in that decade. Blanche (Rue McClanahan) had the most on-trend and enviable wardrobe. She had a love of sparkly accessories, wore mostly custom-made clothing, dazzling evening wear and fabulous nightgowns. Each woman had a very specific aesthetic and stayed true to it. Rose (Betty White) loved belted dresses with full skirts. She could pull off colour in her clothing and character. Rose’s catchphrase “My mother always used to say, the older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.” Dorothy (Bea Arthur) dressed in distinct layers and matching sets. She wore flats because she was tall. Let’s not forget Sophia (Estelle Getty) who wore sweet, detailed cardigans, and always carried her purse – even to bed.
The recent Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That revisits a group of friends, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) as they navigate their ever-evolving lives. They look 50-ish and still stylish. The original series felt like a six-season fashion show and the reboot is still filled with over-the-top fashion moments the show has become known for. Carrie’s fiery love of dressing up and playing a fashion peacock hasn’t diminished with age. One of the show’s tenets is that costumes are a character.
But let’s make one thing clear: You don’t need to get theatrical and dramatic in the way you present yourself to the world, you simply need to wear what makes you feel good. Whether eclectic or elegant, your personal style is just that – personal. Because of our different inner needs, a deeper facet of fashion psychology comes in: dressing by personality. It’s also called dopamine dressing.
Dopamine is one of the happy hormones in your brain that is responsible for allowing you to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. It’s the reward chemical you get naturally when you enjoy a great cup of coffee, achieve a goal or practise self-care activities like meditating, having a massage or moving your body. Its tactile profile is activated mainly through feel, touch, and taste.
How can clothes boost dopamine? Simply said, it’s an aesthetic inspiration in the combination of colour, texture and shape of clothes that makes your brain zing and heart happy. Confidence looks good on you, especially when you are wearing clothes you don’t want to take off.
Stay fresh and current. Working primarily with classic pieces in your wardrobe makes sense, however, that doesn’t translate to old, out-of-date pieces. Keep your eye out for changing shapes and fabrics — unless vintage is your vibe. Age is irrelevant.
Dopamine dressing is the new buzzword for what good fashion has always been about — dressing in alignment with yourself to feel good.
Helene Oseen is a long-time fashion writer and sought-after stylist. She helps women find confidence and style as they make friends with themselves and fashion. What’s your closet identity? Take the quiz and find out at www.heleneoseen.com