Why don’t you dress your age?
At age 24, freshly graduated from law school and living the Gaijin English teacher life in Japan in my triumphant gap year, I was fancying myself young and free (and possibly just a little bit wild). Little did I know that in the land of Japan, unmarried women in their mid twenties are affectionately dubbed ‘Christmas cakes’ – they get marked down on boxing day, get it? Amidst the commentary from my college about my not being married yet, and the stunned looks from my students who encountered me in cheek-baring short shorts on the weekend, the message to ‘dress my age’ was received loud and clear.
So I swapped my and logo tees with peter-pan collars, and denim jackets with pastel cardigans. Of course, the endeavour was – if aimed at satirising a storybook matron who lived in a giant shoe and had a goose in the cupboard – an unequivocal success. As for reinventing myself as the very image of a sensible adult, not so much.
To begin with, how does one dress one’s age anyway?
In my view, every age should be celebrated for their unique experiences, and therefore the prospect of exploring the wardrobes of every phase of life is an exciting one – if indeed there is a meaningful difference. On the other hand, I also don’t believe in age limits for clothes, per se (context in fashion entails so much more than just age). I do think that at some stage the ‘I’ll figure it out when I’m older’ excuse no longer flies for dressing oneself from our high school wardrobes or the clean laundry pile.
But the question is not the desirability of ‘retro’ apparel or a clean-dirty binary sorting system. Rather, I suspect that maturity has less to do which what we choose to wear, and more to do with having the presence of mind to chose it well. And as for what it looks like when you dress your age, it may simply be the general impression that you have left your identity crisis days behind you – in other words, you now know what your style is, and you know how to dress to it.
But of course, fashion is ever evolving, as does the human mind, so polar shifts in one’s style from time to time are not just inevitable, but highly advisable. As for me, I had for years dismissed a 3/4 length path as a style for be-freckled pigtailed girls on bikes, and now the cropped flared jean is my new obsession, as a sensible jean with a rebellious kick. And having promised myself never to wear a too-cute-to-be-chic Mary Jane again, here I am counting a round toe block heel shoe among my favourite all-occasion shoe silhouettes.
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