Dewy or Dowager?

Can you see both the young girl and the old dowager?The new year is tomorrow, and we’re all a little older. At my age – I’m still young – no, I’m old, I’m over it -  I can’t keep track any more. I’m the walking version of this classic optical-illusion drawing. Am I the dewy girl or the dowager? Is there anything in between?

According to high fashion – no, there isn’t. Fashion’s darlings right now are lovely young things in the flowers of youth, like Tavi Gevinson, and “delicious old darlings of about a hundred”, to grab a Nancy Mitford quote and take a peek at Advanced Style. It’s the years in the middle that are tricky. Colette had a delicious aside about aging beauty in her novel Claudine Married.

“It’s in Paris that you see the most fascinating faces whose beauty is waning – women of forty, frantically made-up and tightlaced, who have kept their delicate noses and eyes like a young girl’s. Women who let themselves be stared at with a mixture of pleasure and bitterness.”

The collision of time and youthful beauty has inspired more modern writing, too. Mistress Matisse has Random and Disjointed Thoughts On Being A Pretty Girl (NSFW) and acknowledges the privilege and unfairness of it all. A “nerdy frog who became a princess” after some appearance fixes is flummoxed by the power of beauty and the time that polished, modern beauty requires. Elizabeth Wurtzel, once a willowy beauty who brought the drama, now looking good “for her age”, reflects bitterly on her lost privilege and how she abused it.

A lot of the “mature style” out there doesn’t speak to me – maybe because of my own awkward age, maybe because of regional differences. I’d come across as stuffy and overdressed in the Hermes-garnished ensembles from the blog Une femme d’une certain age, though I do admire her writing and thoughts on “going forwards.” In Wellington, my 40something contemporaries are spending this Antipodean summer in maxi-dresses that show off their new tattoos and cowboy boots. The quirkydorable vintage/pinup look that a lot of us admire is exemplified by such early-20s beauties as Solanah at Vixen Vintage. This blogger has advice on wearing vintage “when you’re a bit vintage yourself“; there are also thoughts on keeping longer hair as an older woman.

For this year coming up, my two main style goals are to take care of my physical infrastructure – to eat well, sleep well,get lots of exercise, and take care of “the elements” level details – and to finish some of that sewing I’m always talking about. I look forwards to spending autumn (my favorite season, still to come) in a soft teal dress and brown boots, but I’ve got to make the dress first.

A last note for the new year: the amusing I Sleep Easier Now, a little Cole Porter ditty. “When I was prettier, when I was prettier, in bed I did not read Whittier. I sleep easier now.”


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