Lenore Hirsch

Lenore Hirsch

As an educator of elementary school age children, when asked about appropriate dress, I always avoided laying down rules. I still say, “It all depends on the body.” A skinny 11-year-old girl in a tank top isn’t going to raise any alarms. An already developed girl of the same age in something skin tight is another thing. It’s a matter of common sense and good taste.

It’s no different for the older crowd. Some of us still have bodies that can be shown off, to some extent. If the legs are shapely, if the arms are firm, showing them is OK. You’ll only get admiration. I’m thinking of Jane Fonda in her latest TV incarnation. She looks fabulous, and she’s earned it, after all those years of exercise videos. But nobody wants to look at saggy, crepey arms or pasty, flabby legs.

I’m going to stop right here because I know somebody out there is yelling, “I’m going to wear whatever I want and I don’t care what anyone thinks!” That’s fine with me. If you don’t want to ever hear, “You look so nice today” or “You look so young for your age” that’s your choice. Who you are is definitely more important than how you look, even though western civilization hasn’t caught on yet. I’m just saying for most of us who still appreciate being appreciated, there are some good choices to make.

My biggest challenge is finding clothes that fit the waistline I no longer have. I’ve decided it would take a life-threatening illness to get rid of my bulging middle. The rest of me would be skin and bones. So I’ve accepted it, sort of, despite always talking about losing 20 pounds one day soon. I look for tops that are wide at the bottom. I never tuck anything in. I’ve learned that “v” necklines elongate the torso and draw attention away from the middle. Pretty earrings or necklaces also draw attention upward. So on a good day, I can look sharp. I know I’m not fooling anybody into thinking I’m thin, but at least I’m not drawing attention to my unsightly bulges. And fashion designers have helped us older gals immensely by popularizing loose mid-thigh tops worn with tights.

The guys aren’t so lucky. Their belts have to go around whatever there is to go around. A man in a T-shirt hanging down to his hips just looks sloppy. There are ethnic shirts meant to hang low but few men born in America would dress that way every day.

Perhaps there’s some justice here, as men have always had it easy with shoes. If you gals are still rocking your stilettos, more power to you. High heels have never worked for me and these days the only time my feet have a chance of being comfortable is when I’m wearing running shoes and lying down. I occasionally find a pair of flats or sandals that don’t hurt and look OK for dress up. I wear them to shreds and then must find something new.

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I could write volumes on my own hair evolution — from dark brown to grey to blonde to red to brown and back to grey. Well, I really mean white. I decided that nobody at 70 has no grey hair and I should just go for the natural look. Here again, we women have so many more choices than the men. I feel for the guys whose youthful personalities and energy are betrayed by their balding heads. And I think it takes a real man to embrace the future and shave off what remains. The guys who insist on covering Mt. Baldy with some whispy strands have never looked at their reflection in a glass storefront on a windy day.

So is fashion important as we get older? Can’t we just continue to wear the same comfortable clothes that have been hanging in the closet for the last 20 or 30 years? Sure, we don’t need to impress anyone or change our look when fashion trends change. But I believe that feeling good, and that includes how I look when I see myself in the mirror, enables me to be active and outgoing, knowing there is a place for me in this world, even at my advanced age.

Send your comments and suggestions to: lenore@lenorehirsch.com

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