The new rules of age-appropriate dressing


The first thing I thought when I saw the pictures of her in the cropped white overalls was “Not fair! Why can’t I wear those?” My daughter has a pair in exactly the same style, in red.

But just as with the prairie dresses, the reason I can’t follow bib-and-braces suit is not because I’m six years older even than the Sex in the City/And Just Like That… actress and therefore officially too disgustingly ancient to wear dungarees. It’s simply because they have never suited my short and top-heavy body shape.

I’ve been trying them on since I was 14 years old and they have never looked good on me. They never will. But I thought Ms Parker looked brilliant in them, as she does in everything, because she’s just as amazing a clothes horse in middle age, as she was at 33, when SATC burst into our lives in 1998.

Her character’s eccentric dress sense – tulle tutus for daywear particularly sticks in the mind – was the visual personality of the show, in perfect keeping with its subject of modern women working things out on their own terms. And while we still have to wait a couple of weeks (drums fingers on desk) to see if the revived show and its characters are still relevant and relatable 20 years on, that is still the only metric that should dictate what we wear.

What feels right for each one of us as an individual.

Well, that’s what I think, but to check if the younger generation find it grotesque to see the clothes they wear on older people (ones they can’t steal them from), I asked my daughter what she thought of SJP’s dungarees.

“She looked great,” said Peggy, with enthusiasm. “She’s a New Yorker, she can wear whatever she wants, and why would people be down on older women in dungarees? That’s Donna in Mamma Mia!” – name uttered with holy reverence. “It’s an iconic look. People go as her to fancy-dress parties, in tribute.”

Then, after further thought, she did come up with one look she’s not keen on for more mature women.

“I don’t like it so much,” she said, “when older women wear sexy-sexy clothes with lots of booby action. Actually, I don’t really like that look on anyone.”

So it seems that the idea of rules about who should wear what at certain ages seems as irrelevant to the younger generation as it does to people like me.

Really, declaring age as a guidance for what we should – and more importantly the meanly negative shouldn’t – wear is as relevant as dictating it by star signs, or that seasonal-colours nonsense that was such a fad in the 1980s.

Blonde and blue eyed, I was assigned “summer” when I took the test to write a feature about it in my early 20s. This meant I should – that finger-wagging word again – wear pink and other vapid pastels, the colours most guaranteed to make me feel fat and frumpy at that stage. (Although now, oddly, I’m tentatively starting to embrace them, but only in a subversive way.)

In retrospect, I actually think that silly test did me a favour, confirming that I was right to stick to the clothing colours and styles that I felt good in at the time, which was black, black and black, with leopard print for levity. Forty years later, I have swapped out black for ultra-dark navy (with increasing forays into khaki), because by my own measure black is a bit harsh against my older complexion. And, probably more importantly, I wore it for so long, I’m just bored of it.

Also, in the 1980s it was still edgy to wear all black, Yohji Yamamoto-style, whereas now it’s completely normal among the civilian population, and therefore less interesting to me. It’s not making any kind of a statement.

There’s a similar story with leopard print, which used to be the mark of the rebel outsider, but is now (slightly annoyingly) as mainstream as stripes. To counter this, I now generally wear it in multiples in one outfit – all different prints, which is the rebellious point. Eight different leopard-print pieces in one look is my personal best. So far.

My daughter has now adopted this style, too. Copying it from me. So, if that’s muttony, pass the mint sauce

Dalila and Yasmine Clemson

Dalila, 53, and Yasmine, 24, share a flair for looking completely relaxed in serious designer tailoring, sporting Gucci trouser suits with the insouciance most of us would feel in Primark trackies


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

+ 37 = 42