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shopping_in_paris___illustration_by_pajkabajka-d4wpzwvWorking in women’s retail for 2+ decades, I’ve learned a lot about our gender. When men shop for clothes, they tend to hold the item in question up, give it a quick, cursory glance, and grunt “Looks good. I’ll take it.” Three older brothers, two dads, and a couple of husbands, and I’ve yet to see any of them take anything into an actual dressing room to try it on, much less come out and model it, wanting to know if it “made their bellies look bigger.”

Over the years, I’ve watched hundreds of women go in and out of dressing rooms, arms full of possible choices, and I’ve yet to hear, ever, a woman come out, look in the mirror, and say, “Damn, I look HOT in this dress.” Regardless of how beautiful she is, there is ALWAYS some flaw in her reflection. Butt too big (the all-time classic), legs too short, neck too long, knees too baggy (yes, I actually heard this one), thighs too flabby, or skin too pale.

The Holy Grail of self-esteem is our size. Too high, and drop-dead gorgeous doesn’t matter, because we’re “fat.” Ah, but low numbers? We’re THIN, damnit (especially if we’re 40+ and it’s still a single digit), so bring on those skinny jeans cause we be smokin’. For some reason, we tend to cling to our size like it DEFINES us. Unfortunately, women who can wear high school sizes often wear high school styles, bringing up the retail adage “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” After a certain age, low rise jeans, leopard print miniskirts, and midriff-baring t-shirts, even if they FIT, wail “Look how hot I USED TO BE.” (If you’re unsure, 40 is pushing it. 50? These need to be donated to your babysitter. Now.)

With all this in mind, I recently received a fun invite to a Las Vegas theme party, and since my collection of date dresses has given way, over the years, to yoga pants from Target and t-shirts from miscellaneous stores ending in the word “Mart,” a friend at work offered to loan me a few dresses from her closet. Without thinking (and not wanting to buy a new dress for one party), I responded with a grateful sigh and a thank you. What I SHOULD have done was smack myself up ‘long side the head as a reminder that I could have given birth to her and still not have been a child bride. The next day, she hands me a small lunch sack containing three glittery, strappy little party dresses (okay, three dresses in a bag the size of a Skittles wrapper should have been my first clue) that were MY size, but HER age.

Home last night, hiding in the bathroom to try them on, when Kenny walks in, takes one look and, between bouts of apparently uncontrollable guffaws, exclaims “Wow! Where are you going to wear THOSE??” I snapped back that I was considering one of them for the party, and asked what he thought. As he frantically searched his mental landmine of possible responses where he’d still be married tomorrow, he finally blurted out, “Don’t you have one of those shawl things you can wear over it?” Yeah, since nothing screams “middle aged and NOT loving it” quite like hot dress under a grandma poncho. I’m returning the dresses today.

Maybe I’ll just bedazzle my jeans.

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