I’m not sure when it happened but fashion has decided we women of a certain age need to dress like clowns. Billowy, technicolor, ruffled things that seem designed to make everyone stare when we walk into a room. And then look away awkwardly because nobody wants to see Nana wearing what appears to be a psychedelic wedding cake. With leggings.
At our age, maybe any attention is positive. As the middle-aged Kathy Bates character lamented in “Fried Green Tomatoes,” women who are menopausal and beyond become invisible. It’s why so many of my friends leave restaurants with wine glasses in their oversized Scout totes. No one ever sees them. It’s a game they play. One particularly daring sister wife emerged with a complete table setting and a couple of candle holders. Allegedly.
I’ve been pondering the over 50 circus clothes phenomenon and the only thing I can figure is we said one too many times we were tired of being invisible, ignored. The designers must have been listening…while eating highly questionable mushrooms scraped from the bark of trees. And now here we sit, in the waiting room at the eye doctor surrounded by a dazzling assortment of animal prints embellished with crystals and, God help us, plumage.
We want to be noticed, and listened to, for sure. This doesn’t mean we want to dress like we have lost our damn minds. I get more than a dozen unwanted clothes catalogs in my mailbox every month and many times that number in my social media feed and here’s what they seem to be saying about me: “You are deranged so let’s tell the whole world!” I would describe the fashion catalogues as “Escaped Mental Patient Monthly” but some of you would say I was making light of mental health issues which are very serious indeed and you’d be right. Humor-impaired but right.
Now this is not to say we should dress like the Marthas in The Handmaid’s Tale. Gray on gray with a saucy side of … no, more gray. Animal prints? Sure, in moderation, I’m a big fan, but what’s with the proliferation of zebra striped tops with giant fluorescent hibiscuses dancing across the top and bottom that are less “I’m fun!” and more “I was completely hammered when I ordered these from the QVC.”
Yes, yes, I hear you. You should wear what makes you feel good about yourself, happy, carefree, young. Why is that anyone’s business? To which I say, have we met? What’s next? Neon elf shoes with bells on the toes? Only the venerable style icon Iris Apfel can get away with such tomfoolery and, sacrilege alert, I’m not sure she does more than half the time. Yeah, I said it. Mostly she just looks weird.
Paradoxically, I’m oddly proud of the tanned granny who wears a teeny bikini at the beach. That’s a kind of confidence that has nothing to do with a catalogue or website that makes you look like you’re wearing a pinata from Dollar General.
Tanned granny does not give a …hoot. And it shows. She laughs too loud, still applies baby oil and iodine as “sunscreen” and smokes on the beach. IN FRONT OF CHILDREN. This is a woman who is crazy comfortable in her own tortured beef jerky skin and doesn’t waste a moment worrying about what you think of her exposed upper arms or muddied-by-time tatts. I love her.
The late Nora Ephron’s blockbuster bestseller, “I Feel Funny About My Neck” dealt with themes of the American woman growing older with her trademark humor. If Ephron were alive today, I’d request a sequel: “That Olay Serum Helps My Neck But What Are We Going to Do About These Awful Upper Arms?”
Oh, wait. I get it now. Plumage!!!