I clocked them giving me that pitying look; the exact one I give 50-year-old ravers with faces like old leather sandals wearing string halterneck tie-dye tops in Camden. The one that says, either you’re in serious denial or you haven’t looked in a mirror for the past 20 years and either way it’s tragic. That look.
And I was completely split between a) wanting to curl up and die, b) wanting to slap them in their skinny smug underage faces, and c) wanting to tell them how great my life is and that I’m actually a fashion journalist and that my ‘look’ is considered really fucking cool in certain circles (lie) in an ironic early '90s kinda way that they wouldn’t understand because they’re too young and stupid.
Obviously I just sat there feeling ashamed and embarrassed though. So, that’s how I finally realised… although of course I already kinda knew, deep down, that I was dressed like a teenager.
Channelling my inner 5 year old with pink glitter and frilly socks
Don’t get me wrong – I can do sophisticated… just most of the time I choose not to. Sophisticated is stiff and tailored and shows all your lumps and bumps, and hardly ever involves elasticated waistbands… and I like elasticated waistbands! For its sins teen dressing (at least my kind) is fun and laid back and cool… everything I aspire to be (when I’m naturally an uptight control freak who likes nothing more than a quiet night in).
When I first pitched this feature it was – Help! I dress like a 15 year old! But the more I got to thinking about it (Carrie-Bradshaw-style) the more I realised it should really be – Help! There is absolutely no differentiation between child and adult clothes anymore, and despite working in fashion, as a single nearly-30 who works from home I have absolutely no fucking idea what I should be wearing.
So, although I will take *some* responsibility, I don’t think my underage dressing is entirely my fault. Dressing your age is always tricky, especially for women – is Suri Cruise too young for heels (yes), is Madonna too old for hotpants (no... she’s mofo Madonna!), are lifestyle and weight as much factors in suitable dressing as age (in my opinion undoubtedly yes).
I remember a few years ago when a friend on the cusp of 30 came to me in a spin because she thought she was dressing too young for her age. She was considering resigning her favourite Minnie Mouse t-shirt to her fashion past and was pretty sad about it. She’s cool and fun and has a great job in the media, and loves a splash of pink and sparkle, and my reply was HELL NO – of course you’re not too old to wear a teeny t-shirt with Minnie’s face smiling off it.
At the time I honestly couldn’t understand why she was even asking – the t-shirt was who she was, and we all loved her for it. Now though I understand that in her heart she knew she’d reached the tipping point between fun and ironic and sad and tragic… it was time to ditch the Disney.
Although my life in many respects may still be like that of a teenager's, in my heart I know that I’m not, and certainly don’t want to be viewed as one (unless it’s my birthday or I’m drinking tequila). So, is it time for me to ditch the leggings, tube skirts and t-shirts? Is it time I indulge my demure side and tone down the Nickelodeon-chic? Or do my job and single status entitle me to a few more years of underage fashion fun?
If you fear that you too are dressing ten (ok… 15) years younger than you should be, see how you score on my checklist, below. Three strikes and you may need to have a word with yourself…
6 signs you’re probably dressed like a teenager:
1. Your outfit looks like a super-sized version of something your daughter/ baby sister/ niece/ intern would wear2. There’s not a natural fibre on your body3. Your two main criteria for clothes are tight and short4. You don’t buy any clothing more expensive than a main, two sides and a refillable soda at Nandos5. You don’t consider clashing prints and colour blocking as just passing trends6. You still wear clothes you bought pre-uni