OPEN THREAD: How Old Is Too Old When It Comes To Dressing "Cute"?

Let's talk about clothes, and aging, and cuteness, and sex appeal, and whether we are -- or should be -- tweaking our style as we get older.

Jul 27, 2013 at 10:30am | Leave a comment

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Well, hello there.

I have a problem. (OK, I have many problems.) It's not a serious problem, by any means. On second thought, I don't think it's an actual problem; more like a dilemma. Anyway, whatever -- it's something I've been thinking about more and more as I get older.

See, I have a very particular sense of style. It's fun, if I do say so myself -- a little bit '60s mod, a little bit vintage-y, with a tiny dash of punk. Tons of bright colors, stripes, and patterns; I like clothes that make a loud statement, clothes that all but scream. One friend describes my style as very "pop."

It's also very "cute." I gravitate toward uber-girly details, like scalloping, and bows, and hearts, and kitty prints (!), and round, so-twee-it-hurts Peter Pan collars. (GOD I LOVE PETER PAN COLLARS.) But lately, I've started to feel a bit uncomf about my penchant for the cutesy stuff. Over the last few months, I've caught myself sighing, then slowly putting my beloved Peter P. tops back on the rack (after a minute or two of staring at them longingly, of course). In that crucial minute, I do some soul-searching. I do some honest self-reflection. And I ask myself, "LAURA, AREN'T YOU GETTING A LITTLE OLD FOR PETER PAN COLLARS?"

I'm not old, though -- not really. I'm 36 (though I’ve pretty much always felt 15 -- like, even before I was 15. Yes, this officially makes me the World’s Oldest Teenager™). I think I look fine for my age, but being in my mid-thirties now, I'm hitting that zone where it's getting increasingly hard to pretend I'm not, you know, an actual grown-up.

I've tried really hard, for a long time, to pretend I'm not a full-fledged adult (I don't balance my checkbooks; I don't clean my house; I stick my fingers in my ears when people start talking about babies and biological clocks and freezing eggs and AAHHHGGGJJJHHH MY FINGERS ARE IN MY EARS AND I CAN'T HEAR YOUUUUUUU!). I don't feel like an adult, I don't act like an adult, so why should I dress like one (boring, stuffy, meh)?

I never made a formal decision to give up my beloved Peter Pan collars or anything else, clothing-wise. It's just been creeping up on me -- this realization that I'm growing older and maybe I can't fully rock the super-youthful looks I once adored. Maybe it's NOT that flattering to bleach my hair platinum at 36; maybe it kind-of washes me out (side note: I actually just dyed my hair a more natural, neutral blonde yesterday -- it's the closest thing I've had to my real hair color since I was 14! Eek!). Maybe cat-print shoes look more desperate than hip, more "look at me, look at me, PLEASE confirm my sprightly cuteness" than just being, well, fun.

I'm conflicted, though. Because I don't believe the "What Not to Wear"-ish crap about an age limit for women wearing stilettos, or miniskirts, or bright lipstick. If we like it, we should wear it, dammit -- and wear it without fear or judgment. At any age! I don't want to buy into society's stern whispered warnings to "act my age" or "dress like a lady." But at the same time, I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard to look young, because at a certain point, that can look sad.

Anyway, what do you guys think about the relationship between age and style? Do you think it's weird when "older" women dress young? Is there -- or should there be -- an age cutoff for things like platinum hair, and miniskirts, and neon lipstick? How has your style changed as you've matured? Tell us about it, please, in the thread below!