IBC will occasionally feature the voice of a special guest writing a single post. This first one’s courtesy of Louise Rafkin.
Louise Rafkin is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post Magazine, Forbes, Health, San Francisco Magazine, Salon, Cosmopolitan, and the New York Times Magazine. She’s a frequent contributor to All Things Considered and other programs on National Public Radio.
Even my fashion-compulsive friends and my fashionista niece couldn’t give me a good answer: name a woman fifty plus who wears it well.
I don’t mean simply looks hella younger. For that, we have Demi Moore. And I suppose we have Madonna, though lately she’s looking like a harsher Blondie but is still uninteresting fashion-wise. (Unlike the real Blondie who pretty much defined a sustaining style moment in the late ’70s.)
So as a 50 plus tomboy femme, I’ve been trolling the net for inspiration, for women of middle age with style, sophistication, and originality who aren’t squeezing their Spanx-encased post-menopausal skeletons into teenager duds. Because I say hell to the no on ruffles and empire frocks.
Ever since the Gap popularized the notion that male toddlers in the same clothing as their fully grown fathers makes them “little men,” American women of a certain age have embraced a similar notion that wearing clothes from Forever 21 will transform them into hot chicks. Alas, non. Ask any French woman, not a one who would be caught wearing something remotely “babydoll.” So, what’s a girl–er–woman to do? Who’s going to point the way?
My guide thus far: Tilda Swinton. With cheekbones as architectural as something you’d buy at the MOMA gift shop, Ms. Swinton consistently combines class, strength, and a smidgen of femme sexuality into something fresh.
Here, her swank take on dress-up duds make even Eva Longario look trite:
I would so want to wear this, though I’m not built like a beanpole:
And here, in Comme de Garcons, on the cover of the August W–sassy and sexy at the same time, and with a intriguing butch/femme balance:
Can’t think she isn’t taking something from Kate Hepburn. Here, Ms. Hepburn’s slightly girly flavor still says both sexy and confident:
Europeans seem more able to transition with flair. Here, both Catherine Deneuve and Helen Mirren demonstrate the power of cougars in leopard:
The French do it well, but check out Ms. Mirren:
I like how she is also unafraid of color– a huge faux pas of those in my age bracket because officially one stops being seen at about 40. Pass 50 and you have to crank up the Crayola.
Though I can’t say I like the Dame’s silhouette here, I admire her chutzpah–red stockings aren’t for the faint of heart.
Splashing with orange, newlywed Julie Christie rocks these flashy trousers; success is coming off as sporty not frumpy:
When I was a young lesbian, the book When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple was ubiquitous among the lavender crone population. It’s now sold millions, and in Amazon parlance, recounts “the endearing moments of joy–and passion–to be found in the rich and varied world of midlife.”
The title came from a poem by Jenny James. Aside from lauding the audacity of wearing purple, it claims “You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat/And eat three pounds of sausages at a go.” That is just wrong–and not true. Or, at least, I don’t want it to be.
I do cherish my purple and silver Nike Air-Force 1’s, but I’d like more inspiration: Where are the iconic Boomers, then, that refuse to go quietly into the post-50 dusk?