For me, this November brings with it one of life’s biggest milestones: my 30th birthday. As someone who categorically hates a fuss, I will be quite happy to celebrate small and unassuming – and just as well, since Covid-19 has made sure that’ll be happening regardless. I have mixed feelings about the big 3-0 to be honest, and I must admit, I have fallen into the trap of Googling articles relating to turning 30 and what it really means. In doing so, one thing that has stood out to me is how many of these articles focus on topics such as “dressing like a 30 year old” or “wardrobe staples you need before you hit 30”. And the more I’ve read, the more I’ve become annoyed about it.
I have never bought into dressing for your age. Once we enter adulthood and out of the confines of having our parents dress us, we have the right to express ourselves through our clothing regardless of how old we are. Most of the articles I read about so called ‘age appropriate garments for a 30 year old’ put an emphasis on maturity; they more often than not championed investment pieces, ( favourites often being monochrome colours, knitwear and nothing falling above the knee) not for the right reasons such as environmental factors, but because we are basically deemed too old to play dress up post 29. It’s almost as if the authors of these pieces want our personal style to reflect what society stereotypically expects we should be by the time we hit 30 – grown up, mature, life together, family woman, career secure; a lot of which, just isn’t me. And even if it was, why should my style have to fit accordingly? How we dress doesn’t need to reflect where we are in our lives, it should reflect who we truly are as people. Likewise, our personal style does not dampen our earned successes; I believe I am the same successful woman whether dressed in a power suit or a pink sequined skirt.
So, why should any of us conform to this outdated narrative? I mean, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the clothes many of these so called experts suggested, but it is the reasons behind their suggestions that I take issue with. Should we really put a time limit on our individuality, and ultimately our identity, just because someone else says its time to do so? I say absolutely HELL NO.
My style has always been a bit of a mix, but it’s one that reflects the real me. I’m naturally an introverted person so trying to convey who I am can be tough, and over the years I have found the easiest way for me to do so is through my clothes. Upon reading the advice of several ‘dress like a 30 year old’ blog posts and magazine clippings, I realised very quickly my style was way off what was considered appropriate: I adore girly hairbands, bold florals, animal print, Disney (yes, I am almost 30 and still proudly mix up my outfits with some Disney pieces, what of it?), bows, ribbons, ice cream palettes, old band t shirts – everything a 30 year old woman should apparently be packing up and leaving behind in her 20s. If I were to take heed from what I’ve read, I would likely have to clear out half of my wardrobe; and more importantly to consider, by ridding myself of clothes I enjoy wearing in favour of fitting a certain acceptable ‘age appropriate’ image, I just wouldn’t be me anymore. Now, I’m comfortable enough to embrace my personal style regardless of what anyone else thinks, but I can completely understand why some women may take this advice as gospel. It really got me thinking how many women are now dressing for their age and not actually dressing for themselves; a thought that continues to upset and anger me. The influence that big-name magazines and social media platforms have over us is huge, and many women unwillingly fall into the web they continually spin of “if you don’t dress age appropriately your life wont progress accordingly”. It is all lies, just another facet of control us women are regularly subjected to, whether we know it or not.
This rule doesn’t just apply to turning 30. There were tons of articles that gave the run down for what women should be wearing in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond (funnily enough I couldn’t find many articles dictating what men should be wearing upon entering each new decade…).
Why should we, at any age, have to give up our identity?
When I really started thinking about it, many of my favourite style icons are women much older than myself. The most notable is the truly incomparable Iris Apfel: a 99 year old fashion icon who embraces bold colours, prints and embellishments on the daily. If we were to go off what these articles tell us, Iris Apfel should have hung up her sweeping ball gowns and elaborate jewellery age 30. She should have binned basically everything that counts towards her identity because, for whatever reason, we are fed that when we embark on our twilight years we should tone it down. Growing older is an absolute privilege, one that should be celebrated, so why shouldn’t we embrace it in our truest form?
Then we have the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who served as Justice of the Supreme Court in the USA for 27 years whilst adorning her gowns with her signature bejewelled collars. A woman who was successful, ignited real change in society and embraced her individuality whilst doing so, right up until her passing this year, aged 87. And that’s before we even talk about the likes of Helen Mirren, Gillian Anderson, Jessica Lange, Cate Blanchette, Prue Leith, Sarah Paulson… I could go on and on. The common factor here, is that they are all successful women over 40 who embrace their own individual styles. Bold colours, figure hugging silhouettes, elaborate accessories and unique flair are all the order of the day for these ladies, and I can’t help but hope I am even half as confident to embrace my individuality throughout each decade in my life, as much as they all do. Let’s face it, it’s not done them any harm.
Women are often dictated to about most aspects of their lives: careers, family, sexuality, looks and individual style to name a few. I for one refuse to be dictated to, and I will not be starting my 30th year as anything other than my true self. So, I urge you to take heed against toxic style coaches and the enforced ‘clothing must haves’ by the time you reach a certain milestone. You do not need to suddenly become a different person because your age has advanced by one year, or even one decade. No one knows your style better than you do and I don’t think anyone has the right to persuade you to change merely on the basis of age. If like me, you aren’t ready to hang up the bright colours and girly accessories then don’t. Your style is your own and age does not define it. Nor does age define any aspect of who you are. We owe it to ourselves to be our true identity for as long as we can.
Here’s to growing older and growing even more fabulous.