I look to my future and approach those years with anticipation and trepidation. I'm not talking about 30 years down the road; I'm talking about the next handful of years with endless possibilities. While you always hear horrible lines like "your 30s are the new 20s" as a 20-something, I'm excited that my professional and personal years are near.
Technically, I'm not part of the media's top target. The focus group of choice is males between the ages of 18 and 36. Movies, music, television and the advertising attached to those sections of media hone in on the young masculine spectrum of the population like you wouldn't believe. But in the garment industry? The garment industry barely gives a hoot about those guys. Fashion is for the ladies.
Go into a store that sells both ladies and men's wear. Which section is larger? Compare the amount of men's fashion magazines versus women's. Look at fashion advertising. It's coming as no shock to you that fashion is directed at the girls. We shop more often and more heavily than the boys. And like the boys and their electronic toys, fashion shoots at a specific group of ladies.
Rich ladies? Uber thin girls? Stores and fashion companies have realized Americans aren't getting any smaller. While the high fashion industry hasn't been revolutionized in the size department, clothes targeted at the average female shopper are making strides in the right direction.
If you're a woman between the ages of 15 to 35, you're in like Flynn, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be options for everyone else. Girls and women falling below or above that age bracket grasp at looks far too mature or inappropriate for their actual age. As a society, we've never given the golden children in their 20s and 30s a crafty name. But we do have labels like tween, teenager, cougar and (sorry) middle-aged. Those gals get the name, but nothing created for them.
And while it might be easier to employ Diablo Cody to create bitchin' terminology for that nameless group of wunderkind, our energy might be better invested in keeping women from slipping through the fashion cracks.
No Longer Playing Dress-Up
Let's start with the younger generation. I recently came across a New York Times article titled "Never Too Young for a Pedicure" that discussed the popularity of makeup amongst elementary school-aged girls. One girl included in the article was actually three-and-a-half years old.
The writer noted: "In a study last year, 55 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick, and nearly two-thirds said they used nail polish, according to Experian, a market research company based in New York. In 2003, 49 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick."
This is really not so shocking. As a kid, my sister wished for makeup every year when blowing out her birthday cake candles. But hers was a child's wish; now cosmetic companies and salons are marketing beauty products and beauty parties to young girls. If makeup maturity now starts at age six, what does that create at 15?
Well, it creates 15-year-olds who don't resemble 15 at all. I'm no nincompoop throwing out "back when I was your age" mumbo jumbo. I was that age not so long ago. But here's where I believe the times started a-changin': the age appropriate outfits sold when I was a kid are no longer available in those same stores. Places I used to shop as a tween now sell items strangely close to what I wear now in my 20s. Did I miss something? There's no reason for girls to mature so readily! They have from age 18 and on to dress as provocative as they want so can't these young girls just be young girls?
The fashion industry says no. The young ones' choices are as troubling as the outfits on their Bratz dolls. The fashion industry presents a catch-22: companies don't create fantastic pre-teen clothing because they (their parents) won't buy it, but the parents can't purchase teen clothing because it doesn't exist. There's no stepping stone.
The Grrr in Cougar
It's the same way on the opposite end of the spectrum. Several times I've had women in their mid-30s to early 50s ask where to shop. It's easy to direct them in the right direction if they were searching for work wear, but casual clothing is another story. Not to generalize that all local stores don't offer selections for these women, but it feels like the items are few and far between. I'm treading on thin ice discussing this delicate matter because feelings can be hurt when you're talking about women, issues of their age and the physical body. And that's really it, isn't it?
Fact: the body changes as you age and you want to wear things differently. Fact: what you want to wear is not always comfortable for your body. Take low-rise jeans for instance. I couldn't begin to tell you if a woman in her mid-40s would/could/should wear those jeans. The same goes with shirts or dresses without sleeves because women don't want to show off their upper arms. It's true with the thinner, flimsier fabrics or the lower cuts that reveal more cleavage than is comfortable. Items are too long or too short, so if a woman doesn't want to wear these "younger" looks, she should have another option.
And that's what is comical. While they haven't created a fashion niche for a woman in her 40s, there are loads of elastic waist items for women in their golden years. How lovely for a woman of a certain age? Either she can wear the same fashions as her daughter or wear something as her retired elderly mother. These women should look chic and modern, with a keen eye on the fashion movement. And what's wonderful is that fashion editorials have picked up on this conundrum and create spreads for women of every age. They take a trend, like the Bermuda short and display an outfit for the 20-something, 30-something, 40-something and older. The spreads that have a 50s, 60s and 70s page featuring great fashions are even better.
Sadly, this isn't a national crisis that can be averted by writing a letter to your local congressman. The younger girls have only their caring parents to say "You're not leaving the house in that." Their older counterparts can only grab a handful of the latest fashions and embrace the frustration of trying on everything to find the right balance.
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