Dear world: Stop telling “older” women what we can and can’t wear

I fix my hair and make-up–and wear a little something classy, maybe sexy even (at the very least, business casual)–for…

byKathryn Mayer| PUBLISHED Jul 23, 2019 7:13 PM
Dear world: Stop telling “older” women what we can and can’t wear
Woman “of a certain age” scrolls past the tummy-slimming swimsuits in a variety of shades of floral upholstery on Facebook. iclipart

I fix my hair and make-up–and wear a little something classy, maybe sexy even (at the very least, business casual)--for my monthly hair salon appointment. I do this so the stylists think I take care of myself, even on bad root days, so hopefully they, too, take care of me, giving the very best attention to this shined and polished version of myself.

It’s like picking up the house before cleaning service comes.

Why do we do this? Why do we masquerade our everyday selves with the made-for-TV version?

Well, TV, for one. And Instagram. And the women’s outlets that instruct what women should wear in their 20s, 30s and 40s (if you’re in your 50s, you might as well cover your hideousness in head-to-toe armor, apparently). And, of course, Facebook, which thinks I need lipstick that won’t bleed into fine lines--also, my teeth whitened, breasts lifted, crow’s feet erased, and, for a limited time because stock is running out, tummy-slimming swimsuits in a variety of shades of floral upholstery.

The algorithms are not incorrect; the stereotype exists for a reason. Except for the floral upholstery sausage casing swimsuits—that’s just wrong.

I do need all those things, but darn it, you are not the boss of me, Facebook! The multimedia push to dictate the elasticity in my waistbands and avalanche of smart, sensible shoes is both mind-blowing and soul-crushing.

Women live to be an average of 72 years old in America–AVERAGE–and in my family, the female species often lives to far exceed 90. So that’s far more beauty time after 20 years old than before, and a lot of consumer dollars to spend.

See, I’m good at math.

It’s a huge economic chunk of the bell curve between crop tops and elastic-waist pants up for grabs--a whole lotta money left unspent at Chicos because we have money to spend and need a place to spend it.

So why is there is not more to offer women-of-a-certain-age–and, speaking of which, is there any other term more infuriating than “women-of-a-certain age”? Except perhaps “smile!” Why are there no “men-of-a-certain age”? Men need teeth whitening and fine line fillers as much as women--maybe more so if you add in the ear hair regimen--but the media hailstorm doesn’t afflict them. Men are allowed to wear what they want, look like they look, without public commentary. Women, however, are constantly bombarded with judgments about what is appropriate at what age and when.

I digress.

Did you get a memo saying we were too old to wear something, or did you just wander into Forever 21 and a 16-year-old sales clerk asked you if you were looking for the bathroom?

Do you search the sales bin at Victoria’s Secret desperately seeking a size that would possibly cover not all, but even part of your parts? Just when did XL get so itsy-bitsy? As our food portions supersized, underwear sizes have apparently dwindled to teeny-tiny slips of satin, nowhere big enough to hold the supersized maxi-pad for my unpredictable, going-out-of-business-sale menstrual cycle.

Why do we keep trying to pour our bodies into clothes that can no longer contain us? Or worse, why do we give up and go quietly into the land of comfortable sweats and oversized t-shirts, the present-day versions of our grandmother’s comfy housecoats?

Today’s middle-aged woman ain’t who she used to be, and it’s time for the beauty world to sit up and take notice, then create products and clothing that deserve our well-earned dollars.

Everywhere we look, women stay the same exact age: young. It’s like their lease is up–too many miles–and they are rapidly turned in for the next, newer model. Fashion reflects this: you’re allotted the space to be cool, hip, brave, and beautiful; however, even if a brand is marketing products to women my age, the models used in the advertising are often young enough to be my daughter.

As grownass women (a far better term than “women of a certain age” or midlife)–the situation is completely flipped, as we get zero representation or respect in popular culture, other than prime examples, the brunt of a joke on a many of sitcoms, of what not to wear.

There is a phrase every single teenage girl in America–probably the entire universe –has either heard with her own ears or at least translated by “the look” given to her by the mom or dad, but usually the mom:

“Are you wearing that?”

I’m guilty of this, myself. Not the verbal assault, but definitely with eyeballs busting out of my head. We judge teenage girls with the wrath of mom fashion police, and we shouldn’t because it comes back at us tenfold when we get older, and options are limited to whatever we find at Costco that fits us.

Remember how that teenager, defiant in her bold choices, either on TV or in your own home, stands tall and storms straight out of the house, usually slamming the door, looking absolutely amazing–all dressed up to show the world the world who she wants to be?

We need to do exactly that.

The way I see it, in midlife, we women absolutely hit a fork in the road: proceed with caution to the Coldwater Creek grave and do what cultural norms tell us to do, or unleash our inner rebellious teenager, stake our claim, and wear whatever we damn well want. With pride, attitude, humor–with or without Spanx, that I’ll leave up to you.

Kathryn Mayer – aka Kathy or Kate – is a potty-mouth writer, humorist, and activist writing out loud with humor and angst about social issues, parenting, midlife, and sadly, gun violence prevention at She is occasionally funny on Instagram & Twitter, and plays well with others on Facebook. She’s a reluctant inductee into AARP, mom of four almost grown-and-flown kids, and an aspiring writer with rejections to prove it. Her blog is a National Society of Newspaper Columnist award winner, received several Connecticut Press Clubs awards including Best Personal Blog, as well as BlogHer Voice of the Year honors. Her essays appear online, in-print, and most often, on fridges sticky with smiles and swears.