Wednesday, January 12th, 2011...7:37 am

#154: I’ve Decided: It’s “Don’t Dress Up”

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Despite the confusion the New York Times brought to this issue,  I’ve decided after much deliberation and observation that the official How Not To Act Old dictate should be “Don’t Dress Up.”

The Evil Young are much more likely to go out looking like they cleaned the basement, got drunk, danced all night, had sex eight or nine times, slept for 20 hours, then rolled out of bed and went out for pizza without ever once combing their hair much less changing their clothes.

Middle-aged people, by contrast, try to look all cool and casual, but their jeans always fit and are freshly laundered and they’re otherwise tidy and pulled-together.  Not, I must add, that this is always a good thing.  Here’s the Pres in his Mom Jeans.

And how do you know you’re really old?  You show up for everything from grocery shopping to movie watching to plane riding way too overdressed: coordinated clothes, polished shoes, matching accessories.  You dress like you care.  Like anybody else cares.

Sigh.  When I’m dressed wrong these days, I almost always err on the side of being too dressed up, even when I think I’m dressed down.  I worry about which boots to wear with my jeans.  String on a necklace over my sweater.  Think I look hip and relaxed.  Then get to the seminar or the party feeling like I’m wearing the equivalent of pearls and white gloves.

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  • I disagree. Where I work (at a software development company) the young people (which is most of the employees) are not all lazy slobs in T-shirts and jeans. They tend to dress well, because they can afford to. I’m just a technical writer and have 2 college-aged kids, so I can’t afford nice clothes. I usually feel underdressed!

  • Yikes! Britney looks like a total bum! To this almost-29-year-old, it sounds like you’re doing a good job! I almost never add necklaces or bracelets because I never have just the right one.

  • I hear what you’re saying, but I feel so much better when I’m dressed nicely. Even if it might be a little overboard, I hate looking like a slob. You never know who you might run into.

  • Pamela Redmond Satran
    January 12th, 2011 at 8:21 am

    It’s true, Holly, we can’t help ourselves. And there’s probably something about being young and gorgeous and thin and hot that makes you think, I can throw on any old crap and get away with it. Whereas, well, if I wear baggy sweatpants and don’t comb my hair, people will start trying to give me quarters.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by webdoyenne, LIMADWoman. LIMADWoman said: True !RT @prsatran: New How Not To Act Old Post: The official dictate — Don't Dress Up. [...]

  • Ha, too true. I hadn’t even really thought about it till you mentioned it, but now I want a turtle neck that matches one of the colors in the logo on my sweatshirt, and if I’m wearing my black jeans, I should wear black shoes. I never would have thought of that twenty years ago. I would have thought of it when I was dressing up, but not when I was just schlepping around. So old. so, so old.

  • I must be hopelessly old. While I don’t dress up at all if I’m not going somewhere “in public,” if I am going to any kind of event I always feel better if I’m a tad overdressed than underdressed when I get there. I guess it’s left over from nightmares I used to have where I’d show up at work in jeans – before they loosened the dress code this was – and be mortified. Or worse yet, being naked at work or at school. Somehow that would be equivalent to being underdressed as well!

  • LOL. I love him but, bless his heart, he DOES wear Mom jeans.

  • I am really haunted by the photo of the woman in a dress coat at the bus stop. Please consider the very real possibility that this “dress” coat is probably the only coat she owns. She is waiting for a bus, not hopping into a car. Older women on a fixed income don’t have the ability to wear what they want, when they want to. They have to think about making ends meet, not buying stylish clothes. There are many ways to interpret the way people dress, and I bet that woman would love to have a second or third coat that makes her look beautiful.

  • Pamela Redmond Satran
    January 27th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    You’re right, Sally, and she looks sad. I’m going to look for another picture to substitute and still make my point! I’ll try to find someone who looks rich and mean….

  • Thanks Pamela. Rich and mean it is!!

  • Pamela Redmond Satran
    February 7th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Sigh. Sally, thanks so much for stopping in to check up on me. Right after you wrote the last time, I ran out and found this picture of The Queen (rich, mean), but then I got distracted by listening to this nice Lawrence Welk record, and I fell asleep in my rice pudding, and next thing you know I forgot to post it. Till you reminded me.

  • Love your blog! My favorite quote: “Acting immature takes a great deal of maturity” –LeAnne

  • I agree “Don’t Dress Up”! Look at any Junior high school and you will be shocked how many students are in pjs! It also shocks European’s who have American’s as their classmates from a European school!

  • Love the new photo. Well done!

  • I’m 46 and work very hard at NOT looking like I raided my mother’s closet. Which, in essence is really easy since my closet doesn’t look anything like my mother’s. And I pick comfort over beauty any day of the week. I guess I’m immature that way :-)

  • I wonder if the rehab on Britney’s top is an admission, a prediction, or both?

  • oh my those jeans are quite possibly the most horrendous thing in this whole post. Although the queen had me blind for a mo. I tend to dress carefully but always make sure that there’s something a little off. It could be the bag, or a cardigan, anything that will break too matchy matchy. I think that’s the worst age teller.I’m fuller figured but live by the motto that if it’s not touching your body its not sexy. Us voluptuous people tend to fall into the trap of thinking the tentier the better. NOT. but neither are muffin topds sexy_such a thin line. lol

  • I think the main reason older people dress up, is because they were brought up during a time of more structure. My parents are in thier early 60’s and I am always told being told that they are very well dressed. Both of my parents went to a school that required uniforms. They were taught to dress for dinner and look presentable at all times. When I was younger, I remember often seeing my mother putting on lipstick in the middle of the day. When I would ask her if she was going out, she would say something like: “Yes, I’m going to the front yard to plant some flowers.” While this is not considered going out to everyone, my mother felt that if she were going to be in the public eye, she needed to look decent. And for her, this meant putting on some lipstick.

    Though, I do not think it is necessary for everyone to wear lipstick before leaving the house, I do think some basic considerations are necessary for everyone of all ages. Here are some of my basic guidelines on how to decide if it is appropriate for you to leave the house:
    • If your clothing has a very large stain, do not wear it out of the house.
    • If your clothing shows parts of your body that you know should not be showing, do not wear it out of the house.
    • If your face has any remenants of your activties from yesterday, such as food, make-up, or cleaning products, do not wear it out of the house.

  • I actually wish we could go back to the old days. We’ve gone way too casual. I’m probably the leading edge of the causal generation with a childhood and adolescence spanning the 70s and most of the 80s. I wore jeans everywhere except to church. My parents are in their 60s and my mother tells me that when she was a girl there was no wearing pants to school even in winter. People used to dress up to fly on a plane, women wore white gloves and hats in public. It’s definitely a generational phenom.

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