Middle Age Fashion Rebel

IMG_0189A friend of mine recently showed me an article in the Wall Street Journal which declared that pantyhose are back in style for middle aged women, as long as they are sheer and a natural skin color.  She knew that I had found a dress I might wear for my daughter’s upcoming wedding, but that I was wavering about buying it because it was only knee length, and that meant that I had to either have the lower half of my legs bare for the wedding, or wear a pair of panty hose with the dress.  And I had been told by several people, repeatedly and empathetically, that “no one wears pantyhose anymore.”

Although I rarely, if ever, follow fashion trends, the question of whether or not to wear hose to the wedding did trouble me a little.  As the mother of the bride, I have to walk down the aisle at the start of the ceremony, and be in several of the professional portraits, and I didn’t want to wear anything that might embarrass my daughter.  Originally, I considered solving the problem by wearing a floor length dress with bare legs hidden underneath.  Then I found out that the bridesmaids would be wearing short dresses and so would the mother of the groom, and I thought it might be odd for me to be the only person besides the bride in a floor-length dress.  Also, I am a terrible klutz, so there was a very real chance that I would trip on a long dress, and falling down in the aisle of the church or pitching head-first into the wedding cake is not a risk I’m willing to take.

Although I can now point to the article as proof positive that I am not committing a major fashion blunder by wearing hose at the wedding, I have to admit that I was planning to wear them anyway, even before I read the article.  I knew my daughter wouldn’t really care one way or the other, and I know that I’ll feel more comfortable in hose than I would without them.  It’s not just that I’m sure I’ll get blisters from shoving my bare feet into dress shoes for ten hours straight, it’s also that I have reached the age where I feel that the more of me that is covered up, the better I look.  Hose may be sheer, but they still go a long way towards hiding spider veins, small scars, the bruises I always have from encounters with rowdy shelter dogs and razor burn.

I’m even planning to up the ante by wearing control top panty hose.  My dress is a bit form-fitting, and although I have read that a good pair of Spanx can take five pounds off, I’d still rather wear the hose than a “slimming undergarment.”  (Our mothers didn’t beat around the bush; they just called them girdles.)   I would need the thigh-length one, and I don’t trust it not to show underneath my dress on a day when I might have to do a lot of bending over. I once went to a professional dog show where one of the handlers made an unfortunate choice in her combination of undergarment and skirt length.  The view each time she bent over her dog wasn’t pretty, and it’s definitely not the look I’m going for at my daughter’s wedding.

I think, even at a wedding, middle age is the time to toss fashion considerations aside and to wear what we feel comfortable in and what looks good on us.  And in this particular case, that means I’m wearing pantyhose, whether it’s fashionable or not.

Shopping for the Middle-Aged Woman

My daughter is getting married this fall, which means I’ve got a lot of planning to do in the next few months.  These days, weddings are pretty complicated and the planning can get overwhelming, but until recently, we haven’t hit any major snags.  Things were actually going very smoothly (my daughter is making some very smart choices, thank goodness), right up until the minute I decided that it was time to start shopping for my mother-of-the-bride dress.  And then, at least for me, things came to a grinding halt.

IMG_0047Honestly, I expected this.  My body has always managed to be different sizes in different places, so dresses that fit well are never an easy thing for me to find, and I’m used to a long search whenever I need to buy one.  For me, buying a dress is almost as difficult as buying a swimming suit, and my system is the same:  head into the dressing room with as many as I can carry, and keep trying on until I find one that doesn’t look completely awful.  That goes into the “maybe” pile, and when I get enough dresses (or swimming suits) in the “maybe” pile, I go through them and pick the best of the bunch.  I’ve been doing this for years, and it works for me.

But now that I’m middle aged, it’s become hard even to find a store that caters to someone my age and with my tastes.  The malls are full of small stores that target teens and twenty-somethings, with maybe a Chico’s or a Talbots thrown in almost as an afterthought. There’s usually a department store or two with a small section of clothes for “women”, as opposed to “juniors,” but I’ve never had much luck finding something I actually want to buy.  And when I do find a store for “mature” women, I can’t help but notice that most of the other customers are past retirement age by at least a decade.  Call me vain, but I still don’t always want to wear the same clothes as my mother. (No offense intended, Mom!)

Just once, I wish the people running the stores would realize that there are lots of middle-aged women out there who are still shopping for clothes, regularly heading into the mall with our credit cards and our high hopes.  And that some of us (like me, for instance) have short, somewhat rounded figures that do not look good in the long, flowing fashions that are usually offered to women of a “certain age,” and that still others of us do not like lots of fringe, leopard stripes or sequins.  We want comfortable, nice-looking clothes that flatter our middle-aged bodies and are appropriate for wearing in our normal, everyday lives, as well as the occasional dressy event we may attend.  It doesn’t seem so much to ask.

Meanwhile, the search for my mother-of-the-bride dress continues.  And if anyone has any leads on where I can find a fancy dress that looks good on a middle-aged woman with a small bust line, short legs and ample hips, let me know!  And please, no sequins.  I look better without sparkles.