In the past year or so, many of my friends have turned 50. I will join them in less than six months. There's a lot to talk about surrounding this milestone. We laugh hysterically each time someone pulls out her AARP card. There's talk of retirement accounts, taking care of aging parents at the same time we're taking care of teens and college-age children, and how much longer we still have on the mortgage.
But here's one thing we're not talking about: None of my friends has ever said, "I need to start getting rid of all my jeans because I'll be too old for them soon."
A study about jeans done by the British company CollectPlus found that people have difficulty finding the perfect pair of jeans, and the majority of those surveyed believe there's an age when people should stop wearing jeans, and that age is 53, according to wdrb.com. I don't know the age of people they surveyed or how the survey was worded, but declaring that your 50s is the decade when blue jeans need to be purged from your wardrobe is ridiculous.
I follow several fashion blogs — all of them for women over the age of 40. I don't follow them to know what I'm supposed to wear. I follow them to know what fashionable women in mid-life do wear and to see what style tips I can pick up. I spent most of my 30s and my early 40s wearing nothing but jeans and casual tops since I was a stay/work-at-home mom. And while the bottom half of my wardrobe no longer consists of just jeans, I still have several pairs and I wear jeans every day when I work from home. The rest of my wardrobe choices come from things that catch my eye, plus style inspiration I've gained from blogs like Lisa Carnochan's Privilege.
Carnochan's popular blog focuses on fashion and lifestyle topics for women over 50. She's thoughtful, introspective and frequently tackles the topic of "should" when it comes to fashion. In a recent post, she wrote about how she and her daughter could wear the same sequined skirt — complete with photos of how they each styled it completely differently. She made the observation that we are "in an era when we seem to be throwing off outdated expectations of how women over 40 and 50 and 60 ought to dress." So I decided she was the perfect person to ask about this jeans topic. Plus, I know she loves her jeans.
MNN: How important are jeans to your wardrobe?
Lisa Carnochan: I live in jeans. Partly that's because they are such a California staple, but partly it's because these days no single silhouette dominates. You can find a pair that work, no matter how you are shaped. And for me in particular, jeans support the Polished Tomboy look I have come to prefer.
Why do you think jeans are a staple in so many people's wardrobes?
For the same reason so many wear black pull-on pants from casual to formal. Jeans are like white space in design — you don't have to struggle to define their usefulness and they go with everything if you do it right. Also, comfort. Those miners were on to something.
Do you think there's a maximum age for wearing jeans or a maximum age for certain styles of jeans?
Nah. There is a maximum age that any given person will feel comfortable wearing jeans, but it all depends on context. The sculptor in Mendocino will wear hers until she dies. The grande dame in New York City wore them once, in 1969, and shuddered.
Is there is any clothing that women (or men) should stop wearing at certain age?
As a gross generalization? No. You can always find a context in which a piece of clothing will be appropriate. Should the 80-year-old belly dancer give up her cropped top? I think not. But more commonly, the question of what we wear is tied to how much of our bodies society wants to see. And that is determined by biology, power dynamics and a whole host of non-trivial questions.
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Like me, Lisa wondered about the survey itself. She'd like to see the raw data to see if a "whole bunch of people think 40 was the age, and a whole other bunch think, 'No, 80?' Or did everyone hover around 53-55?"
For curiosity's sake, it's a valid question. But, when deciding whether to follow the advice about ditching jeans at 53, it's not important at all. You decide, and no one else, when you've outgrown an item in your wardrobe, or whether you'll ever be too old for it.
My mom is 83, and I can tell you she will never give up her Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. She's been wearing the same brand and style since the 1980s, and they work for her. Why would she give them up?