The notion of style could be seen as a somewhat elusive one; you can’t just buy it or copy it. It doesn’t involve buying the most expensive clothes as suggested by Vogue or straight from a mannequin. Instead, style requires knowing yourself and your body and channelling this into an outward form of expression. Age then has no influence on style, because there can be no guarantee as to when such self-knowledge can be achieved.
Looking back on past outfits, we can all single out a few that we may wish we’d never worn. From oversized khaki pants to dungarees, the word fashionable may not be our first choice to describe such things. Yet this seems to be where the line between fashion and style is drawn. While fashion relates to trends, style can be timeless and need not correspond to them at all. We can be consistently stylish yet questionably fashionable. We call somebody stylish when they own what they wear, and when we just sheepishly follow what we’re told is fashionable, we can never look properly comfortable. The slender twenty-somethings that storm the catwalks and fill our magazines may epitomise fashion, but there are undeniably pensioners who own their style much more. There are clear examples in both extremes of age who demonstrate that style is in no way about age. Chloë Moretz, still only 17, was given the Future Icon Award at last year’s ELLE fashion awards for effortlessly incorporating some of the more challenging designers into her style, proving that style has no age limit. At the other end of the age spectrum, 87-year-old June Brown recently bonded with Lady Gaga on the Graham Norton Show about their fashion choices, whilst sporting a trademark blonde streak in her fringe. Two very different people in terms of backgrounds and influences, yet both have a clear sense of style unique to their individual personalities.
Style is therefore not about age, being fashionable or buying the most expensive clothes. It is a form of expression that allows us to use the creations of others to define our own identity. As our ideas about ourselves and the world around us develop, so does our style, meaning that while it is influenced by the trends of our times, it stays loyal to our own interpretation of them. Style is experimenting with clothes and finding your own distinct way to express yourself through them.
Style is about age
First of all, anyone can look chic. From your five-year-old cousin to your imposing great-aunt, the use of clothes to express ourselves and look great is a universal activity. But just think what would happen if that cousin and aunt were to swap clothes. Suddenly the child is weighed under by layers of silk and wool, a string of pearls dragging her comically to the ground. Meanwhile the aunt finds herself the unlikely model of dungarees and a T-shirt featuring The Tweenies. Even with sizing considerations put to one side, it doesn’t work. Style is about age; it’s about locating who you are at this particular time and reflecting that in your apparel.
This isn’t to say that individuality should be restricted by age; life would be rather boring if everyone born in the same year wore the exact same thing. But the truth is that we do dress to reflect our generation. There are many stylish older ladies who have maintained a rather 1950s aesthetic in their wardrobes, partially because it’s an elegant look, and partially because this was the time when they were young women encountering and enjoying fashion fully for the first time. Similarly, there’s a lot to be said for the aged hippy who still wears the kaftan they bought during the Summer of Love. I’m not saying that I’m going to continue wearing my tartan miniskirt well into my 90s, but I imagine that many of the style sensibilities which I form now, during some of the most exciting and eye-opening years of my life, will stay with me for a long time.
Besides, surely sticking to fashion which is vaguely age-appropriate and reflective of your own generation has greater integrity than constantly trying to keep up with the latest fads and trends? There comes a point when one stops looking like an ‘It’ girl and more like Edie from Ab-Fab.
Style should by no means have proscriptive criteria, but it is important to maintain an idea of who you are – something which is inevitably affected by age – if you are going to be comfortable and confident in your outfit. By staying true to yourself, you can stay eternally chic.