Everything Old Is New Again (Except for Me)

Literal screengrab from the Forever 21 website. Ugh, whatever.

The boyfriend and I hosted his college-age sister on her spring break last weekend and I found myself utterly surprised by her wardrobe. Perhaps I’ve been stuck inside too long, but I just wasn’t ready for how much she smacked of Alex Mack or Scary Spice, both names she wouldn’t even know. I compared myself in my skinny jeans and oversized sweater and thought, Oh shit. Here it comes.

Here it comes, as in: I’m old. 

I mean, every time The New York Times features twentysomethings now, they look like they’re fresh from a Seinfeld shoot, and those actors had the WORST clothes. So what did I really expect? Of course his sister would show up in a tiny tank top and huge black and white-checkered chef’s pants. Or go out for the day in cargo jeans. Or go out for the night in a crop top that barely covered her chest. 

Any person under 30 reading this would probably think, So what? That’s been the style for a while now. But if you’re over 30 – and dear God, I’m 35 – you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking, which is that I don’t want to wear any of this shit again. 

And this is a problem, because I also don’t want to look old. Because, of course, the only thing worse than getting old is looking old, fuddy-duddy, out-of-date. And fashion – fickle, fickle, fashion – has a way of swinging the style pendulum from one extreme to another, which is how it keeps us spending money on it, lest we find ourselves looking suddenly, woefully out of style. 

And dear reader, I am afraid I must look woefully out of style.

Now, I have long maintained that style is separate from fashion. Fashion is trendy, given to weird fits and bursts (remember in 2010 when we were all wearing huge flowers sewn onto our shirts? I knew someone who called them her “growths;” she had a whole cardigan collection). Whereas I’ve always thought style is more about color and shape: Are you wearing colors that complement your complexion? Shapes that complement your body? Can you incorporate trends without drowning in them? A hyper-trendy outfit always looks to me like someone has no personality. 

This is why I think the younger you are, the more trendy you can be; your personality is still developing. I read a great comment online once: “Whenever I meet someone who’s 22, I just feel like they need to go back in the oven. Like they’re not fully cooked yet.” So a head-to-toe outfit of trends just makes sense on a 22-year-old.

Also, please don’t misunderstand: I’m not at all criticizing my boyfriend’s sister. I like her; she’s adorable and smart and talented. She’s also doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing: wearing the coolest clothes of the day, clothes that are made exactly for someone like her.

My problem at the moment is that these clothes are really not made for me, and I’m not sure what the alternative really is. Another fashion tenet I’ve noticed is that most brands don’t really seem to care about women who are between the ages of say, 22 and 62. You’re either in Forever 21 or Eileen Fisher; I distinctly remember feeling too old for the former when I was all of 25. So this hasn’t exactly been a new problem for me, but what is new is that I’m seeing wrinkles on my forehead and the occasional silver strand in my hair at the exact same time that the clothes I wore in middle school are back in style and I DON’T LIKE ANY OF THESE THINGS. 

I am currently trying to muster up a version of 90s fashion that I just might like. Renee Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair remake (1999) looked amazing, but then again, her style in that movie skewed more classic than trendy; she was cosmopolitan and unmussed and sexy as hell, quintessential French woman style. I can deal with the big clunky 90s shoes – I’m 5’3” so the bigger the better. I can deal with the shorter shirt styles, although it has been hilariously difficult to order stuff online as shirts are skewing both oversized and tiny; some shirts have arrived two sizes too big and others turned out to barely cover my boobs. “Is this really what I ordered?” I asked, holding up a shirt that would have fit me in first grade.

My quarrel here, really though, is jeans. I have experimented with some of the new styles, and wow, thus far straight leg jeans do not look great on me. Then again, I absolutely hated when skinny jeans came into fashion; I remember thinking how unflattering they were. My college boyfriend noted how they made “women look like golf tees.” And I’ve hated, hated the leggings-as-pants trend, so if the new problem is pants that are too big – remember, fashion swings from one extreme to another – then FINE. I will try out the pants that are too big. But I will do so under duress.

Jean trends are an unavoidable marker in overall style movements, and I remember my mother being amused at my sudden interest in flared jeans when I was ten. They were coming into fashion, and my favorite pair had a ski stripe down the side. I also got into mood rings, peace signs and ski-stripe sweaters, stuff my mom wore as a child in the 70s. She was only twenty years older than me, and would you look at that: now the very fashion resurgence I’m complaining about is the popular crap from 25 years ago, and the very same stuff my mom was complaining about. I knew fashion cycled, I just didn’t think it would cycle this quickly. And with the ugliest shit. 

Of course, we all tend to be surprised at the realities of getting old – your body starts malfunctioning, you can’t eat dairy, new pop music all starts to sound the same. The Trader Joe’s cashier didn’t card me the other day, and now that I think about it, it’s probably more to do with my goddamn jeans than anything. I can just see that thought bubble: Skinny jeans and Chardonnay? Yep, she’s old enough.

“People have to go kicking and screaming through change,” a therapist once told me, and yes, I suppose I’m protesting enough. But if you’re not changing at all, you’re literally dead, something that resonated with me at a previous job. The company specialized in freezing human cell samples to a level of stasis, neither dead nor fully alive, so they could be turned into other medical treatments. There was something poetic about hearing “For cells, it’s either change or die” during my orientation. As long as you’re living, you’re changing – unless you’re cryogenically frozen in a vacuum somewhere. Or unless you’re my grandma, who hasn’t changed anything about her style or her home since 1970.

So I suppose, so long as I have the privilege of living on this catastrophic miracle of a planet, I can do myself the honor of trying a new jeans style. If I’m lucky, it won’t be the first time I have to buy new pants. But I promise you, every time it happens I will complain. And can we just, like, skip over the crap fashion from the early 2000s? No one needs to dress like Avril Lavigne or Paris Hilton again. No one. 


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s