“Vain trifles as the seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us” — Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Hello Weird Sister readers! We don’t know each other, so let me introduce myself. I’m a woman named Michael with short hair, a smart mouth (thanks for the FYI, gran), and an undying love of personal style, runway fashion, and jackets with threatening collars.
I’m also, quite proudly, 36. And I’m here to launch Weird Sister‘s new personal style column for women over 30.
Yes, I know that fashion stresses a lot of people right out. And for good reason. Misogyny seemingly never tires of a narrative that centralizes the thin, white 22-year-old as the perennial American Übermensch, while the cultural perpetuation of a women v. women atmosphere doesn’t exactly create a welcoming space for being oneself, if “oneself” strays from dominant beauty standards. And sometimes, even it doesn’t stray.
In this unnecessarily weird world, style itself is politicized. To care or claim not to care (because I don’t believe that you can 100% not care about what you choose to wear because it is a choice after all) about what you wear becomes an act of war, of surrender, of hiding, of engagement with a particular narrative. Always dynamic. Always deeply personal.
“In my closet, in the closet containing the clothes that shroud my cowardice, I have 40 or 50 pairs of dark jeans, an absurd number of black t-shirts, and six or seven nice dress shirts. These are the clothes I feel safe in. This is the armor I wear to face the world, and I assure you, armor is needed.” –Roxane Gay, Breaking Uniform
And while the Internet is awash with sites and selfies highlighting and discussing the trends embraced by 20-somethings, the double-take outfits walking down the sidewalks and waiting for trains often come courtesy of women over 30. Women, who, presumably are more comfortable looking the Übermensch in the eye and saying, “I really don’t give a shit.”
Authentically not giving a shit–a particular sort of confidence that comes with age and experience–breeds its own brand of originality, self-engagement, self-possession, and self-expression. And you don’t see it highlighted and discussed as part of a trend watch. The hip moms confidently innovating mom style on the playground, the 70-year-old grandmas with fly Iris Apfel glasses, and the 40-year-old commuter channeling some genius combination of Grace Jones and Eileen Fisher on the subway are almost completely absent from visual culture. WHY.
You got it: Misogyny.
Enter Outfit of the Day (OOTD) Beyond 30.
Essentially, OOTD Beyond 30 is a reader-driven storytelling column using clothing as its chosen vernacular. Each month I’ll put out a call for reader submissions based on some theme and then you all send me your best selfies, bathroom mirror shots, or what have you along with a “why” paragraph. I want to know how you use clothes to engage with yourself and/or the world. I want to know how you use clothing as armor, as weaponry, as memory, as personal narrative.
Speaking of clothing as armor, the holiday season is upon us and with it, family visits. Which brings me to my first call for submissions.
THE HOLIDAY TRAVEL POWER OUTFIT
Whenever I travel or have to put myself in an uncomfortable, potentially disempowering situation I’ll wear what I call a “Power Outfit.” My girlfriend has said that I often wear clothing defensively (true, I’m a defensive dresser and driver) and my power outfits are a good example of this. Basically, I think, “What would Grace Jones, PJ Harvey, or Rinko Kikuchi do?” and go from there. This results an ensemble that usually uses monochromatics, intimidating collars, and/or no-nonsense fabrics to inspire either fear, confusion, or deference in those around me. As someone who’s afraid to fly, it also inspires in myself a sense of control and composure when I actually want to hyperventilate while clutching the armrests.
This was my Power Outfit for flying home to Nashville last summer. I discovered that, for whatever reason, it makes people nervous when you wear all white, so I went for the travel comfort of leggings and a cotton tunic combined with the intimidation factor of all white and a spot of bright red to remind people of blood as part of an overall style I call “Don’t have small talk with me.” THE POWER OUTFIT TOTALLY WORKED.
So as we move into holiday family time, I want all of you 30+ people to send me pics of your best Power Outfits. Please include a few sentences that describe why and how it brings you power. Do you use it to feel like the adult that you are as you prepare to return to the family hearth and all of its dynamics? Do you wear it as a superstitious way to ward off the holiday travel evils of delayed flights and rude airline staff? Or is it simply comfortable, making you feel at ease? When did you discover your Power Outfit and how has it evolved as you’ve gotten older?
Email me your Power Outfit submissions, including your name, age (if you’re comfortable), city/town where you live, and power story by December 20th.