What a difference a week makes! It's hard to think that on Christmas Day I was lying on the beach and, shortly before that, enjoying warm sunny days with the sun rising at five and setting at nine. Now just after a week back in the UK I'm battling with a nasty cough and cold, struggling into work in the dark, coming home in the dark and, to add insult to injury, also suffering rain and gale force winds!
So I'm going to dwell on happier times for a few more posts. Like walking through the suburban jungle of my home city in the mid afternoon heat to get milk. I lack the dedication to dress up to the nines to go out to get milk but I don't like looking slovenly either. That's when a tee shirt dress comes in handy - just the right mix of casual chic and comfort on a thirty degree day.
This crocodile print tee shirt dress by Christopher Kane for Topshop may be an oldie but it's still a goodie. As an Australian I'm much fonder of the crocodile as an iconic image than the ape which graced the jersey pieces in Kane's mainline collection (and which were also five times the price of Topshop's). I'm wearing black sequined Fit Flops - for the uninitiated these crazy things are supposed to give your legs a workout while you walk which I wear at every opportunity trying to convince myself they are melting away cellulite as I pound the pavement - well one can dream!
On the subject of legs I debated whether to post these pictures or not because my first reaction on seeing them was "Christ my legs look awful!" and flip flopped between pressing delete and indignation firing up the urge to publish what un-airbrushed legs look like when you hit thirty nine because, why hide the fact? I reasoned this is a blog about what I wear and this is what I wear!
I was also spurred on after reading this thoughtful post by Terri at Rags Against the Machine, in which she dissects her personal reaction to a paragraph from a Susan Sontag essay "The Double Standard of Ageing", which argues age anxiety is something more acutely felt by women in higher social classes in developed societies. If you are a woman, whatever your age, this essay is well worth a read as it candidly strips bare all those social influences that combine to damage the psyche of women and fuel their obsession with the ageing process. There will be nothing that will surprise you to read it as a woman but it is a sobering wake up call to see it all written down with the clarity of Sontag's brutally honest prose. You realise how much of your own experiences and insecurities you recognise while reading and also how tragically limiting it is as a human being to be constrained by this "social pathology" as Sontag puts it.
If you have any age related body insecurities then spending some time in very hot climate soon puts keeping cool as a priority above worrying about how much skin and limb exposure is considered decent for your age bracket. When it's a hot day and I need to go out in the heat and there's all this glorious sunshine to be soaking up on limbs that haven't seen the sun for way too long, the last thing I want to worry about, or indeed should have to worry about, is whether it is acceptable to society at large that my legs are on show. And the last thing I want to wear on a hot, sticky day is something covering my legs and arms other than SPF 30!
There is enough style advice out there aimed at women over a certain age (some have that threshold as low as twenty five) imploring the wobbly of thigh and crepey of knee to banish everything that is not knee length or below in hemline from our wardrobes. The subterfuge begins then, women are to hide from all of society what their bodies look like as they get older. But if we join in this game we inadvertedly teach everyone (and in particular younger women) that what the female of the species look likes as she biogically ages is something to be acutely ashamed of.
I'm not going to pretend that ageing does not bother me, or that these days I don't think twice about putting something like this dress on. But should I really deny myself the simple and sensual pleasure of feeling the sunshine on my skin for the sake of such society inflicted angst about my physical appearance and age? The largest organ in my body is my skin and it is the conduit through which I receive sorely needed doses of vitamin D to stave off depression and the onset of osteoporosis in later life. That I should be subject to increasingly severe dress codes that limit my intake at a relatively early stage in my life seems especially galling - I am expected to give up free health benefits as well as simple pleasures with age. Well let me tell you, there is no way on Earth, that on a two week holiday in the sun, that I am going to pass up using every square centimetre of skin that I can possibly get mileage out of to get my vitamin D!
This imposition of a particularly cruel best before date for women, by which it is deemed that the majority of their bodies should disappear under dress, actively discourages us to foster a healthy acceptance of the inevitable process of ageing or to attribute it any value. Note how different the standards are for men as they age (Sontag's essay has an excellent treatment on this). Why can't we as women be encouraged to regard our older bodies with the affection I can afford the dress I'm wearing in the photos? As an oldie, but still a goodie - great vintage if you like, rather than well out of date.
PS. I have since posting decided to link this post to this week's Visble Monday series over at Not Yet Dead Style. I was just going to kick back and read the entries myself. But then I read a post from Debby from She Accessorizes Well recounting a hurtful encounter with a photography teacher who passed over using her as a model to demonstrate something in a photography class just because she was a older woman. Instead of trying to use his expertise to take a decent photo of her he opted to use a younger, more attractive model. It's a sobering post and for me reflected many of the issues Sontag brought up in her essay about the difference between how society treats the ageing of women and the ageing of men. As Debby says physical beauty fades, only internal beauty remains. But that should not mean that we should become invisible.
Tee Shirt Dress: Christopher Kane for Topshop; Flip-flops: Fit Flop; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors