Saturday, 7 January 2012

After While Crocodile

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


  1. Hi my dear!! Happy new year too, what a coincidence reading this post, I sold my crocodile CK dress just before Christmas on ebay to an Australian buyer! I did love it, but as I thrifted the black lace CK dress just before Christmas I decided to sell the croc one! You look great as usual, wishing you a fab 2012 xxx

  2. Brava! So well said. Why must we cover up in the heat (and starting at age 25???) just becasue our flesh is no longer "perfect"? (whatever that was). Great post!! And I love your dress too : >

  3. You look great in that awesome t-dress! Your point is similar to the one I was making in my new year post about physical perfection and the angst associated with seeing our own reflections. I think it's ok to have an Ideal to work towards, but like your decision to post, blogging is therapeutic in terms of getting over the angst of seeing ourselves! (I am trying to numb my mind into accepting my image.) Anyway, I've loved mini-skirts since high school, and though my thighs are nowhere near as narrow as they were way back then, I still enjoy putting them on now. Keep wearing your crocodile shirt! xx

  4. Well said. Applause. And, frankly, I think your 39 year old legs look great. And the tee would certainly grab the attention of anyone approaching.

    I know that I had to be challenged by my readers to try short skirts at my age. And I don't actually have much cellulite, which only goes to show how powerful the cultural messages can be. I will say though that my husband who has very slender, and blindingly white, legs does tend to cover his up, so perhaps there is hope. And yet, for every man like my husband, there is another wearing Speedos...

  5. Veshovius, great post and I face some of the same aging issues. I'll see some of my pictures and think, "Ewwww....what happened to my waist?!" But as a 45 year old premenopausal woman, THIS is what happens. And why should I hide? or apologize? Or verbally abuse my body? You and Terri have both addressed this succinctly and head on. I love that! Hugs! ~Serene

  6. Brilliant read! I totally agree, the more us "older" women embrace our imperfections the more acceptable they become to the rest of society. There's nothing wrong with cellulite, wrinkles or decreased skin elasticity, it's normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
    Your legs are fabulous, toned and athletic and much more attractive than those hideous and shapeless twigs so beloved by fashion magazines. x

  7. Beautiful and articulate post about a subject that I feel passionate about. I agree with Vix that the more we love ourselves as we age, the more likely it will affect the culture at large. Posting a photo of your gorgeous legs is a political act and I thank you!

  8. It looks perfect in your perfect, well tone firy dancer´s body.
    Love it.
    Mil besos.
    Ya veo que siempre buscas el sol.

  9. And thanks for participating in Visible Monday, V!

  10. You write so beautifully. Thanks for linking up to my post and for your comment. It means a lot to me.
    Your legs look fab. I would think you were in your 20's. You have very pretty legs and a fabulous body. You look great in the dress.
    I have the same shoes and I am not sure they do what they say they do, but they are comfy.

  11. Veshoevius you always look great!! i think a lot of it has to do with knowing a bit about who is inside that skin, no matter the age ;)

    i'm glad you linked to Debbi's post!! gah, it got my goat!! "Instead of trying to use his expertise to take a decent photo of her he opted to use a younger, more attractive model." that's one part of what is so galling.....really, he was just a sh7t photog who had no business teaching any class.

    i was discussing this recently with an old art school chum re: women taking self portraits being perceived as mentally 'off' somehow. This has been a very common approach for centuries, but now with all of these style bloggers i think people will be forced to do another think about this. Especially with ladies who are beyond society's 'best before' date (ha!)

    Happy Day Everybody!!! steph

  12. Yay!!! Thank you so much for this post!! I'm one to always question if my clothing/outfit is age appropriate. Your insight to this dilemma is refreshing and inspiring!

  13. Are you kidding me? Your legs look amazing. If you'd tell me you're 25, I'm sure I would easily believe you.

    As for covering up, I don't believe in 'age appropriate' dressing. It's perfectly possible for a 50 year old to wear a leather jacket and a short skirt. It's all about style and feeling confident, if you ask me. When you're 40 and dressing like Britney Spears (i.e. school girl uniform), you won't look out of place because of the leg you show. You'll look out of place because you look a little desperate to stay young. I think we should all dress according to our own style and what we feel comfortable in.


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