This weekend one of my oldest and dearest friends, the Other V, got married and I had the honour of being her bridesmaid. So last weekend I organised her a little hen do. People get married at all ages these days but the concept of a hen party often doesn't extend past the twenty something age bracket. When you've rolled on well past this age, the whole idea of running around town with girlfriends dressed in ludicrous costumes with a driver's learner plate (or worse) taped to your dress starts to seem very undignified.
To be honest I was never into all that cringe and embarrassment factor heaped on a bride-to-be before her big day anyway and I knew she wasn't either. So instead of all that I organised her something just girly enough but ladylike at the same time - a Sunday afternoon tea at the British Museum with a few of her closest girlfriends.
I wore this Vivienne Westwood outfit to mark the occasion. I bought it as a present to myself on my last birthday as a mark of surviving forty and properly entering my forties. I was always a girlish dresser right up until my mid thirties, but lately that has started to look wrong. I haven't got the face to pull it off anymore. I have the face of a woman and I can see something of the face of a weather worn old gypsy awaiting me in the future. I don't want to give up the things I have always loved in clothes necessarily but I do need to tweak the way I wear them to suit me better as I am now.
So now I figure that now I'm well and truly established in womanhood I may as well revel in the chance to wear the kind of clothes that women wear well and dress like a lady. Not all the time. That would be dull. Variety is the spice of life and all that. But when the occasion calls for it I'm going to allow myself to revel in the best that ladylike dressing can be. And there is always a way in which to give a sartorial nod to the girl that grew into the lady. The girl-me adored florals, lived in delicate and ditsy prints but shied away from the bold. The lady loves a floral too but her more ample curves can pull off a larger print in a way the girlish slip of her former self could not have.
Taking a page out of the girly rule book of dressing doesn't do a lady harm either. I normally tend to be the worst sort of bag lady, dragging one or two other unattractive bags on top of a handbag in an effort to carry everything I need for the day around with me. This time I took a step back to rethink this cumbersome strategy.
Instead of opting for the bag lady look I went for the more romantic option my younger self would have approved of. I took a girly bright pink basket that normally holds my magazines and used it as a carry bag in which to stash my jacket, scarf, water bottle, magazine for the tube ride and the presents for the bride-to-be. Much better! Still practical but so much nicer to look at than the bag lady.
The other element of accessorising I've taken from my youth is a love of pretty brooches. The brooch is a very ladylike accessory. I've only very recently returned to making the effort to wear brooches with outfits after a hiatus in wearing any sort of jewellery. I'd forgotten how just spending a couple of moments longer when dressing to choose and pin one somewhere can add that finishing touch to an outfit in a very understated but elegant way. This gilt pearl one was a cheap vintage find on Ebay and every time I wear it another pearl falls off. But it was just right to keep the shawl collar on this top from slipping off my shoulders.
In many ways the girl I once was made more effort to get dressed up like a lady than the woman now, so there are still lessons to be learnt in looking back to one's own youth to draw inspiration, even if it is from the approach to getting dressed rather than the type of clothes, which may or may not suit you anymore. In fact I recall much of that dressing up was role playing at being a lady, but at the same time you would feel, despite being all dressed up, that you hadn't quite got there yet. Yes, I think that in my girlish days, I probably had "lady envy" of sorts. So here's to enjoying finally actually being a lady!
Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style. Also participating in the series "How I Wear My..." hosted by Everything Just So and The Rich Life on a Budget. The theme this week is casual party outfits. Head over there to see what everyone is wearing.