Rules, Schmules – I’m Not Dead Yet

My darling baby sister (age 42) sent me this article yesterday: 59 is the Age Women Should Stop Wearing Red Lipstick, Heavy Makeup, Study Finds. Not because she thinks I need to follow the “rules”! She and I have a blast shopping online together and we try to break a rule every day. She’s thinking about a Carrie Underwood concert tee right now, to wear with her grown-up dark jeans and boots.

No, my sis knows I’d relish picking apart the results of the “survey” conducted by a skincare company. I think you will too:

  • Apparently, age 59 is to be a turning point! I only have 18 months to go before I’m supposed to give up high heels, red lipstick and tight clothes. High heels have been relegated to the back of the closet for a decade now, but red lipstick? Out of my cold dead hands.
  • “Miniskirts and leather pants are off the rack at 41, knee-high boots and even conservative tight tops should be retired by age 45. And tattoos start to look bad by the mid-50s.” This one has me laughing and scratching my head. Miniskirts banned after 41? Hello Paula (girlfriend is over 50), Ariane, Adrienne, the ever fabulous Wendy B. Knee high boots retired at age 45? Surely you jest. Check out Lynne. And the tattoo thing — should one prepare to have them surgically removed at age 54?
Tell Paula not to wear mini-skirts. I dare ya.
Mini and graphic tee. Gorgeous Wendy B risks going directly to rule-breaker jail.
  • “Some looks expire much earlier than 40—such as braids (only in your earlier 20s), maxi skirts, pants that say “pink,” or anything, for that matter, on the butt, certain light, short, flimsy dresses as the upper thighs…change…with age.” Maxi skirts are a no-go after 30? Harrumph to that, I’ll wear them with pride. OK, got me on the butt-messages, but I don’t like that look on anyone over 12.
  • The very good news from the survey: “Women surveyed seemed to agree that they felt beautiful at any age, with 74 percent saying they were happy to let nature take its course without resorting to extreme anti-aging measures.” Well, hoorah for this. We are beautiful at any age.

I think I know where most of you stand on these arbitrary rules, but I look forward to your input. The key word for me is “arbitrary”. I do have rules for myself, of course, including nothing “too short, tight, or low-cut” for work. I don’t do ankle socks, stilettos, revealing tops, or heavy make-up – those are not my style.

What say you all? Rules are helpful, or meant to be bent/broken? No wrong answers, of course.

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  1. Patti!  I dont know how I missed your post, but I am glad to be leading the way to break the rules and I am so glad to see my support!  And yes, I double dare you~

  2. I want to know what the rules would be for men. I have never heard the expression Bull Dressed as Calf. These rules are meant to be twisted into pretzels and eaten or put in a lovely '70s crystal dish to gather dust on the coffee table. Guidance can be helpful but RULES? Seriously…and made by women?!!

  3. Although I don't wear mini skirts as in "leggy young things in their 20s" mini skirts, I DO wear skirts that are above my knees and a couple of dresses that are above my knees, even though I was 65 in September – shock, horror!!!  I wear them because my knees still look ok and my legs look better in shorter skirts.  Also – brace yourselves! – I like red lipstick and wear it because I think it suits me.  I'm lucky that my skin is good so I wear just a light touch of foundation, eye shadow, mascara and of course my red lipstick.  So long as my kids, who are now all over 40, don't see anything wrong in how I look, why should I worry about what other people may say?

  4. These kind of articles just make my blood boil – you'll have to cut me out of my leather pants when I hit 42 because I ain't giving those up! Or red lipstick! Maxi's out of bound's past 30? Seriously?
    I think these sorts of articles are written by people who are deeply out of touch with the way things are now.  I think this view harks back to a time when women had a lot less say in society about how they were viewed and how they were expected to behave – a time when they were just expected to recede from view.  If you eliminated most of these things from most women's closets there is not a lot of joy to be had getting dressed. Most fashion writers with any sense of what is acceptable now is that pretty much anything goes.

  5. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have tattoos…until I die?  I am fully prepared for them to fade and look like cool old people tattoos.  I can't wait until they start popping up on Advanced Fashion.

    I can't even actually pretend I think the rest are serious, either.

  6. Oh, wow, Patti, thanks for the link-up. I think I broke all the rules in that post, knee high cow girl type boots, flimsy almost-mini dress, and forgot to put on my dark lipstick before taking the pics. I'll be 50 very, very soon, and noted that I have blissfully been wearing the no-nos way past the supposed expiration date. I do agree that too much make-up doesn't flatter women of any age. 

    Hmmm, I'm with WendyB. What ARE we supposed to wear? Track suits? Ugh. No way.

  7.  As far as I am concerned I'll be wearing lipstick, nail polish, make up,  statement costume jewellery, maxis and above the knee skirts and above all boots of any kind until the day I die and who cares about the rules and to be honest I dress much better now than I'm 41 than in my twenties

  8. Oh Please! Who the F dictates this stuff, anyway? If it looks good on your shape, wear it regardless. That little rule applies to ANY age. I gave up subscribing to arbitrary "rules" a long time ago. I wear what I like and I like what I wear.

    -Self-satsfied at 45.  🙂

  9. I got here in a round about way, and I must say that age is a state of mind! In fact, I think that 70 is the new 50! Which means that 50 is the new 30 and I am therefor just rounding the bend at my mid 20's 😉 I say wear what you want! Loved this post and love your site!

  10. I read this I my first thought was what will these people who are in their 40's going to say about fashion when they hit the late 50's early 60's.  I'm sure it will be quite different. Even in my 30's I said I would never do this or that at 40 and I'm glad I got smart.  Thank God we get smarter as we get older. 

  11. Wow wonderful comments! Of course it is a load of tosh. As a stylist I find so many people want rules when it comes to clothes for some reason so I'm sure the survey is playing in style angst. It is all a load of tosh.

    It is so important to wear what you want, to experiment, have fun. After all nobody gets hurt with clothes or red lipstick.

    My favourite look is ankle socks with heels and a skirt. I'll be doing this forever no doubt why not

  12. I don't think this skin care company did itself any favors with this study by pushing some truly arcane ideas about age and beauty.   

  13. I wish I knew which skin care company posted these ridiculous rules so I could be sure I'm not buying their products…

    In the meantime, if it makes you feel great, wear it!

  14. I couldn't agree with you more, Patti! In my mid 50's now, I often break the make-up rules for older women.  Our make-up is supposed to be barely visible on our face.  While I agree an overly-done face full of glitter is NOT a good idea, I refuse to succumb to bland blah-ness for the rest of my life!

    One good thing about aging is that you care less about flouting everyone else's expectations.  I think, if it's in good taste and not appalling and you feel good in it, WEAR it.  What are they gonna do, call the cops? :)Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life

  15. Oh, how I hate this kind of sentences about what to do and what not to do in various ages. Life of women are full of expectations an ruleswhich make sour theirs life!

  16. I find the policing of women's appearances so tiresome, including the judgement heaped on other women for their responses to the pressure of being evaluated based on appearance, e.g. "older women wearing caked-on makeup." Compassion much?

    I suspect that the "study results" likely have a lot to do with how the poll questions were probably framed – if you ask people at what age someone should stop wearing x, it gives validity to the concept of age-related style limitations right off, as well as playing to people's own fears arising from our culture's fetishization of youth, plus our most Judgy McJudgyPants tendencies, by imagining that we need have anything critical to say about how other people dress themselves. 

    Love your examples of Paula and WnedyB and their fantastic style! 

  17. Great post Patti! It's funny how people think age should dictate what you decide to wear…I say if you like it and you feel confident rockin' it…then have at it and screw the rules;)

  18. I assume this sruvey has been compiled by a 20-something who has just had a row with her beautiful stepmother.

  19. Well, I think everyone here just about covered what I was feeling.  
    I won't say out loud the first word that came to mind about the rules….I'm a lady after all. 🙂
    Great post!

  20. Great post Patti and loving all the comments.  As I flirt with 70, I refuse to be intimidated by the rules made by 'who are these people?'  If I love it and the mirror agrees, it's out the door with me and, of course, at hat.  That's probably against the rules too.

  21. Whenever I hear of these "don'ts" taking away more and more options for us after a designated age, I can't help but conclude there are going to be naked seniors running wild pretty soon!  Fun!

  22. Bright heavy lipstick leaking into the little lines around your lips isn't flattering.  If you can't get to a mirror to do the whole liner/lipstick application it's better just to refresh your color with a sheer swipe of something.

  23. Hahaha, I think these "rules" are created by people who want everyone to fit neatly into little boxes…..most of us just don't!
    If it feels good,and you feel fabulous, do it! X

  24. The ages mentioned are hilariously arbitrary, aren't they? Why 59? Why 41? 45? What changes at these very specific ages? I don't doubt that many of us have items/looks which we favour and those we don't, either because they are inappropriate for a context such as work, or because we don't think they flatter us. But these are preferences which come down to personal taste, rather than rules, and they certainly have nothing to do with age. I don't care what anyone else wears – I might not like it, but I defend their right to dress as they wish, it does no harm to anyone else.
    Keep wearing the red lipstick, Patti! xxxx

  25. Patti, couldn't wait to read the comments on this most interesting subject.  I am 61 and have had to change my style over the years to keep up with my ever changing body, but apparently I must be doing something right because my older son said I dress better now than when I was raising kids.  I credit fashion blogs for a lot of that.  I say dress what feels right and looks good on you.  Paula looks fabulous in her clothes and I have learned so much from her and I wouldn't be caught dead in a mini or shorts.  I know I just don't want to end up wearing polyester elastic pants some day and a sweatshirt and I am still grateful I can still wear heels up to 3 inches.  As you know, it seems feet are the first to go.   The ONLY thing I agree with is perhaps go a little lighter handed on foundation,  I will wear eyeliner til I can't see to put it on anymore–fabulous post from a fabulous gal looking fashionable from old hot muggy Florida.  Lived in Orlando 16 years I know….layered up in Idaho.

  26. Woot!!!! I love that I got to be an example. That makes my day! And so many good comments here. Serene sums up my "wear what you want" philosophy. How does it hurt me if someone is wearing XYZ, even if I hate it? What Kathleen Lisson says is what I ALWAYS hear fashion designers say when you're trying on their clothes. And they do want you to look good when you're wearing their work. Doesn't help them if you look awful. But ask one of them "Am I too old to wear this?" and they'll tell you WHY it looks good on you whatever your age may be. I'm glad Daisha pointed out how racist the "braid" rule is. And writer Renata Adler's braid is/was her trademark (not sure if she is wearing it as of this moment, but I'd guess so!).

    I find the maxi and knee-boot "rules" to be completely bizarre. Sweatpants with ass-writing look tacky on anyone, IMHO, even 12-year-olds, so, yeah, I personally wouldn't wear those. It does make me laugh that other people wear 'em, so whatever, they can knock themselves out at Victoria's Secret.

    WTF ARE you supposed to wear now that we've ruled so many things out? Is it all Eileen Fisher all the time? But Eileen Fisher offers maxis! Damn you, Eileen Fisher *waving fist in the air*

    It's like they just want women above a certain age to not bother anyone with their existence. Screw that.

  27. Great post, Patti, and it's fun to read everyone's comments! I think we may each have our own sense of what's comfortable and appropriate for ourselves personally (call those rules if you will), but I'd stress the "individual-ness" of this internal, and forever-changing, radar. I wouldn't dare wear what many 20-year olds are buying in the mass market shops as I find the apparel tatty in multiple ways – but, at 42, I'm still rocking the (tastefully applied) glitter eyeliner, along with short skirts, maxis, fitted clothing and basically anything else that makes me feel good! I guess feeling good about how one looks is the most important thing. 🙂

  28. I read this yesterday and thought it was ridiculous…and the only thing more ridiculous was this was coming from fellow women!  Seriously, people need to stop with the rules.  The only rule is that there are no rules!  Is anyone telling Tina Turner not to show her legs?  And no leather after 59?  Seriously?  Are we all just supposed to decide that we're going into our 60s shriveled up old ladies and wear cotton all the time?  If a 63 year old woman wants to go around with her tummy hanging out of a leather mini skirt, what's it hurting me?  I think if we want to put guidelines on ourselves based on our comfort level or aesthetic, that's fine; but when we're wanting to make across the board rules, we're crossing a line.  So glad you addressed this!  Hugs! ~Serene 

  29. Patti! oh!  i am all over this comment box!!!  i say if you look good in it, then wear it.  if you can stand tight pants, high heels and red lipstick then wear it/them. i will be the BIG SIX OH in two months!  i am a size 11-12 on my bottom and i can wear skinny jeans/leggings, etc.  so i wear them.  my top is way too big, always has been, even at age 16 so i usually wear long shirts or tunic tops to lengthen out my upper parts. today's styles are heaven and ppppooop ppooo to that dang survey! they didn't ask me my opinion, did they!!??  LOL 

    Thank you, Patti for this post and i hope we all just keep doing what we love most, heavy make up or not.  personally i have never been a red lipstick person.  i am a smudgy eyed, heavy eyeliner, eye-makeup, pale lipstick sort of gal. but hey if you are a certain age and you love it and LOOK GOOD in it then go for it!!  Occasionally, i see a gal in my hometown that is two years OLDER than i and she wears teen clothes all the time, because she still has a teen size, cute body.  see?  it is fine if you look great.  isn't that the point? 


  30. lol – there are many things i don't like at any age, as there are stilettos, sandals with socks and wide 3/4 pants, but i will never follow such "rules" telling my what i should wear or not.

  31. oh lord Patti,
    thank goodness i am not a rule follower!!!!!!

  32. I glanced at that article yesterday, and give it a Double Flying "Fie!" I think the most extreme versions of any of these are dubious at any age, but let's be real here. Knee boots?? Red lipstick?? 

  33. I read this and laughed, talk about a feeble attempt to drive more traffic to their site. The comments left were brilliant. Rules are for fools. xxx

  34. Probably the only thing I agree with is less makeup.  I hate seeing caked on makeup on older women.  It just emphasizes all their lines and wrinkles.  For me a lighter application makes someone look so much younger.  Other than that, anything goes in my book.  There are no rules.

  35. Great post Patti!!
    My "rules" are – Is it comfortable? Does it flatter? Do I love it???  All the other rules can bite me!!

  36. Maxi skirts? That one is bizarre even by magazine standards. 

    I can sort of see in their warped way they only want 'young flesh' on display (so mini skirts etc') hence they make these stupid rules… but why ever not maxi skirts. All this proves is how made-up and illogical all their rules are.

  37. I, too, read this article yesterday and found it quite funny, especially the "braids only in early 20's."  What? I am black! We wear braids almost from infancy!  And I still wear them from time to time, though I will be turning 41 years old in a couple of weeks. 

    Like you, I do have some style rules for myself.  I don't wear minis in the sense of the "barely cover your butt" teenage & college mini but I do have one or two skirts that are above the knee. 

    As for the maxi, "I will rock it whenever I feel like it!"

  38. Maxi skirts? Leather pants? Knee high boots (I guess my thigh-high ones fit in there!)? Red lipstick? 

    These are the silliest bunch of "rules" I've read in a long time. I think what they are getting at, however, is dressing to suit the body you have. No, I don't wear the same things as I did 25 years ago – my body is different! But if I want to wear leather pants, I bloody well will! 

  39. Well, according to this…at age 59…I am pretty much a mess.  I am sitting here reading while wearing knee high boots and a very fitted pencil skirt.  I just bought a pair of fun heels for my son's wedding…I plan to wear them with a smile on my face.  If wedding guests sit at table shaking their heads…I don't care!!  I feel better about me than I did in my 30s and 40s!  That's a good thing!

  40. Braids only in your early 20s???  Look up Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukrainian politician, with The Braid.  She should have a fasion blog herself. 

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