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Can i still wear this? About the dress dilemma of middle-aged women

Clothes for old, young, those in between - there are no more, says the fashion industry. But it feels different in real life.

If you are young, you have the feeling that if you are thin and beautiful enough, you can wear what you want. Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. At the latest by the age of 40, even the tightest connective tissue is no longer of any use - now you are considered too old for tight clothes. In any case, this opinion is still held by many people today - despite #MeToo and the body positivity movement.

For example Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of the British “Vogue” for 25 years. At the end of April, she found clear words in the “Daily Mail” about the dress choice of 50-year-old Helena Christensen. The model attended a birthday party in a lace corset reminiscent of lingerie. Since Christensen is no longer of childbearing age, so Shulman, she shouldn't send any signals that suggest this. That is just "tragic".

The tolerance limit is reached quickly

That sounds brutal, but it's not that far removed from what many people think - even those who see women as more than just birthing machines and also allow people over 50 to be erotic. How quickly you reach the tolerance limit, however, you notice among friends - and with yourself. "Very cheap clothes no longer work when you are older." "I only find long, gray hair beautiful when it is very well-groomed." "Nobody wants to see varicose veins." Even the 35-year-old yoga teacher with a washboard stomach doesn't want to wear a crop top, regardless of the trend: "I'm too old for that!"

This idea is by no means new: “The woman who displays an artificial, forced youngness in her mature years, who stands out on the sports field or in the ballroom by exaggerating her youth, is an everyday occurrence. The fact that she looks ridiculous is her misfortune, ”wrote the Stuttgart neurologist Alfred Dannhauser in 1928 in his book“ Die Tragödie der Frau ”. Anyone who grows up with statements like this has a hard time getting rid of them.

The fashion industry sees it differently

The fashion industry has a completely different statement ready: never before have so many not completely wrinkle-free people been seen on advertising posters. So-called middle-aged actresses like Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts are offered roles in films and series that their colleagues of the same age could only dream of ten years ago. And «Beenager» (a word creation from «Best Ager» and «Teenager») like the fashion journalist Anna Dello Russo and the author Sophie Fontanel show on Instagram that a fashionable appearance knows no age.

Barbara Vinken, German professor of general literature and Romance philology at the University of Munich and fashion expert, confirms: “Youth is not a biological, but a social category. The youthful body is not a given, but a question of class: the time that one can and wants to devote to optimizing the body. For the time being, it remains with the abolition of biological age. "

Big fashion retailers also agree: the interest of older people in clothing has increased - at the same time the boundaries between the age groups are disappearing. “Nowadays, we mainly start from the lifestyle and attitude to life of our customers and less from age groups. Our offer and our brand portfolio also correspond to this », replies Reto Braegger, Head of Purchasing at Globus, on request. The fashion giant H&M also writes: "H & M's target group includes everyone who has an interest in fashion, regardless of age."

Fashion became more buttoned

This contrast between absolute equality in the store and strict dress rules in the mind only makes no sense at first glance. Because fashion currently welcomes everyone who does not want to dress too body-hugging: teenagers and teenagers wear wide-cut jeans, shirt blouses and trainers. In the course of the #MeToo movement, fashion has become more dressed, more buttoned up. She stages body parts that have no sexual connotations and still look "young" in the eyes of the strictest contemporaries in old age: shoulders, ankles, collarbones.

The noble H&M subsidiary COS is full of asymmetrical fluttering robes that are reminiscent of the reform clothes of the 1920s. They are bought by 20 year olds as well as 60 year olds. In addition, fashionable dresses have become more and more comfortable in recent years. “Athleisure” is the name of the trend that has broken the boundaries between sports and everyday fashion. Leggings are suddenly considered pants. Thanks to their high stretch content, jeans are as comfortable as training pants. And a sneaker is considered to be a shoe with which one enters a bank or the opera house, goes to an interview - for the generation that is now retiring, that was still unimaginable. This has made it easier to dress in line with the latest trends, even if you have a niggle.

The battle of the generations is over in many places

The boys react differently to this takeover - which is actually not a takeover, but a return to the circumstances as they were; It was not until the sixties that youth fashion was invented. Before that, even teenagers wore almost the same things as their parents, mostly just shorter. This is the case again now, albeit for different reasons: the struggle of the generations is over in many places, many young people don't want to distance themselves from their parents, with whom they get along so well; it is useful to share the wardrobe with your mother and give each other styling tips. Journalist Michèle Binswanger also sees her daughter as a style model, as she recently said in “Annabelle”.

Pensioner cliché as a new demarcation

However, some do develop strategies to set themselves apart. One of them is flirting with age: 15-year-olds dye their hair gray to emphasize their fresh face. The Italian luxury label Gucci shows extremely successful collections with youngsters disguised as cliché retirees, equipped with huge metal glasses and leather blousons.

The so-called “Menocore” trend, proclaimed by the blog “The Man Repeller”, is based on the style of women after menopause. However, this fashion irony only works on young bodies with young faces. The density of hot pants among teenagers is also higher than it has been for a long time, while scantily clad 50-year-olds like fashion journalist Anna Dello Russo are still an exception.

"Pink is just embarrassing over 40"

At the same time, people aged 40 and over also long for isolation - but at least for rules; deep down is the fear of being laughed at like pop star Madonna as someone who cannot age with dignity.

The article «25 things that no man over 35 should wear» is one of the most widely read in our country. Similar articles on the topic are mercilessly commented on on the Internet. "Pink is just embarrassing over 40," is still friendly in comparison. Such statements are misogynistic, says Barbara Vinken. They showed “the fear of female desire, especially when the woman is grown up”.

Incidentally, Helena Christensen responded to Shulman's age-discriminatory attack on Instagram with an appeal to all women - for more mutual support.

Series "The Second Puberty"

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With this contribution our series "The second puberty" ends about what concerns people in the middle of life. All published articles on topics such as the hurdles of finding a partner in this age range, the unfounded fear of menopause and the hormone-related attachment of men can be found at nzz.as/midlife