Mutton Dressed as Lamb

Sharon Tate in miniskirt(Erika/Mom) Anyone who understands this sheepish phrase is most likely over 40. They are also going to understand the agony that plays out in the closet, as they finger their favorite miniskirt and wonder if they can “get away” with wearing it one more season. Not because it’s torn or out of fashion or has a baby spit-up stain right in front…but simply because they’re too old.

Since the Twiggy era, miniskirts have remained a surprisingly strong trend; waning maybe a bit in the late 70s as the romantic, flowy sheer-dress-over-lining reached its zenith (although I could have been seriously out of touch). But always, the miniskirt has been understood as the domain of the very young. Although we’ve done away with corsets, bustles, and neck-to-ankle swimsuits, women are still expected to cover their knees after 40.

My friend Mary Beth Williams, in a recent Salon.com article, ponders the age-old question of “how old is too old for short skirts?” She points to a survey in the Daily Mail, which says that the accepted maximum age for wearing a miniskirt has climbed from 36 in 2000 to 40 today. “There’s a vast expanse of leg between throw-in-the-towel midcalf and hello-sailor butt grazing — surely there’s a place for everyone,” says Mary Beth.

Vast expanse–too much real estate perhaps? Personally, I think my legs have aged well and my husband thinks so, too. But I find it harder and harder to feel right in a miniskirt as time goes on. My body is thicker–there is less definition between waist and hips. Mary Beth and many others in my age group are still very slim and of course they could wear Shop Rite market bags with tube tops and still look fantastic. So there’s the critical issue of weight and body shape.

Am I nuthin but mutton?

Am I nuthin but mutton?

Sadly, there’s another part of our anatomy that you would think was completely irrelevant to a miniskirt, but isn’t: our faces. I may look in the mirror on a good day and see the exact features of myself at 20. (Other days not so much.) But it is impossible to completely disguise an aging face and while many observe that middle-aged women attempting to “dress” young will look okay from the legs to the neck, their aging faces will reveal all. With the exception of Jane Seymour, Sophia Loren and my eternally youthful cousin Laila (who’s 70), the human face is an unyielding age barometer. Miniskirts and timeworn faces are very difficult to blend successfully.

Searching for opinions and images for this post, I came across a blog called Jess in the City. The blogger (Jessica De Vault with the Fayetteville Observer) was discussing clubwear for women over 40 and how often a woman comes across even older than she is by dressing too young. Her summary at the end was pretty good:

“Wearing a mini-skirt (or any other super-revealing, teen-inspired garment) over the age of 40 looks like you’re trying too hard, even if you do have a great body. But embracing your age always looks sexy.”

I think I can embrace my age okay. Hell, I’ve advertised it to the world in our blog name. So I’ll keep on keepin on, wearing an occasional miniskirt when I feel like it, especially with a stupendous pair of tights and some amazing boots. And I’ll embrace my age with whatever outfit matches it best.

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