I dedicate this post to my dear friend, Michal, who is moving tomorrow, returning to her home in Israel. Michal took this picture of me for a feature I wrote about how my exercising changed when I treated myself to the right clothes. You see, a few years ago I came to Michal’s class uncertain and fearful. I hadn’t exercised in years and I was feeling my age. I began to exercise in sweats and shame. Every moment was uncomfortable for me. But Michal made me see the light – that movement and good heath and vibrancy were not only possible but doable! Yes, I bought the right clothes and spent the money at Lululemon to step up my game, but that was only the beginning. It was working with Michal and having her support me every week that really changed me. She helped me to see that movement will always keep me strong, and that I deserve to feel good. She helped me to feel my inner power, dare I say – Goddess – and push away the fear that was holding me back. I am not saying that I never feel fear; I do, but I am different now. I now look at the fear and keep moving forward.
I, and our wonderful class of new friends, will miss you, Michal. But you are in our lives forever. And you must know that you gave me a gift that is taking me forward as I hope to age gracefully and powerfully. There is an expression: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Thank you for giving me my first day. Love you.
Photos, Michal Efron; shot on location at Mondo Summit
Photo by Lauren Hagerstrom
A funny thing happened to me when I became a mother for the first time: I began to cut my hair shorter. I guess I was looking for more serious hair to match this serious moment in my life. I didn’t cut it super short (to above my shoulders) but the trend lasted for a while. I wonder what it was that made me do it. Was it my age? Did I think that at a certain age a woman should wear her hair shorter, or that society would expect that of me? I think yes. Has this happened to anyone else? Now, 20+ years later, I have found myself again. It is with great joy that I am growing out my hair (and have changed my hair stylist, who is my partner in the process). Because except for a short stint as a 3 year-old when I had a pixie cut with bangs, I have always worn my hair long. It feels most like me. And why should I feel less like me as I get older? Why should I follow an idea of what it means to age, especially when it just doesn’t fit me? Why should I conform to what I think society expects of me when I don’t want it for myself? It is the same with clothes and dressing. You must always be yourself, in all your life moments – and love who you are meant to be.
Abrina took this photo of me last year and I am happy to report that the off-the-shoulder trend and all its variations are still in style. The subject of baring shoulders came up with my good friends recently and nothing feels better than a fashion conversation with a friend. We talked about how challenging dressing can be as you age and its affect on your self esteem. Things you once thought nothing about wearing now make you stop and take notice. But as I looked at my friends, beautiful and stunning in their off-the-shoulder tops, I knew they were on to something. As it turns out shoulders don’t seem to age. They are unaffected by the years. We all agreed; rather than focus on what is changing or making us feel insecure, it is so much better to highlight those features that make you feel good.
Photo by Abrina Hyatt
So this is me, today. On my birthday – at 57. It comes as a surprise that I am 57 years old. I don’t feel that age, whatever that means. Well, most of the time. To be honest, it has become harder to take pictures and expose myself in the 7 years since I started my blog (just before my 50th birthday). I am aware often now that certain things just don’t feel the same; like the time recently when Kendra was taking a photo of my necklace and I saw that my neck was getting wrinkled. Or the time when we took photos highlighting my very high wedge shoes and I was aware more than ever of marks on my legs. Or the close up of my hands holding a necklace, only to see a few extra brown spots that weren’t there before. Sharing yourself as you age is an interesting reality. And I am not always good at it. I often want to go back to the body I had. And I understand and do not judge anyone for wanting to do whatever you can to look as young as possible. And yet, I also know this. Writing a blog is about being authentically you. You must be your true self so that those who log in feel that they know you. The real you. And since I write about the connection between fashion and self esteem, I must be honest, too, when my own story wavers and my own self esteem falters. Which it does.
Aging isn’t easy. You are forced to face things you would rather not face. But I hold true to this: my clothes are a part of me and I am a part of them. They fill me with happiness and help me to be more of myself than any other thing. When I wear things that make me happy, I am ageless. I begin to look beyond wrinkles and marks and spots. I see only me. Wear what you love, find clothes with colors that brighten your mood (even if it is black, which can be the best color of all!), fill your closet only with things that fit you properly and throw out or give away the rest. And do it now, wherever you are in life, whatever your age. So this is me, today. On my birthday – at 57.
Dress, James Perse Los Angeles; shoes, Missoni for Target
Photos, Abrina Hyatt
Nicole in her denim shorts
Beautiful words from my friend, Nicole – on the purchase of her new jean shorts …
“I’ve always been hippy, with big, strong legs. My family is Lebanese, and I have always fought against my natural body type and shape, falling into life-threatening battles with anorexia and bulimia through my teens and my 20s. A couple of years ago, after the pressure of fitting into a wedding dress fell away, I noticed that I was letting myself be happy and enjoying time with my husband. That meant not torturing myself at the gym and eating and drinking what I wanted, when I wanted. Pair that with some serious medical difficulties last year, and guess what folks: I gained weight.
I am now what the fashion industry would consider a plus size woman. My BMI would say that I am obese. This makes finding peace extremely hard and finding clothes that fit me even harder.
But last week, I found a pair of JEAN SHORTS – that fit me! No gap in the back, not too short. They truly make me feel sassy and beautiful. It has been the most emotional road accepting who I am and what I look like but having this pair of shorts is a symbol of my recovery and my constant journey to peace and happiness. It is my hope that all fashion designers will understand how much that means to their consumers. I plan to have a great summer in my new shorts.” ~ Nicole Rohr Stephani
“I always try to keep my style simple yet sophisticated.” Farnoosh
You meet Farnoosh and she looks like a typical American 22 year-old. Yes, she lives in America, and yes she is 22, but Farnoosh’s story is not typically American. Rather, it is other-worldly. The other side of the world, in fact, because Farnoosh was born in Iran and lived there until she was twelve years old. That is when she and her mother and father and two older sisters came to live in The United States. It was not her decision to come to America; “I was a little girl – I did not want to leave.” Farnoosh was living happily in Iran, in a city called Isfahan. She had her friends and her life, but her parents had three girls and they knew that their future would be limited if they stayed.
The year was 2002; it was not an easy time to be from Iran and move here, so soon after September 11th. It was certainly not easy for a pre-teen girl about to enter 7th grade and couldn’t speak a word of English. The first few years were very rough for Farnoosh – she remembers her Aunt (who had been living here already) picking out clothes for her, because she knew nothing about American fashion.
Two years later, however, Farnoosh began to fully adjust to her new life and find her way. This meant learning to speak English, of course, and a surprising feeling of empowerment that came when she found her own sense of style. No longer required to have her Aunt choose her clothing for her, she began to choose for herself. Farnoosh’s style has evolved over the years. Today, “I buy what I like. I buy what makes me comfortable … my mood is affected by how I’m dressed. If I’m wearing clothes that I feel comfortable in, I’m in a good mood.” Farnoosh is contemporary but not all about the trends of the moment. She wishes to choose wisely, because she knows that your clothing reflects how you want people to see you.
Twelve years later, Farnoosh is getting ready to start law school and hopes to be influential in foreign relations and help countries where she can, especially Iran. She thanks her parents for bringing her here so that she can pursue her dreams. And not least, she likes the freedom to dress as she pleases and wear her hair loose.
Maybe it is the fact that it is summer and that means fun, casual and carefree dressing, or maybe it is the fact that I am having a birthday in a few weeks, but I am taking stock. I will soon be over-50, that funny time in one’s life when people mention middle age and you realize they’re talking about you. (Not possible!). That time when people start assuming that you no longer have a sense of style, or even worse, can no longer wear certain clothes. Who makes these rules anyway? Don’t discount me. Don’t discount any of us. Rather, stand tall and allow your fashion voice to speak. No matter what your age, you are the same person at heart. In my case, I love to dress with a sense of fun and whimsy and I appreciate that quality in others. I love wearing a puffed sleeve, a crazy color, a jumpsuit, anything with skulls, and added shoulder pads. Sometimes youthful? Yes. Always tasteful? I hope so. I also love to dance with the music a little too loud, roll down the window when I drive and let my hair fly, and twirl in a skirt as I did as a young girl. That hasn’t changed and I hope it never will.
Who says that reaching a certain age means leaving your essence behind? I say wear what you love if it makes you happy. Remember Cyndi Lauper’s song, Girls Just Want to Have Fun? I see only girls here.
What do you think?
Many years ago, I bought an orange and white striped skirt from a new place called Anthropologie. At the time, I had never heard of the store but I loved the skirt because it was long and soft and fluid. I also liked the fit and I knew that I would wear it often. Not long after I found the skirt, I bought an orange Vince t-shirt. It was a match made in heaven. This pairing has become my go to favorite.
Yet the other day when I pulled it on for what seemed like the hundredth time, there was a moment when I hesitated and wondered if it was finally, too much. NOOO .. the moment passed. Actually, if you love something, why not wear it again … and again? Our American culture encourages us to buy more and have more and yes, there is a time to do so, but when it comes to looking good, buying less means having more …
What do you think?
(Read more – see Styling with Mel)