Picture this. Years ago, in the late nineties or early two thousands, I was at a book club meeting. One of our members, an older lady, my mum’s age actually, left the room, and I turned to my friends and fellow book lovers and made a comment about her outfit. She was wearing bright red leather trousers, low-heeled boots, and a soft loose sweater. And she looked magnificent. Was, in fact, a magnificent woman. Tall, and big-boned, and totally comfortable in her own skin. A woman whom I admired immensely.
And I remember murmuring to my friends, “God, I hope I’m still wearing leather pants when I’m in my seventies.” My friend Susan replied, dryly, “First you have to start wearing leather pants.” Ha. Too true.
I always, always loved clothes. Back then, in my early forties, I tried to be stylish. Certainly, I cared enough about my clothes. But I aimed for polished, not flamboyant. I couldn’t pull off flamboyant. Anyway, it’s long been my belief that one is either a red leather pants person, or one is not. And I am not.
But I am, as I discovered a few years ago, a black leather pants person. And I hope to still be wearing black leather pants when I am well up in my seventies. Or eighties. Because I believe that we are never too old for leather pants. Or leather anything. Or anything, really. We should wear whatever suits us.
I began to think about the issue of age and leather pants a week or so ago. In response to my post on faux leather, Mary commented that she has a pair of leather pants, but has yet to wear them in public because they make her feel a bit like mutton dressed as lamb. Maybe women our age tend to think of leather (or faux leather) as too edgy for us? That leather clothing is the province of the young and not the middle-aged? I don’t know. But I do know that if we love something, we should wear it.
Sometimes it’s a matter of our “eye” evolving. Like when skinny jeans began to fade out, and wider leg jeans became more common. At first the wide-leg pants looked all wrong to me. Now they look just right. When I first bought my leather pants back in 2014, I felt a bit self-conscious in them. Like I was pretending to be way more cool than I am. Now they just seem, well, so me.
I think that if we own a piece of clothing we love, but don’t feel comfortable wearing it, we should try it with other pieces in which we feel very comfortable. Like Allison Bornstein’s method of taking our “how” pieces, those things that we don’t know how to wear, and styling them with our closet “regulars”, those pieces we wear all the time. For me jackets and loafers have been part of my closet “regulars” for decades. If I were to wear these faux-leather pants for the first time, I’d probably style them with a sweater and a jacket. And loafers, or ankle boots.
Yesterday, I tried a few new ways to wear my old leather pants. For spring. First I tried my ancient linen Max Mara blazer. I pulled on my new Everlane crew-neck cashmere sweater that had just been delivered that morning. I’ve been waiting a year to buy this sweater. I tried ordering it last spring, but they were out of stock. So when the Everlane cashmere sale came up the other day, I jumped on it. My new cashmere crew sweater is black, size large, and very light-weight. Just the thing I need when it’s too cool for a tee shirt.
I turned the hem of my pants up inside to make them seem cropped. Added my Stuart Weitzman patent loafers, a vintage bracelet and a vintage faux-croc bag. I like this look. It’s a bit safe, though. Kind of been there, done that. With the tan linen jacket, this look might have been “me” when I was still working. But not anymore.
To be honest, I prefer the outfit with my white Theory jacket, and my Eric Javits tote bag. I thought the white jacket would look too summery next to the leather pants and cashmere sweater, but turns out I love it. This is more me.
But I did like the tan linen jacket with a white, short-sleeve Vince tee underneath, my white Stan Smith sneakers, and my Eric Javits straw tote. I love white with tan or camel and black. Somehow the blazer looks more menswear-inspired, and more current with the sneakers and tee shirt. This outfit makes me feel like me. Casual, still current (I hope), in a colour scheme I’ve been wearing for years and years, made up of pieces that are mostly old and well worn, styled in a way I’ve never tried before.
It’s always a battle as we age, isn’t it? What should we wear? What shouldn’t we wear? I’m not talking about what rule books or fashion critics tell us we should or shouldn’t wear. I’m talking about those conversations we have with ourselves.
What should I wear that makes me feel like my best self? The self I am today. Not ten years ago when I was still working, was several pounds lighter, and needed a professional wardrobe. Not last year when I had dyed, highlighted blond hair. But this year when I’m retired, a few pounds heavier, white-headed, with a few low-lights, and a hairstyle that in some ways resembles my mother when I was young, swept back and high off the forehead.
I am determined to dress for me, and what I feel like today. So the conversation I have with myself as I scroll through Pinterest, shuffle hangers around in my closet, try on tops and bottoms, shoes and boots, discarding some, embracing others is always changing. Sometimes it results in my wearing outfits I’ve worn in the past. Sometimes it results in my questioning why I EVER wore an outfit. But I don’t think, at least I hope I never begin to think, that I’m too old to wear leather pants. They’ve become a sort of symbol to me. A symbol of charting my own course, sartorially speaking.
I don’t think that my mother ever wore leather anything. Maybe a cast off jacket of my sister’s that she pulled out of the hall closet to run out to the barn and yell for my stepfather to come to the phone. Doesn’t mean, though, that she accepted the dictates of society with respect to aging. I mean, she did learn to drive the tractor to be able to help my stepfather hay in her sixties. Started using a treadmill we bought her in her late seventies. And owned her first computer in her eighties. She’s always loved clothes; it’s just that the conversation about aging and outfits was not one in which she had time to partake.
But, I’m not my mum. Our lives have taken very different courses. We are in most ways two very different people. And in other ways exactly the same. Especially that swept back quiff of white hair in the front. Ha.
So my friends, do you think you’re too old for leather pants? Have the conversations you have with yourself about clothes changed over the years? You know, those arguments you have with yourself about what you want to wear, as you sift through drawers and shuffle hangers.
P.S. I apologize for the dark and dreary photos today. It rained for much of the week. And as you can see by the lowering sky, I just managed to squeeze these photos in before it rained again.
P.P.S. There are a few affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission.
Linking up with Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb and #IWillWearWhatILike.