I’ve always been an outdoorsy, fleece kind of a chica. Never happier than schlepping a backpack or tromping up a mountain, I’ve always been happiest when moving my feet, preferably miles from anyone (or at least anyone annoying). I grew up in a fairly rural area, spent my weekends and evenings riding bikes, hiking and generally getting dirty.. and so I dressed accordingly. After all, who is going to wear ‘dry clean only’ trousers to saw wood for a fire or scramble up a rock pile? And a skirt? Forget about it. So for the last… ooo…20 odd years, I’ve dressed for comfort and practicality, not for style.
Comfort? Practicality? Well lets just say, on an average day I could comfortably feature in a fuzzy REI photo (I’m way too average to be one of the ‘in focus’ people). I own more than few pairs of North Face, outdoorsy chick-type outfits and fleece? Lets just say I can outfit you, me and everyone I know. Problem? Not really. I live in Colorado, I do active stuff and we’re not exactly a town known for our cutting edge adoption of fashion.
Case in point: my last 2 dates wore Chacos on all of our evenings out. (In NYC, I think they call you ‘homeless’ if you try this).
And since I moved to Colorado, I’ve generally not cared that much about my attire. I moved here from London and after a few years in head to toe black, frankly the dry cleaning bill was killing me. As were the de rigeur heels. In London, you dressed for your job, to look older and because everyone else dressed to kill. At 23 I owned 10 pairs of cufflinks and 10 navy blue suits. I wouldn’t dream of being seen in public in anything which wasn’t styled and coordinated. Tailored and sleek. I wore hiking shoes only when I went on a hike and I had a fleece… somewhere?
Fast forward to age 27 and my wardrobe was 100% wash and wear, my iron donated to Goodwill and anything black or tailored relegated to the back of the closet. Colorado was a ‘elasticated pants’ type of a place.. and yes, I bought those Gramicci shorts too. I still made the effort to dress nicely for dates and interviews, so who really cares if REI threw up all over me for the last 17 odd years?
Well, actually… me.
Because recently I’ve noticed that wearing sports appropriate attire when you’re sporting is one thing, but at 40, wearing sporting attire all-the-goddam-time is just lazy. Yes.. it is. Its says ‘I don’t care how I look, I just want to be comfortable’. But as Greg Proops (the Smartest Man in the Room) once said, ‘they’re clothes..you’re not meant to be that comfortable’. That’s what pyjamas are for. And these days, I’m wayyyyyy too comfortable. After all I don’t need quick dry pants when I’m out for brunch and I certainly don’t need a technical tee to shop at Nordstrom. I don’t need hikers to drop in at at Whole Foods and nobody, really, needs to wear running shorts unless they’re going for a run. At this point, I’m one bad night away from a damn Snuggy.
Why? Why does it matter if I’m comfortable vs. fashionable? Well, it may be shallow, but people judge you on how you look… and I don’t think I want to look like I’m out to hike the Appalachian Mountain trail any more. Because, frankly, I’m not. While it was fine at 26, 28 and even 35 to dress for comfort.. (this was, after all, a likely weekend or week night activity).. at 40ish.. I’m ready to sacrifice some comfort for some appropriate looking clothing. Clothes that say something about who I am, accentuates my features (while hiding my varicose veins) and make me look attractive. Because say what you like.. but fleece and polypro ain’t flattering.
At 40ish I think I’m finally getting around to the idea that I’m actually an adult. And that as an adult, while I don’t need to start shopping at Ann Taylor or *yikes* Chicos, I do need to dress according to my lifestyle. I’m not 25, or homeless, living on a farm, spending all my time on a trail.. so why am I dressing as though I am? Comfort? Practicality? Or just laziness?
I think the time has come for me to retire my rip stop and Tevas as everyday attire. Take off the running shorts unless I’m actually running, and keep the sneakers for sneaking. I can’t see me donning pleated pants or a blazer any time soon, but I think a skirt or two, a cute top and some small heels won’t kill me. And while I’m not building a bonfire of fleece anytime soon, I think I’ll save it for snowy cold days when I actually need it.