“That looks like an old lady,” is my and my mother’s worst, long standing, fashion insult.
“What about this?” I’ll ask my mother half way down the aisle of a sale rack.
“That looks like an old lady.” And it’s back on the rack without further discussion.
We – my mother especially – are conservative in our attire. My mother is in her 60s. Her staple attire is black pants with a red cardigan. I am in my 30s. I don’t have a staple attire, but I do believe that paired with a black turtleneck, most everything looks better, and I have never owned a pair of skinny jeans. Given our sensibility, I’m not sure why we disparage the fashions of old ladies, or when it started. Though we have never bothered to debate the definition. There’s no need. Old lady means dowdy, out of date, out of touch. Taken a step farther, one could say irrelevant to the now. We share our opinions freely with my father – my mother says he’d wear his clothes until they fell off of him if she never bought him anything new – but other than a pair of pants with elastic in the waist, we’ve never said to him, “That looks like an old man.”
Men can wear the same clothing as toddlers as they can when they’re 90: khaki pants and a navy sports coat. No one criticizes male public figures for their attire, but we’ve had a lot to say about Hillary Clinton’s pastel pant suits. Women do the dance. Not too pretty, not too old lady.
“It’s unfair” is an argument as irrelevant as elastic pants. Only in recognizing the dance will women continue to gain relevancy and unseat the power of the insult, “that looks like an old lady.”