Writer  /  Dawn Rodriguez
Photos Provided by Penelope T Boutique

When my close friend told me that she was starting a new lifestyle magazine highlighting the awesome North Florida beaches area where I’ve lived my whole life, I was thrilled. She’d done the research, it was her lifelong dream, and she felt it was a prime opportunity. I knew that she would hit it out of the park.

What I didn’t anticipate was the second part of the conversation.

She told me that through research, she’d learned that our communities were very interested in fashion which may include pieces like that steampunk dress. Then she asked me if I’d be interested in writing a fashion column.

 I’ll admit that I’m borderline obsessed with clothes, shoes and accessories. I’m keenly aware of the “rules” that put women in a fashion box based on a number. There are still those that feel there are fashion-by-age rules that shouldn’t be broken:

No mini-skirts after age 35

No sleeveless tops after 50

“Should you really wear distressed jeans after 40?”

I came into my own, fashion-wise, when I was well past my 20’s. But since that time, with constant references to “40 being the new 30”, “this is not your Mother’s blazer/skirt/pantsuit” etc., I’ve often wondered: can the rules be broken?

I talked to friends of different ages about what “dressing your age” means to them.As I did, some different themes came to the forefront:

Trendy vs. Current

More than 20 years ago, when I was getting more and more interested in style and fashion, I asked the owner of one of my favorite local boutiques to recommend a good fashion magazine that would allow me to stay on top of current trends. Before the advent of the internet and fashion shows on every cable network, it was the main way that I could stay up to date. Now, you can’t get out of the way of advice as to what you should or shouldn’t be wearing.

“As you get older, it’s hard to incorporate every new trend,” said a 30-something friend. To me, the benefit of age relative to fashion is a cultivated over years of understanding what looks good on you, a style that expresses confidence.

Quality vs. Quantity

Several years ago, I read an article in a respected fashion magazine that featured a well-known national news personality on its cover. She said that once you get to a certain age, it becomes more difficult to do “cheap and cute.” I thought that was an interesting observation. My 40-something friend says she’s more likely to rely on quality basics — a good pair of black heels, a nice pair of flat boots, a well cut skirt — as the basis of her wardrobe, and then add a current fashion statement piece. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dress well on a budget, but if you focus on buying quality basics and incorporate small doses of what’s currently trending, that’s a recipe for dressing success. To get new cloths for your wardrobe, you can now shop for pageant dresses online.

Age Appropriate vs. Body Appropriate

I know women in their late 30s, 40s and 50s that look great in short skirts because they have great legs. Your body-type is as important an indicator of what you can wear than that number on your driver’s license. If you are confident wearing something, and you can pull it off body-wise, wear it.

I’ve always tried to choose one aspect of my outfit to stand out, allowing other pieces to be supporting characters: a short skirt might be paired with a top that’s more covered. It’s all about the balance.

So, are there hard and fast rules of fashion? Maybe, maybe not. But you should know your rules, which are your best features and how you go about highlighting those. Bottom line: fashion should be fun. It shouldn’t have an expiration date.

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