Thwarting the frivolity of fashion

Would this wardrobe suggest a certain age group?
Professor Julia Twigg visited York recently to give a lecture on her various projects relating to dress in later life - a refreshing take on the assumed frivolity of fashion. Going back to this previous post, I expressed my uneasiness with personally studying the sociology of fashion and dress. Yet Twigg's focus on age, namely older women, legitimates the field through a lens previously ignored, by exploring the ways in which lived experiences of dress mediates the re/production of bodily and cultural ageing. Most of us will be familiar with the tropes of 'fuddy duddy' (dressing too old) or 'mutton dressed as lamb' (dressing too young) in the media but we must recognise the potential of such discourse for controlling the appearance of bodies.

In her book, Twigg (2013) introduces the notion of an age hierarchy whereby the age ordering of dress demonstrates the manifestation of social expectations on the body. Older women were traditionally restricted to styles of dress which concealed signs of ageing such as longer hemlines and higher necklines typical of M&S, EWM and the like. So practices of dress are much more than neutral forms of adornment and may even be a site of marginalisation. However, resistance to these pervasive norms has grown, as shown by the likes of Advanced Style, which represents the experimentation of the over sixties with vibrant innovative styles. What is considered 'old age' is postponed in an era of later or longer retirement and consumer choice has made identity and dress practices a varied and complex phenomenon.

Do you reflect on your dress? What does it say about you and wider society?

Twigg, J. (2013). Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

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