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  • The Reflective Doc

Can Somebody Please Dress Me?

If a mom wears “mom jeans,” can it still be ironic? Like a statement of your awareness, a visual “I totally get the fashion today, and even though the high tapered waist makes me look like a plantain, that’s what I’m striving for?”

Dressing in my 40’s is a challenge. I park my car outside the mall and try to decide which entrance store will fit my vibe that day. Will it be a novelty fashion brand pitched to surly teens, showcasing artfully distressed t-shirts featuring bands I used to pull eagerly from their CD case? Or a department store displaying products meant to replace my ink-stained tote bag and dirty sneakers with an outfit suitable for “a women of my age.”

Certainly on the days I put forth effort, i.e. use the “good” dry shampoo, it gives me a little lift, but I am far from discovering my signature style. It’s not that I haven’t experimented. Over the years, I’ve demonstrated my keen sartorial skills via hyper-color shirts, tight-rolled jeans, oversized flannel, and men’s polyester golf pants in the most vibrant colors and patterns. Looking back, I recognize there were goals with each choice: fitting in, hiding my body, or trying to reflect my uniqueness on the outside because sharing the inside was too scary.

But now what is the message I want to portray? As a working mom, physician, amateur baker, and cyclist of modest distances, my fashion needs change by the day. Finding a cohesive look is simply impractical, but every time I fall prey to makeover shows or tantalizing coolness on Instagram, I am once again left pondering the ideal wardrobe.

Also, my body is changing. I’m not as critical of it as I used to be, but I also recognize that parts may be aging faster than my fashion taste. I’ve reluctantly given away my cutoff jean shorts, probably long overdue. Now, throughout the summer, choosing the right outfit has typically been dictated more by outside temperatures than a carefully curated, flattering line. On the upside, I dry quickly when my kids spill things on me.

As an experiment, I recently requested an online fashion consultant select items of clothing for me to try. I diligently entered my age, height, and weight, but was stumped by my “style type.” Was I Classic? Edgy? Bohemian? There were probably 30 choices, and as I meekly clicked on “I don’t know” I imagined my perfect type: “Married Mom in her 40’s who sleeps in old t-shirts but always intends to buy more attractive sleepwear.”

The feminist in me feels guilty for time spent daydreaming about “finding the right look,” preferring that I embrace my unique beauty and stop striving to meet some societally-defined ideal. But another part of me just wants to look pretty, put-together, even, dare I say, cool.

Is there a manual out there for dressing well in your 40’s? If so, can someone send it to me? None of the Buzzfeed quizzes have sufficiently informed me of best practices, and googling “What should a 42-year-old woman wear?” has proven unhelpful. I would happily trade some mindset coaching for tips on the cut of my jeans. Anyone interested?

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