Last week I had the privilege of spending a few days in Amsterdam. For once, the sun shone and the city, fresh from the rain, and bathed in spring sunshine, felt full of hope and possibility.
But, it wasn’t just the scenery that inspired me, it was the older women, living their best ‘midlife’ and rocking their wardrobe with pride.
Leopard print trench coats and red berets. Masculine tailoring and comfortable shoes. White Mr Whippy hair quiffs. Fluorescent jewellery. Tattoos. Playful makeup.
Standing in a vintage store, flicking through the rails, a young woman nudged me and pointed to a shopper who was perhaps in her late 70s and said ‘#wardrobe goals’! Suddenly we were all talking - 3 generations recognising and celebrating each other.
Dutch women are well and truly seen. And they are beautiful.
Cultural norms have a significant, and sometimes, insidious impact on our personal decisions. And in midlife, it can be hard to zig when society is demanding you zag. In the UK, research by Gen-M in 2020 revealed that:
And yet, how we choose to dress is both influenced by and influences how we feel. Our relationship with our wardrobe is complex. It can reflect who we are, or hide who we are. It can also influence how others see us. In fact, researchers have found that what we wear in the moment may also influence how we think. The team, from California State University, Northridge and Columbia University write:
‘The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style…’
In short, the way our brains look to address a problem may change based on the impact our clothing has had on our mindset.
So how can we rediscover our love of clothes when we are feeling disconnected from our bodies? And reconnect with our minds?
Karen Arthur, founder of Wear Your Happy, has supported many women in our community transitioning through menopause. Her route back to her love of design and colour came through the narratives stored in the clothes she had inherited. The scarf from a loved aunt. A jacket she remembers her sister wearing. Vintage clothing that carry the secrets of the last owner. She writes:
‘I believe passionately in the power of clothing and accessories to enhance your mood and uplift your spirits. Be it colour, fabric or a memory, whatever we adorn ourselves with when we do so we can decide to stand up, stand out and feel wonderful…’
So, if you’re stuck in a rut, why not make this weekend about rediscovering you and the way you dress. The Wear Your Happy philosophy encourages you to explore what you choose using 8 filters.
Start by thinking what colours generate an emotional response in you. Which hues make you smile? Which feel soothing?
What stories do you associate with key items in your wardrobe? What times in your life do they reflect? What events? If you have items you don’t wear, but you can’t bear to throw away, ask yourself why you keep them? And why you can’t rethink how you use them.
Don’t focus on the clothes you’re cycling through regularly (most of us only use a small fraction of what we own). Instead look to the edges of the wardrobe and the back of the drawers. Why are there items there that you ignore? What prompted you to buy them in the first place?
- Think vintage:
Karen believes that repurposing vintage clothing allows us to place new memories on top of pre-owned for an extra special experience.
Online shopping means we increasingly discount how stuff feels on our skin in our purchase process. Return to texture. Think about how different materials make you feel. Think about the sound they make too. How they move.
Don’t discount the bottom of your body! What will bring you joy when you look down. What feels comfortable? What makes you want to stand tall? Think about how the shoes you own make you feel. Think about sound here too. Is there a way of incorporating more play and joy into your footwear?
If you can, get yourself properly measured so that you’re wearing the right bra for now. So many of us don’t. Then, rationalise your knicker drawer. Anything that doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel good, has greyed in the wash, has no place. Again, this isn’t about buying more - but most of us have weeks' worth of pants in our drawers! And if you do decide to buy some more, think about the material you want closest to your skin. Think about what colours you’d like to wear (not what is sensible to wear). Here is an opportunity to have real fun - just for you. Dressed in corporate attire, only you will know if you’re wearing a bright canary yellow matching set! And just that fact can lift your day.
- Finally, think about how you dress your head. Karen is a lover of head wraps and hats. You can play with how you style your hair too. Adorning your head with colour and playing with shape and accessories brings a regality. We all stand taller.
With love, Rebekah and the MPowder Team
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