When Tim Gunn was a guest on the "Oprah" show, he provided six fashion rules for "mature" women (mature = over-40). Older women should never wear:
- Pleated pants
- Low-rise jeans
- Horizontal stripes
- Jackets that hit at mid-thigh
- Double-breasted blazers
- Capri-length pants
First of all, since when did being old start at 40? Jeez! This puts some women who are having their first child into the same age category as great grandmothers. This isn't the 1950s. Age groupings for women have changed considerably. Women are very active -- working, athletic, travelling -- well into their seventies today. In some fields women are just getting their careers going in their 40s.
I confess that I have always hated any sort of these lists of rules. Dos and don'ts. Like most of these kinds of dictates I have an innate tendency to see them primarily as there to be broken. They are a mainstay for hack copy in fashion magazines but there is nothing original or fresh about them.
These specific six rules are about what is flattering to body shape as well as what is in fashion at present. Pleated pants and double breasted blazers are not overly youthful. They are just not especially flattering or currently fashionable. Horizontal stripes are widening. Based on the assumption that no woman under age 40 buys clothes from Liz Claiborne, I will use summer fashions from Tim's new employer to demonstrate the problems with these rules.
1. Pleated pants - no one should wear these. Ever.
2. Low-rise jeans : women under 22 shouldn't wear these--and not very many of them can get away with it either. I'm not convinced that they are a particularly attractive look for even the best of figures. It is just a cut that can't quite get away from the idea of "cheap and slutty":
On the other hand, Liz Claiborne is well known for perpetrating the style crime of mom jeans and those are just as bad.
3. Horizontal stripes -- This rule is ridiculous. The principle is one based on body shape not age.
Here is the thing with fashion rules: even the people who make them don't follow them. Tim's very own Oprah makeover selected a dress with a horizontal stripe pattern for a woman who had just given birth to twins:
And a striped top can look fine on a larger body:
In fact, it would seem that this season's Liz Claiborne plus size collection breaks every one of Tim Gunn's rules.
4. Jackets that hit at mid-thigh : Frankly I don't even understand what this rule is about. The look would depend on the particular outfit and the cut of the jacket:
Here is an example from LC's plus size collection:
This is a fine casual or light exercise outfit but the problem I see with the LC collection is that it is dowdy and it hides women's curves rather than highlights them.
It will be interesting to see how Gunn will approach this area at Liz Claiborne given Tim's well-known "issues" with the bodies of zaftig women (i.e., any woman over a size 4 and/or any woman with fleshy curves).
And that place needs some help. After a while the LC collection started to really depress me. The idea that they wanted women to dress this way. I think they got some of their fabric ideas from somebody's great grandmother's old davenport:
If you must have a rule how about this one: don't wear fabric that might be used to upholster furniture at a funeral home. But I digress . . .
5. Double-breasted blazers: these aren't in fashion now. Just as with pleated pants, the "rules" don't have to do with age. There is nothing overly youthful about a double-breasted blazer, mid-thigh jackets or horizontal stripes. They have to do with style, cut, and shape and what is in fashion.
6. Capri-length pants : This is the one that really gets me. I thought about naming this post: "kiss my capri wearing ass." Sure capris are not the best for short legs. But capris are a fashion staple -- there's no getting away from them either at the gym or in the summer (especially at the beach). Even with short legs capri-length works especially if you are wearing the same color on the top. So shoot me.
Here are LC's cropped pants selections.
I don't care what age you are.
On the other hand, here are Eileen Fisher's:
Eileen Fisher targets the same age group as LC and is similar in price range (slightly higher but not by much). Nonetheless, Eileen Fisher has a much more youthful and fashionable and versatile look.
It is one that is not beset by the kind of mindset that has fashion "rules" about what you can and can't wear at a certain age. In fact the company is based on thinking about women and fashion in a manner that is opposed to these kinds of restrictions.
Frankly, if Tim Gunn really wants to reinvigorate LC he is going to have to change the way that he thinks about fashion... and women.
two posts from 02.05.07:
- tg on how runway models should look (after the tyra banks discussion):
- continued commentary on the preference for heroin chic / boyish body type in fashion