[quote]When I am old...I shall wear purple.[/quote]
--- “Warning,” Jenny Joseph
When Jenny Joseph wrote her famous poem warning people she would take to wearing purple in old age, she was about to turn 30 -- a significant numeric milestone in our narrative of aging. Perhaps burdened by the expectations of her age, she imagined her older years as more liberated and whimsical, a time to “make up for the sobriety of youth.”
This sentiment reflects the seriousness with which many younger people regard, and consequently, visually present themselves. This is due in part to the emphasis on establishing authority, maintaining professionalism, and generally trying to fulfill that ever-elusive cultural imperative of “being an adult.” We become so bogged down with practical responsibilities and a demonstration of success, that “wearing purple” may seem like a luxury better suited for another chapter of our lives. Fortunately, with age, many can finally afford to lighten up.
In a youth-obsessed culture, it’s easy to forget about or underestimate the perks of aging. Our bodies start to fail us and our looks slip -- in other words, the aesthetic and physical attributes on which we’ve labored our entire lives start to wane. And yet, studies prove that it is precisely at this time that we report the greatest level of happiness, which climbs steadily into our 70’s, 80’s, and beyond. How might we account for these surprising statistics? In short: acceptance, wisdom, and a generally higher threshold for our own imperfections and those of others.
With age, comes a license to be bold. To take risks. To laugh in the face of social norms. To wear your version of “purple” -- whatever that might look like.
Decades of an older life draped in colorful stylings is certainly something to look forward to, but as the poem suggests, perhaps we “ought to practice a little now?” How do you currently give yourself permission to step outside the visual norm and have fun? Here are some tips for embracing the spirit of purple at every age:
Iris Apfel is reaching the full height of her celebrity at age 91. With a recent MAC makeup line and a collection of Eyebobs glasses, her bold style is a perfect example of confidence and personality giving rise to bold style. Check out her glasses line.
The Sunset Boulevard plight of the aging actress may no longer apply. When thinking of aging, one can’t help but think of the popular actresses who are over 50 and thriving. At this year’s Oscars, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly called Helen Mirren, 67, “so hot” and made an appeal to take her home after the ceremony (not to mention this year’s host trying to get Sally Field, 66, to ditch the Oscars with him). And who could forget Zachary Levi, age 32, who took the idea to another level when proposing to Betty White at her 90th birthday celebration, saying “If you say no, I’ve got my eye set on Carol Burnett.” (She told him to forget the others and planted a kiss on him.)
The Red Hat Society is an organization based on the ideas of the Jenny Joseph poem, promoting fun and flair for women over the age of 50. Want to get involved? The Red Hat Society has events and branches all around the country. Check out their website.
Need some visual inspiration? Take a page from the creative stylings of the amazing older people photographed and documented by Ari Seth Cohen on the Advanced Style blog. Take a peak -- and prepare to drastically revise your list of style icons.