Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Oprah Savages My Self-Esteem


Yes, I read O magazine. Whatever. I actually find a lot of good reading therein, say what you will about the Oprah-machine. I can’t hack her show, but on the printed page there’s a lot of good stuff there.

January’s issue was all about self-esteem. Which turned out to be ironic, given that that was the issue in which Oprah’s fashion mavens decided to trash my personal style.

This issue featured an article directed at women over 40 with helpful tips on “how not to look old.” Dowdy, boring clothes age you, but apparently so do failed attempts at looking like a teenager. The article featured six pictures of women wearing “wrong” outfits. One caught my eye … for reasons you can probably discern if you look below:

On the left: Oprah’s model. On the right: Me. And apparently we are both committing the same over-40 fashion faux-pas. We are wearing (and I quote): “dowdy jeans and a turtleneck … functional and forgettable.”

Now, you don’t have to have a huge acquaintance with my wardrobe to know that pretty much all I ever wear is dowdy jeans and a turtleneck — to the point that I have my own favourite brand and style of dowdy jeans and would prefer never to venture any farther afield than the rack where they are sold. Functional and forgettable? Sounds great. All I ask from my wardrobe is that it allow me to function, and forget about it.

The thing is, when I looked at the picture of the woman in the dowdy jeans and turtleneck, my instant gut reaction was, “Oh, she looks great!” Clearly, I am not with the program here. Not only am I wearing the wrong clothes, I’m happy about them, and I think they look good. Something’s dreadfully wrong.

Look back at those two photos. Apart from the obvious surface-level differences (she’s black, I’m white; her sweater’s green, mine’s pink; I’m in my living room, she’s suspended in the magazine model’s Eternal Nothingness) what do you see? I’ll tell you what I see — two women in their forties who both look relaxed, confident and (here’s the key) comfortable.

Really, shouldn’t this be the advantage to passing forty? I’ll admit I have always been a little less fashion-obsessed than the average woman — in fact, I’m a little less fashion-obsessed than the average iguana. But surely with turning 40 both the external and the internal pressure should lift. I’m married, I have a wonderful job, I have family and friends who love me. I also have a me who loves me. Who am I dressing to impress? Am I dressing to get ahead in the workplace? Not likely, where I work. Am I dressing to impress my husband? My friends? My kids?

I think I’m dressing to impress me. And you know what impresses me? Feeling comfortable. You know what feels comfortable? Riders Size 12 Extra-Long Classic Fit jeans, and a turtleneck sweater. (I do vary the colours of my sweaters). And I genuinely believe comfort keeps you young.

Take that, Oprah.


20 thoughts on “Oprah Savages My Self-Esteem

  1. Good for you!! And well-said!

  2. I get all antsy upon walking into a grocery store and seeing that the latest O magazine is out and yet it hasn’t arrived in my mailbox yet.

  3. I am with you, Trudy! Comfortable is the rule to live by in matters of clothing!

  4. Well, I’m not married and have no children, but I was willing to embrace dowdy at 35. I have seen enough fashions come and go to know that what is tres chic this week will be horrid next year. My brain is not so large that I really want to waste brain space on keeping up with that stuff.
    I have even given up on the “Wong” theory of “TEACHERS MUST DRESS PROFESSIONALLY or else THEY WILL FAIL MISERABLY.”
    I have found that I fail miserably in class when I am uncomfortable is walking across my classroom in my nylons and pumps. I am not to the point of jeans and a t-shirt, but I find that a pair of black slacks/khakis and a casual jacket with some sort of shirt underneath is more that dressed up enough. And all important, I can wear black tennis shoes or other comfortable shoes for sprints across the classroom when one of my students is trying to wake up another student by whopping him across the back of the head.

  5. I think the model looks great. As do you.

    Are you aware that the woman who wrote that article was the same woman who prompted me to write this?

    She’s got an odd set of values is what I think.

  6. Nice to get some support and encouragement, thanks everyone! (Of course, people may also feel free to post that I look dowdy, functional and forgettable).

    Katrina, I hadn’t noticed the connection, but I posted a comment about “aging gracefully” or perhaps “aging flamboyantly” on your blog!

  7. Turtlenecks are great…but I’d love to see you stick out your tongue to get the whole iguana feel! 🙂

  8. “Aging flamboyantly” is a great idea! I am SO there.

    Trudy, I don’t think you’d look forgettable in any crowd, no matter what you were wearing. There’s something about you. A presence? Something in your face and stance that says you are open to new experiences, interested in the world and its people, actively involved … I dunno, but I see it in the photo. And whatever it is, it makes you memorable.

    So if “forgettable” was what you were going for, I’m afraid you’ve missed your mark.

  9. yeah, but do they give any tips for old guys? : )

  10. Tips for old guys like me:
    1. Do not wear anything you cannot buy at Costco.
    2. Do not wear a baseball cap — not unless it testifies to your time in the military, a fire department, or a labor union.
    3. Do not wear a necktie that is older than your children.
    4. But it’s okay to wear that old shirt your wife has been trying to throw out for years — just so long as she doesn’t see it until you’re already in the car.

  11. Great tips, Pastor Greg. One addendum: If you must wear a baseball cap, don’t wear it backwards in a futile attempt to look cool!

  12. When it comes to men my age, both goatees and baseball caps worn backwards are not fashion statements; they are desperate cries for help.

  13. I wonder if my goatee-wearing husband will have anything to say on that subject…

  14. Only if he’s as old as I am. (But even then, it’s okay — it’s okay, that is, just so long as he plays the saxophone.)

  15. Well, I guess I’m ready for the ’40 and comfortable’ set because I, too, looked at the photos and thought, “What’s wrong with that? They look good. I don’t get it.” I think you’re right. By this time we’ve earned the right to be comfortable in our own skins, and in the clothes we prefer to put on those skins.

  16. I was wondering how one wears a goatee backwards? I’m visualizing it…but…

    Joking aside…I like the goatee thing. Yay to you on the Saxophone as well!

  17. First of all, Pastor Greg is hilarious!

    Second, I love Oprah magazine. At least it’s trying to promote reasonable ideas about fashion instead of nutrition deprived twelve year olds passing as “normal” grown women.

    However, third, you, Trudy, would never be forgettable. What’s missing from the photograph is your wonderful personality. If anyone is going to pass up the opportunity to have a conversation with you, and miss the best part, then they aren’t worth considering. And then there’s that gorgeous hair. You couldn’t look dowdy, because your eyes are lit up and you are saying something witty and smart everytime I’m in your company.

    Besides and there ain’t nothing wrong with “functional”: Wonderwoman may have her bustier and gauntlets, but truly, could she get kids off to school, go to work, run errands, get home and get supper, get the kids homework done and write a novel after they’ve shuffled off to bed in that outfit? No. In turtleneck and comfortable jeans? Yes!

  18. Glad to see so many other people agree about comfortable clothes. Lori and Katrina, you guys are so good for my self esteem!!

    Lori, I can vouch for the fact that you can get alot accomplished wearing a turtleneck and jeans … but I’ll admit I have not run comparison tests tring to get through my daily routine in bustier and gauntlets. Maybe, just to be fair, I should give it a try?

  19. I’m on my way to old-man-hood myself. I realized this last summer when I was in a fast food joint a few feet away from a table full of teenage boys. Their clothes were unremarkable, but they were all wearing trucker-caps with long bushy hair curling out of them (if you are trying the backwards cap look to be cool, you are too late…if my teenage nephews are to be believed, that look is already done).

    Their style was very much like the generation that were teenagers just before me…which means that when I was a teenager, that look was horribly OUT of style…my sister’s hopelessly uncool boyfriends all wore that stuff.

    That’s when I realized that I really am getting old. Not only am I out of style, I really don’t want to be IN, if it means I have to wear trucker caps (not that I can’t get an ample supply from work).

    Still, there is something to be said for dressing well for one’s age. I’m not sure what, but I’m sure there is something!

  20. I too , could see little wrong with either image presented here. Neither did I think either image looked dowdy. Possibly the only reason this outfit coudl be touted as “forgettable” is because 80% of people over 25 are wearing…and why? Because as you so eloquently put it – it IS comfortable. Aren’t jeans and a turtleneck a staple in most women’s wardrobe??? I am baffled.

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