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Oct 13

Written by: Diana West
Saturday, October 13, 2007 3:09 AM 

Vogue magazine is now doing its bit to get us gals to look, or at least think about looking more grown-up. Fashion-coaching women to have “courage” and “no fear of chic,” the September issue sounds a downright old-fashioned note in exhorting women to adopt a “valiant style” (read: get dressed up). It showcases women who do just that, including Vanessa Bellanger, image and style director at Chloe, who declares:

“I guess I want to look more adult now. I think it is really bad to try to look younger than you are, which is so prevalent in fashion. You have to be comfortable with your age.”

It’s “really bad” to try to look younger? Well, snap my tube top. As Vogue put it, “When did you last hear that in our mother-dressed-as-daughter-and-vice-versa times?”

The magazine also goes on to emphasize the importance of wearing clothing “appropriate” to the occasion. It begins to sound more like a wise old granny talking than a trendoid glossy. There is also a salvo against “the sloppy syndrome” that offers, if not a cure, at least some encouragement to fight the “disease” it diagnoses as “chicophobia.”

Significant? You bet. So much of what I call “the death of the grown-up” starts with self-image, our seemingly immutable pose of youthful “cool.”
In article questioning “why women are so afraid of dressing up,” Jean Hanff Korelitz describes her own “sloppy syndrome”:

“I have always had an uneasy relationship with the idea of elegance. Nice clothes were fine, but you didn’t want to look as if you were trying too hard or cared that much. I could never seem to get very dressed up without feeling compelled to mess up my hair or skip the stockings, just to take the edge off.”

And, I would add, to avoid appearing “grown-up.” 

Describing her mother’s generation, which sounds rather like my mother’s generation, she elaborates on how such women “have always been well turned out”—quaint phrase--adding, “Being elegant, looking mature—these were not problematic for them.

But they are for their daughters, as Korelitz makes clear. She writes

“An underachieving dresser like myself can at least take comfort in the fact that we are legion. Zoe Heller figures it’s all about the ongoing shock of finding ourselves of a certain age. [Like over 25.] Because we don’t feel old, it jars us when we approximate the elegance of our mother’s generation.”

(Look how “elegance” has become part of “old.” Sad.)

“When she makes an effort, Heller confides, there’s an accompanying horror of looking like a `bad imitation of a lady who lunches,’ and that the fear of looking finished is firmly entwined with an `aversion to admitting that my young, hip days are over.’ “

Doesn’t “young” and “hip” ever get, well, old?

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