Although I learned to sew as a teenager, and sewed many clothes for the next ten years, I pretty much parked my sewing machine after that, pulling it out only to hem jeans or sew two sheets together to make a duvet cover. That changed a few years ago when I suddenly found myself singing chorus in an amateur opera company and needing to do something about costumes. I started combing through thrift stores for interesting items I could “do something with” and also for fabric remnants. Soon enough I took a few sewing and pattern making classes and started sewing “street” clothing. It turns out sewing unites my love of thrift, my pleasure in “reusing and recycling”, my love of colour, texture, fabric, as well as my drive to be creative in just about any way possible.
All clothing, I’ve discovered, is costume. As an older women at this particular time and in this culture, I think I’m on a frontier. There is no ready-made clothing for older women that looks good — at least not at a price I can afford. I’m trying to find a style that suits my maturity, that is comfortable first of all, that lets me look good even though I’ve plumped out a bit, and please please avoids “dowdy” and “middle-aged look” like the plague. But I don’t want to look like some old bag who squeezes herself into teen clothes either. What, exactly, are the “costumes” that older women are encouraged to force themselves into? What labels are we saddled with?
This month I retire from my decades-long career as a college educator. They, the powers that be, now call me a “retiree”. The first time I heard myself addressed that way, I swear I turned pale. I saw myself as an old frump in shapeless elastic-waist pants and blouse, hoofing around in thick marshmallow running shoes. I had to rush to a mirror to reassure myself that I hadn’t changed. The label doesn’t fit. I’m not wearing it. Call me an older babe, a crone, a woman of leisure. I’ll find my own labels and costume myself in ways that fit the reality of older women in the 21st century.
And I’ll blog about it. I look forward to hearing from and reading blogs and posts from other older babes repudiating the labels of the past and creating a whole new image of people who are both “older” and “women”.