This entry presents another perspective on a perhaps-puzzling later-in-life matter: Those older folks whose apparel and personal appearance may seem frozen in time.
First, the phenomenon—one you may observe in others OR a way of life you’re starting to adopt: Patterns of clothing, shoes, grooming, jewelry or accessories that might suggest that they or you may have stopped caring about current fashion several decades ago. No matter how stylish the person hopes to appear, the overall impression might be something less: an elder suspended in time.
What might some of us too-quickly assume about clothing-unaware seniors? Does their unchanging appearance legitimize the notion that they’re stuck in a previous century’s cultural memes? Do those around them hear seniors’ thoughts as tinged with a mental dowdiness that mirrors their clothing? Are these older adults unwittingly giving others reasons to disregard them? Are they the unknowing recipients of pity— because it seems as though they can’t see themselves accurately?
Before any of us judge people-books by their fashion-covers, it might help to look a little deeper into what could lie under the choice to don seemingly dated apparel. The elders with threadbare wardrobes? Is it possible that they cleaned out their closets years ago, saving their children from that burden? That guy with the Prepper look from the 1970s? Could he be trying to keep his living costs low so that he can bequeath a sizeable inheritance to his descendants? That over-coiffed woman? Could she be trying to remember the joy of being 55 years old? The man who never varies from hiking shoes, jeans and a work shirt? Perhaps he always wants to be ready to take a walk with a visitor? The eccentric oldster with mismatched shirts and pants? Is it possible that he’s holding fiercely onto his reputation as a one-of-a-kind fellow? The woman with ill-fitting dresses? Might her background story be that her children moved her suddenly from her faraway home, her wardrobe left behind and thrift-store clothing her only choice?
In the case of older adults, book covers—clothing—probably do NOT tell what’s in the book—the richness of the lives of these individuals. To older adults whose personal appearance seems forever dated, staying fashionable may seem like a waste of precious energy, time and money. They want to live simple, manageable lives centered on their core spiritual values. So they may ask: What’s the good in trying to impress others? Who gets to decide what fashion is all about, anyhow? Why not be comfortable with the way we dressed when we were in our prime? Why try to hide that we’re getting older? And yes, what DID Jesus have to say about the matter of outward appearances? (See his Sermon on the Mount, especially Matthew 6:28ff or Luke 12:23!)
Know anyone like this? Thinking about cleaning out your closets? Worried about your parents’ first-blush blindness about appropriate styles of apparel? Getting tired of keeping up with the latest trends in wearing apparel yourself? If so, be glad that fashion-frozen can also be a mark of wisdom, inner confidence and stewardship that transcends worry about what to wear when you are older. And be ready to discover what older adults actually think about their clothing.
Their answers might thaw some of your attitudes about frozen fashion….
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