I always look to my elders for inspiration, however, so instead of imagining how I might look in one of those tutus, my eyes were on the well-heeled ladies in the lobby, the cultural matrons with silvering hair. Many fine ladies with coin don't color their gray, as if to say they don't need to fake anything--some of them cut their hair right down to spiky little pixie cuts, and on the right woman, I think it's a very becoming look.
Which made me wonder, as a larger question of fashion, "What's working for people?" As the ballet draws generations of women, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, it was an excellent venue in which to create some new rubrics for dressing myself. My age, it seems, will do nothing but advance.
Perhaps because it was the first really warm day of the year, the young were in short skirts. Skirts that ballooned from a thick waist down to the middle of the thigh like an inverted tulip. Whoever came up with this look (and I think it might be the current Target special) should consider a new career. Somehow it makes a lot of really beautiful young women look like dumplings.
Short skirts on short women require really skinny legs. Short skirts on tall women also require really skinny legs. Women in possession of really skinny legs in America, and especially the Midwest, are a very small minority, hence, the odds of looking good in a short skirt for a night out on the town in Indiana are not in your favor at any age.
But surpassing a certain age, women were getting away with all kinds of fun things. Like this woman:
(sorry, didn't have a camera)
Small woman, short hair, understated clothes, gigantic glasses. She didn't give a rip about how she looked, but she was taking everyone else in with her diametrically enlarged eyes. Overall, she was a force, a presence, a formidable matron, inhabiting herself and her space, as well as the daughter and granddaughter who walked alongside her.
Another unexpected success: the woman with longish gray hair, wire rim glasses, no make-up, denim overalls, and Keen sandals. You might think, come on, it's the ballet, live a little, Granola Woman, and dress the part. But she was another example of how important it is, not just to put on your clothes, but to BE your look. If this woman had not been living on organic steamed vegetables from her garden for the past ten years--she would have been too curvaceous for the overalls. If she'd not been weeding said garden that very afternoon, she would not have had the sun-kissed glow on her cheeks and forearms. If she wore make-up with this outfit, she would have looked ridiculous. But seeing her, somehow knowing her at a glance, she would have looked ridiculous making an appearance in anything else.
But what of the woman who doesn't wear her personality on her sleeve? What of the un-notable woman, without distinguishing features, without a dynamite figure? She was there too, en masse.
In some cases, her dress did nothing for her. For instance, the woman escorting a group of fourteen-year-olds to the ballet, and from behind she looked no different than her companions. She wore denim pants turned up at the hem, a polka-dotted cropped cardi, flats. She looked like a youthful Gap ad, until she turned around. Then she looked...too mature for her outfit. Note: If from behind there is no difference between you and a fourteen-year-old, from the front you can only disappoint.
In other cases, this woman looked too "Done." Hair too crunchy, clothes too vamp-y or ritzy, too much make-up or cleavage. Note: one cannot make up in hair-spray or make-up what one lacks. Beauty products are to enhance, not to re-make.
In a majority of cases, this woman seemed just to give up. There's nothing to be done, so why try? Put on the black. Put on the ordinary shoes. Put on the minimal make-up the same way she's been doing it for so many years. And the result is something like this:
Oh, what she might have accomplished with less comfort-wear in her closet, less lycra in her slacks, or more spandex in the straps of her brassiere. What if she had gone out of her way just a little?
Well, that woman was there too. And my mom and I both took note, "Did you see the cute lady in the peplum jacket and tailored silk slacks?"
"She looked good, didn't she? Subtle make-up in neutral tones, a little bit of shine."
"And the scarf."
"Yes, the scarf."
She made it look ok to be mature. She made it look good to be her. She used the tools at her access (excellent tailoring, expert cosmetic application, a color palate that matched her complexion) to enhance her subtle beauties and the result was a standout. I'd draw her, but I couldn't do her justice.