One of the greatest hindrances to older women consciously and courageously finding their Sense of Self is the notion that we are somehow incomplete for the task. That our untapped self-ness is underscored with not-enoughness – proven through a long list of reasons why uncovering that Sense is socially unacceptable and potentially dangerous.
Perhaps we haven’t enough of something considered crucial: money, age, confidence, time, health, purpose. Rising up out of this limited and small thinking takes one simple act. It is a choice.
I believe 2021 is the Year of the Older Woman. (Thank you, Margaret Manning, for coming up with this phrase!)
I believe many of you in 2021 will find your power and voice, and it will express itself in many wonderful and creative ways. What do I mean by this, what does it look like, and why should you listen to me – a makeup artist?
Nothing Is More Dulling of Possibility Than Conformity
Respectability impedes growth, and conformity keeps you in a box. I grew up on a farm where my eccentricity, creativity, and compulsion to be alone, talking to myself or re-reading Charlotte’s Web for the 25th time, brought correction and concern from my overtaxed parents. Many of you relate to this.
I wanted to be normal, respectable, likeable, funny, and not odd. It has taken half a lifetime to not only accept who I am, but also to live in alignment with my inner compass. As an artist, I make women up, every day. So many of them step in front of the camera, and I see their fear.
They fear judgement. Judgement for being not pretty enough, slim enough, smart enough. I get it. Yet, the women I most admire are the ones who discover their style and voice and own it. It is about uncovering what you already are, rather than putting on something you are not.
It’s stepping out and making a statement in whatever way feels right for your own Sense of Self. When stepping out affects your career and relationships, the cost and benefits are visible, yet personal power cannot be negated in either importance or validity.
You don’t have to be an eccentric, but in truth, what you believe about yourself comes out in what you wear and how you present yourself.
“When You Don’t Dress Like Everyone Else, You Don’t Have to Think Like Everyone Else” —Iris Apfel
As an artist, this lesson has been underscored by watching other artists. Iris Apfel is an American businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon.
She’s the one with the memorable round, black framed eyeglasses, crazy clothing, and enormous jewelry who designed some of the White House interiors for nine presidents and signed a modeling contract with IMG at age 97.
I adore her. Along the way in her life, she figured out her sense of style, taste, and fashion, and stuck with it. She wears bright red lipstick and maybe mascara, but that’s it, and she’s an icon.
Helen Mirren, the famous British actress, at age 75, could look sexy in a paper bag. She owns it; her colorful and figure-enhancing style with dark eyeliner and bright lipstick.
Or consider one of my favorite British actresses, Dame Judy Dench. At age 86, she is as stunning and relatable as ever, saying in one article, “I’m tired of being told I’m too old to try something. I should be able to decide for myself if I can’t do things and not have someone tell me I’ll forget my lines or I’ll trip and fall on the set.”
These women are examples of tenacity and moxie in not only their professional lives, but in their beauty and fashion taste. They own their age, creativity, and personal style, they are beacons of individual expression.
“There Is No Roadmap to Style. It’s About Self-Expression and, Above All, Attitude” —Iris Apfel
In the late 1980s, I moved to London, England, from Paris, France, to study Literature. I’d been working as a professional model in Paris for two years and couldn’t take it anymore – the starvation dieting, the constant ‘not-enough-ness’ messaging of the fashion world.
London proved to be exhilarating. Coloring my hair bright red in defiance of my agent, I disco-danced in the crazy big hair, sharp shoulders, and overdone makeup of the era.
Fast forward to now living in Colorado, where LuLu Lemon yoga pants reign supreme, I look like a baked nob. Black leather jacket, heels, skirt just a smidge too tight, and eyeliner.
I’m not exactly the epitome of an outdoor girl. However, if I wear it with an attitude of playful fun, and older woman finesse, people don’t judge, they are inspired.
Iris Apfel also said, “People with a lot of money don’t dress as well as people who have to make do, who have to be inventive.”
Ageing is wonderful. You can give yourself permission to be anything you want, and then change your mind and try something else. My encouragement here is to live each day with an open-minded enthusiasm to be your highest and best Self possible. Whatever look or trait you own is what makes you magnetic. Nothing else.
What makes you come alive? What color brings you to life? If you weren’t afraid of judgment, how would you present yourself? What gives you the most powerful Sense of Self?