The Shamesuit Effect

It's sometimes weird trying to navigate a casually-dressed society when you want to look like a fun-loving grownup; I always find that there's a risk of looking more starched that I'd like if I dial-back the sartorial joy too much. You know...color, prints, ripped denim…whatever.  I love all of my classic pieces like this cashmere sweater, these baroque black pearls (beautifully imperfect, more on that in a minute), and these prim, vintage Ferragamo Vara pumps that I found on consignment. However, when mixed all together, they make me look a little too bland for my liking. Not that there is anything wrong with a conservative look, it's just not my particular fashion identity. I need to wreck the perfection a bit; add some joy, irreverence, or whimsy. So I chose my short, tiered wool skirt from Tibi, a thrifted denim jacket (5 bucks at Goodwill in the USA), and left the tights in the drawer.

As many times as I've written about my penchant for imperfection and balance on this blog, I've never really explored the reasons why I feel this need to keep everything just a bit undone - apart from that ever-elusive fashion coolness factor that lives in all of us who love to dress.

After giving it some thought, I've come to realise that my goal of always striving for a bit of imperfection is probably my reaction to what was once (and still is in many ways) engrained deep within the social matrix of how we perceive the way women dress. There is still a pervading sense that we should be more serious about our fashion at 40-plus. Not long ago, I went into a shop aimed at my age demographic looking for a swimsuit, and it was the most depressing exercise ever. There was absolutely no joy in any of the designs in the store. None. Not even a flash of yellow or metallic.  The designs were all these heavy, dark, skirted, thick, padded, control-everything-about-your-body shamesuits that gave me a serious education about the message we are sending to women about how they should feel about their middle-aged bodies. They were grim. Even the printed ones made you think of a dusty plastic-covered couch in a care home. I wanted to yell over to the clerk "where do you keep the swimsuits for people who don't hate themselves?"

These shamesuits, staring at me at point-blank range, told a tale about how designers see my body, my demographic, and of course you can extrapolate that to how society sees us as well. You're either a frumpy soccer mom or a try-hard Real Housewife, is that it? And I had just so happened to walk into a shop aimed at the former instead of the latter. Had I not been so preoccupied with worry about these poor women getting tangled in those big, heavy shamesuits and plunging to their watery deaths at the bottom of the sea, I might have written the company an angry letter about it. I may still.

Tibi skirt (old), somewhat similar / Charter Club (Macys) cashmere sweater / baroque black pearl necklace (gift) similar / vintage Ferragamo pumps, similar / black pearl stud earrings (old), similar / thrifted denim jacket, similar / Ray Ban Jackie Ohh II sunglasses

Linking up with:  Not Dead Yet Style, Let it Shine, Elegantly Dressed and Stylish, Not Dressed As Lamb, Style Elixir, The Pleated Poppy


  1. Hi, I am Ada. So glad I found your blog. You have cute style. I cannot believe you found this adorable black mini skirt for 5 bucks, especially since it is wool. Love your styling.

    I welcome you by my blog as well. Thanks and have a great week! Ada. =)

  2. Well said. I choose surf shorts and rash guard to swim in, so I can at least have color and pattern! Love your pleated skirt, and your attitude. xo


  3. You look wonderful, but I could never wear that skirt without black tights.

  4. So well written. I have been in stores like that. I basically cannot breathe and run for the exit once I've mistakingly be lured in by something half decent (probably put there by mistake) in the window display.

    You are right, too many designers think all women hate their bodies after a certain age. Celebrating an older female body is still too taboo in our society.


  5. Great look!!!!

  6. I love that term "shamesuit", that's brilliant! Very nice little outfit, you've got great legs to work that skirt without tights.x

  7. Cute look. Loving that skirt! Would love to see you at my link up tomorrow!

  8. Even my dear husband has taken to grabbing something off a rack to suggest to me, that I myself associate with the 90-year-olds at my grandaunt's retirement home. They look entirely chic and stylish for 90-year-olds, but I have 30+ years to go before I want to dress like that.

  9. I love the term "shamesuit". Too many women see only the imperfections in their bodies, and convince themselves that they can never wear shorts, or two piece swim suits, or top that bare their arms.

  10. amen, sister!, those shamesuits really exist and it looks like they're made to make us unhappy about our 40+bodies that must to be hide inmediately!. I wear a bikini, my mom wears a bikini, even my mother-in-law wears a bikini, and nobody is going to say us a word about don't wear anything comfy and cool when enjoying our beach/pool time.
    And you look gorgeous wearing your denim jacket and cute skirt, it's elegance with a twist and I love it!

  11. Thanks for linking up to Top of the World Style. Great outfit for fall! I love the hem of the skirt! It is so different!

  12. Cute look you've put together. Love the bright pink top, such a pretty colour on you. And gorgeous black pearl earrings x


Post a Comment

Talk to me...

Popular Posts