Saturday Musings: Breaking the Age Cage

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It is interesting that three of the five* Saturday Musings posts I planned for this month, revolve around challenging the stigma assigned to us by numbers. It is also interesting that there is a general fear/dislike of math in the population – sewing and non-sewing alike. Coincidence? My detective shows assure me there is no such thing as coincidence. At any rate, today’s number stigma pertains to age, and how that intersects with sewing.

*Due to time and health constraints, one post in the series will have to run at some other time – but I did have a post for every Saturday planned!

As you know, I’m currently a guest editor for the Sewcialists blog, which has been fun – there’s always someone to gab sewing with – but also beneficial to the sewing community. One of the Sewcialists’ recent wins was inspiring the creation of @SewOver50 on Instagram, an account dedicated to promoting the visibility of sewers over the age of 50. Since starting this year, they have almost 10K followers! Clearly there was a need for age-diverse representation in the online sewing community. But how often do we think about age diversity when we sew?

Actually, I think we think about age while sewing a great deal more than we realize. How often do we voice our concerns about ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ or ‘looking like grandma’? It seems innocuous enough, but both of those phrases are kind of offensive, aren’t they? I actually had a friend – who looked AMAZING in a beautiful floral dress – worry about mutton looking like lamb. At the age of barely 30. If she’s mutton, what are people in their 40’s? 50’s? Geez. My mother is almost 70, and she’s definitely not mutton. On the other end of things, is people worrying about looking too old – ie, like grandma. To assume that older=unfashionable diminishes how stylish people of all ages can be!

We look to indie sewing brands to be the change we want to see in the world (so we can then sew it!), and that pressure has led to greater body diversity of models and pattern testers, extended sizing, and lots of conversation and awareness. Hopefully, @SewOver50 will help create pressure for brands to also include age diversity in their choice of models and testers. So what can we, the sewing community do? How can we approach age in an inclusive way?

Firstly, by throwing out the idea that clothing is too old or too young. Given fashion’s cyclical nature, everything we’re wearing has been worn before and will be worn again! So how could it be that we have to be a certain age to wear certain things? That said, our lifestyles do change over time. It could be said we might be in a period of our lives where certain cuts or garments may no longer work – but it is because of our lifestyle, and not our age. For example, when I was 24, I had no need for club dresses and 6″ stilettoes because I was hanging around underground rock bands. In that scene, jeans and a t-shirt sufficed (thank goodness). And when I was 30ish, I had a similarly-aged co-worker who *did* need club dresses and 6″ stilettoes – because she liked to go out and party!

Additionally, I encourage you to check out @SewOver50 – not only because it’s a well-run IG account, but to see how diverse ‘over 50’ looks. There are people I’ve been following for years who identify as over 50, and I bet there are people you follow in that age group. Why? Because style and sewing have no age.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Ebi, I love your writing style and positive message. Found you thru @sewover50 and look forward to reading all of your posts. I am a sewist in the #sewover50 group and all I can say is, ladies and gentlemen, wear what you want and what makes you feel good. Sewing makes that happen.

    1. Hello Blanca, thanks so much for your comment! Isn’t @sewover50 a great account? So glad you’re enjoying my writing – and definitely agree, sewing sets us free.

  2. Thank you so much for this! Those are two of my pet peeves: older people worrying about dressing “too young” and younger people worrying about “looking like grandma.” I know I’m biased because of my age but what the heck is wrong with dressing like grandma? Grandma has already tried all the silly trends and has everything figured out. Grandma knows how to rock it.

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