“Fitting in” isn’t everything. But it’s not nothing either. Clothing may even be more important as we get older and feel more aware of our need to be part of a human community—both to belong, and to participate.
I don't get up every morning aware of myself as a social animal with a simultaneous desire to connect and individuate. But I know that when I isolate myself from close connections with others, I don't care what I look like. When I care about other people, I'm more likely to care about how I put myself together visually.
In looking for style guidance for women over forty, the word "appropriate" comes up a lot. I find this rather icky. As if being over forty is inappropriate to a sense of aesthetics. I feel my old clothes have become, not so much "inappropriate" as inaccurate. They just don't fit who I am. I learned how to shop and choose clothes in junior high school! Surely it's time to reconsider my knee-jerk methods of deciding what to wear.
I like the idea of this period of life being a renaissance. The European Renaissance was about reinterpreting classical ideas...a "re" birth, not a completely new thing.
A lot of writers say in our middle life, we get the freedom to reclaim who we were before we had to, in a sense, put ourselves aside. We have an opportunity now to look inside and dress in a new way; to reinterpret the first notions we had about who we are with ourselves and in the world.
I like that. It's like excavating for who I used to be.