When are you too old to wear a crop top?

Vera Wang wears a modified dress from her own collection.

Vera Wang wears a modified dress from her own collection. Photo: Jennifer Graylock

What’s the worst thing that a woman over the age of 40 can do? Going by feel here I’m going to suggest it’s somewhere between wearing “stripper” shoes ala the indomitable Helen Mirren, have her true age revealed on IMDB and dare to flash their unseemly flesh. More specifically, flash their flesh in ways that only the young should. At least according to the Financial Times, that, in a fashion piece on older women enjoying the trend for cut-outs and midriff flashing said this,

“But it’s hard not to consider whether there should be an age limit on midriff-baring. Fashion has clearly embraced the trend of showing parts of the body that are not traditionally displayed – Roland Mouret, Cushnie et Ochs, Marchesa and Derek Lam are among those who set their sights on the solar plexus for summer. But should their customers? Especially customers of a certain age?”

Won’t somebody think of our eyeballs?

Helen Mirren's secret weapon.

Helen Mirren's secret weapon. Photo: Getty

Actually, won’t someone take a look at the ‘customers of a certain’ mentioned? Those included in the article were fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman Linda Fargo who wore a Michael Kors cut-away gown that highlighted parts of her toned 52 year-old body to the CFDA awards (basically the fashion Oscars) and 64 year-old Vera Wang who wore a modified dress from her own collection that comes with a bandeau top and a whole lot of midriff.


That they both look great is sort of beside the point. Of course it is easy to dismiss the ageism surrounding the women’s outfit choices since they are presenting an unattainable beauty standard to older women who might perhaps rather eat off their own arm than flash their midriff. But it’s not about saying women post 60/50/whenever society deems us not flash-worthy should be able to pull off a midriff top; it’s that older women should wear a midriff top if they damn well want to without attracting the concern and/or disgust of the commenterati.

But more than that, it’s acknowledging that women ‘of a certain’ age shouldn’t be expected to peel out into the sidelines. To not wear clothes that attract attention, hell, that it’s fine for them to make up for lessening attention by wearing clothes that scream look at me, why won’t you look at me.

Wave your hand if you're onto a good thing.

Wave your hand if you're onto a good thing. Photo: Getty

Besides, by this stage of the game you would hope that women have figured out that we’re all being played by the media, Hollywood and beauty companies selling ‘solutions’. As the women of the excellent Ari Seth Cohen blog Advanced Style demonstrate, older women comfortable with themselves and their style look the best of us all. It’s everybody else that has to catch up.

In an interview with Vogue magazine last year, of which she is its oldest cover ‘girl’ Meryl Streep said that Hollywood still views older women as unappealing.

“Once women passed childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level,” she said in the January issue of the magazine.

Vogue Japan editor-at-large Anna Dello Russo, 51, at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Vogue Japan editor-at-large Anna Dello Russo, 51, at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

It’s a view that is firmly captured by these brilliant if depressing graphs by New York Magazine’s The Cut about the age gaps between male movie stars and their female love interests.

And it’s one that is snugly encapsulated by the very fact that these women daring to flash their midriffs is enough for fashion writer’s to wrap up their disgust in advice about what is “appropriate”.

It proves that we’re only really OK with women of a certain age when they dress and behave how we imagine they ‘should’.  Yet the moments when they don’t are the ones that should be celebrated for the unnecessarily subversive move that they are. Let’s go back to Helen Mirren in her “stripper shoes.” She buys them for $39 because they make her legs "look unbelievably long".

Those clear plastic platforms actually say quite a lot about should and shouldn’t and why ignoring both makes Helen Mirren the most excellent woman that she is.