Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jeggings and Ageism

Earlier Drafts:
I wore this cardigan with loafers I'm trying to love.
I could have worn these yellow wedges, instead of strappy gold heels, with this ensemble.

slouchy grey cardi (Target)
black cami (Gap)
jeggings (Lauren Conrad for Kohl's)
yellow wedges (Nine West)

One of the few things I've enjoyed about unemployment is the freedom it has given me to experiment with clothing.  Not currently bound by office dress codes, I'm able to invent my own sartorial standards.  I've toyed with lace and (faux!) fur and bright tights and prints.

But I might draw the line with jeggings.

Although I fashioned a pre-autumn outfit around my newly purchased leggings + jeans hybrids, I'm still skeptical of them.  What purpose do they serve distinct from leggings or skinny jeans, after all?  I plan to wear mine only with long tops, as I would leggings, and I find them convenient for tucking in boots, just like skinny jeans.  They might provide a measure of extra warmth in chillier weather, but, beyond that, what's the big deal?

To be fair, I'm enamored of the concept.  Leggings in a durable fabric?  Genius.  We won't have to wear tights under these babies, for sure.  And why should we sacrifice a laid-back jeans aesthetic because we desire a body-hugging profile?  Points for creativity.

Still, only months ago I poked fun at undergrads' propensity for jeggings.  These pants seem to be favorites of the 18-and-younger set.  Perhaps that's why, whenever I sport my own pair in public, I receive glances of camaraderie from girls half my age.  This is not good for someone like me who already bristles at the slightest implication of ageism.  I fear that sporting clothing that is inherently coded with (negative?) age-related associations only invites the sorts of perceptions I mean to deflect.  So am I too old for jeggings?  Or, would it be wise for me to refrain from wearing them given my sensitivity to age-related discrimination?

Last week, E. of Academichic asked a related question of skinny pants, the broader category under which jeggings fall.  Her post inquired into the professional connotations of such trousers, and I think that, for young females, the issues of career expertise that E. noted are inextricable from issues of age.  Being young and dressing fashion-consciously certainly opens one up to risk -- risk of being branded as inexperienced professionally.  So is it worth it?  Granted, we'd all like to wear whatever we wish and imagine ourselves demolishing monoliths of prejudice, but, when it comes to it, do we eliminate certain garments -- like jeggings, perhaps -- from our sartorial repertoires because of their negative age-related connotations?  Do we avoid clothing because it looks "too young" or "too old"?  Are there garments which, in your opinion, should be subject to such age-related restrictions?

For me, this discussion rings of a line from a Bing commercial: "Moms who wear jeans to match their teens' jeans." What's at stake with this critique?

  • Do you avoid certain garments because of (negative) age-related connotations?  What are they, and what message do you think they convey?
  • I'd also like to ask the inverse: do you choose to wear other garments because of their (positive) age-related connotations?  What are they, and what message do you think they convey?  For example, I've written about my appreciation of blazers.  Frankly, I think they make me look older.
  • Why do or don't you make style choices according to age perceptions?
  • Most specifically, are you wearing jeggings this season?  Why (and how) or why not?


What Would a Nerd Wear said...

age schmage. i think if you want to wear it and it flatters, go for it. incidentally, i had a dream last night that i owned jeggings, and woke up sad that it wasn't reality. so you rock those jeggings!

Diana said...

As a rule, I don't ever consider whether a particular style or trend might be too young for me. That said, there are certain styles that are definitely targeted toward a younger set, in that they are designed for a teenager's body. At 30, there are definitely things that I can't wear anymore, not because they are too young for me, but because they, for example, are too low cut for my muffin top. I'm also much more picky about things like fabric composition now, and generally clothing designed for juniors tends to use less high-quality fabric. So, I find it difficult to find jeggings that FIT and are comfortable, but I will happily wear the ones that do.

On the flip side, I do tend to avoid certain styles that I feel look "old." I know I may be in the minority here, but classic pearls feel very old to me, and so I don't wear them. I'm not sure I will EVER like the look of pearls on me, though, so perhaps it's wrong to say I don't wear them now because they look old. Maybe it's more fair to say that they feel too conservative or something.

Anonymous said...

I would never wear styles that I see as too young in a professional context, but am happy to wear them elsewhere. My skinny jeans, for example, never see the light of the office, casual Fridays or not. But they do show up in the evening and on weekends. They're cute, but not helpful in my attempt to appear knowledgeable in front of clients.
- Mackenzie

Scholar Style Guide said...

To complicate the issue, "jegging" doesn't seem like a very universal term. The jeans I'm wearing in the post below are my sister's skinnies, but since they're two sizes smaller than mine, I couldn't help but feel like I was wearing the equivalent of jeggings that day. Yours don't appear to have pockets, so they're more legging like, but I've even seen some "jeggings" that weren't actually denim, but were printed in such a way as to *look* like they had stitching, pockets, etc.

Whatever the verdict on jeggings, I do like what appears to be the ankle zip detail on these, and I really love how this sweater appears slouchy and chic.

My main hesitation with age-appropriateness is short skirts. I am very comfortable with my legs, and kind of feel like I'm wasting them if I keep them covered up all summer, but I do feel a little uncomfortable in the short skirts I used to live in when I was younger. It's like 25 was some kind of imaginary dividing line for me regarding hem length.


Plummy said...

I am 22 and I have always looked much younger than I am (recently I was mistaken for a high school student by two different strangers), but I have a job as an instructor in a middle school so I am extremely conscientious of what I am wearing. I am the youngest faculty member at the school (literally, the younger folk compared ages and I was at the end!) and I work with some of the oldest students (6th, 7th and 8th graders). I love cutesy things, ruffles and lace, but I really have to be careful with how I present myself so I will be taken seriously by the students, the parents and the other faculty members. At the same time, I know that I am likely to go to the other extreme and dress like a soccer mom (it has happened before!) so it is hard for me to find that balance--hence, one of the reasons why I (try to) do daily outfit pics and why I keep a blog.

Marie Pilgrim said...

I think venue is always important when choosing clothes. I really don't think jeggings cut it at work. Unless the workplace is a trend-conscious retail establishment. A school psychologist I work with has sported jeggings in boots during the work week and, well, I just wish she wouldn't. Yes, that's judgmental and she's the cutest thing and a good frined of mine but I can't endorse jeggings at work. In my opinion it reads "too young" and "cavalier". Both of which are perfect for casual weekend activities but not for work.

Scholar Style Guide said...

You guys make a great point: context is key. While I wouldn't wear jeggings -- whatever that broad term means, as you point out, Liz -- to the office, I will continue wearing them on weekends. If I expect dressing standards to relax during off-work hours, perhaps I should also relax my (hyper)sensitivity to mild ageism. :)

Diana, you mentioned avoiding pearls because they feel too conservative, and, Liz, you mentioned avoiding short skirts for the opposite reason. Thanks for sharing these examples! Your reasons helped me identify my own: I avoid khakis like the plague because they make me feel too mature, too "soccer mom," as you say, Plummy. I also typically avoid short shorts for the same reason you avoid short skirts, Liz. Interesting how we associate certain garments with specific life stages, eh?

You're right, Plummy: blogging has helped me assess my own dressing practices somewhat objectively, too. It's a helpful tool, for sure.

As always, thanks for your comments!


Rachel said...

Since I just started a new job in sales I have spent a lot of time thinking about how "trendy" vs. conservative business casual I should dress. Just like someone mentioned before, I look young for my age and if I wasn't always wearing my wedding and engagement rings I'm sure more people would mistake me for a high schooler. I want to dress in a manner that helps potential clients feel confident about my skills, but I also want to be myself which means dressing more casually. Going into this job I didn't anticipate how much time I would spend thinking about my wardrobe!