Why at 50 I Still Dress Like I'm Forever 21

Elle Silver


The blasting techno and mannequins dressed in the latest fashions in the store windows lure me in through the doors. As I enter the vaulted expanse that is fill-in-the-blank, mall-bound, junior-fashion emporium, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

Yes — even though I’m fifty.

As the beats vibrate through my body and the shiny lights spotlight rack upon rack of clothing in so many vibrant colors, I suddenly want to buy up everything on the floor. Sure, this store targets young women in their teens and twenties. I don’t care.

I’m fifty going on Forever 21.

Don’t ask me to shop at Ann Taylor or Chico’s so I can buy sensible clothing and comfortable shoes. No thanks. I don’t want to dress my age because I don’t feel my age.

My kids are still young. I won’t be a grandma for years now. Maybe never.

I don’t want to sit on the veranda to watch the world go by. I want to be part of that world. There’s still so much I want to do in life.

When the pandemic ends, I want to start traveling again. I want to hoist my backpack over my shoulders and continue on my quest to visit every continent on earth. I want to stay in hostels and experience the world just like I did when I was younger.

And at home, I want to continue to go out and paint the town red, exploring my city just as I always have.

Sure, I have aches and pains where I didn’t when I was twenty-five. I really don’t want to party all night. During this pandemic, I’ve been perfectly happy staying home and eating in.

But just because I’m not the nightlife connoisseur I was back when I was twenty or even thirty, this doesn’t mean I’m ready to retire my dancing shoes and trendy clothes and sit at home.

If I don’t feel like growing up, I’m not going to dress like I’m a grown-up.

Women shouldn’t ever feel like we have to wear “age-appropriate” clothing. We should be able to dress however we want, regardless of our age.

That’s why I’m fifty going on Forever 21.

I’m not denying my age.

When I say I refuse to dress my age, I’m not talking about refusing to embrace my aging body. This isn’t about slathering my face with anti-wrinkle cream every night in hopes of turning back the hands of time.

This certainly isn’t about shelling out thousands for Botox, laser treatments, fillers, or a facelift, in an attempt to look “year-zero.” I’m not trying to look twenty — or even thirty. I’m okay with being fifty.

That means I’m okay with my body as it is — and all the places it sags and bulges where it didn’t before I had kids.

I’m cool with my laugh lines. I got them from laughing.

But just because society deems me over the hill doesn’t mean I feel old.

If I don’t want to act my age, I don’t want to dress my age either.

I’m happy with the way I look at fifty, even with the imperfections.

Before the pandemic, I used to shop in stores that carry clothing for teens and twenty-year-olds. Just like all the younger people in the shop, I’d also grab garments off the racks until I was walking around with so many clothes on my arm, it hurt under the weight of all the fabric.

I’d take those clothes into the dressing room to try them on. Posing in front of the mirror, I knew I looked far more slender than I actually was. I looked thirty. But that was only thanks to the lighting and the “thinning” mirrors.

It didn’t matter. I didn’t care that once I got home, the clothes I’d purchased wouldn’t look nearly as flattering as they did in-store.

I don’t need to look “perfect” all the time anymore to be happy. I no longer tear myself up over the slightest imperfection like I used to. These days, I don’t stand in front of any mirror, hating myself over a few dimples of cellulite — or a few wrinkles or grays.

Instead, at fifty, I look in the mirror and feel good about myself in a way I never could when I was twenty-one.

In front of a dressing-room mirror or not, I’m happy now with how I look.

You’re only as old as you feel.

Mentally, I still have the same interests as I did when I was in my twenties. I still like the same music and I still love attending concerts. And I adore being turned on to new music and art.

If mentally, I “feel” the same as I did when I was younger, why should I have to change the way I dress to fit my age?

Just like I refuse to see myself as an “old lady,” I refuse to dress like one.

So once the pandemic ends, and concert halls, art galleries, and bars open again, you can bet you’ll find me out on the town.

And while I’m out, you can be assured that you’ll find me dressed as I always have, in the fashions of the moment.

The fashion of “youth” — because I still feel young.

You’re only as old as you feel. In my case, I may be fifty, but I still feel Forever 21.

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Journalist and relationships expert. I write about Los Angeles as well as about dating, divorce, and family.

Los Angeles, CA

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