Friday, 27 January 2012

Mum on the Run - the Sandwich Generation

Like many other women, I am part of the “Sandwich Generation” in that in terms of age, I am sandwiched equally between my mother and my daughter.  I am exactly twenty eight years younger than my mother and exactly twenty eight years older than my daughter.  Some sandwich!
The whole Sandwich Generation phenomenon is fascinating.  Gone are the days when, at forty, women were happy to accept that they no longer played a role in the world of fashion and were happy to retreat in to the background, to become invisible, wearing a box pleated skirt, twin set, pearls and “sensible” shoes.

That doesn’t mean that those women weren’t well groomed or that they no longer took pride in their appearance.  On the contrary. I doubt that you would have seen them with a scruffy hemline or a bobbly knit. 
The message was clear – “I am slipping into middle age, gracefully with dignity and no, I am no longer interested in anything remotely outrageous or saucy!” However at least back then it was simple, uncomplicated and everyone knew where they stood.
So what lies ahead for us, the current sandwich generation?  To be honest, it’s a fashion minefield.  I remember hearing Toyah Wilcox say that people wolf whistled at her from the back and screamed from the front.  There she was, from the back, petite with long blonde hair, probably passing as someone between the ages of 16 and 25 -   and there she was from the front – someone whose face, shall we say, just didn’t quite match the rear view. 

With celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Elle MacPherson paving the way and keeping us fashionable well into our forties and beyond, the lines of what we should be wearing are blurred, in some cases to the point that they are almost non-existent.  And that can, on occasion, be troubling. 
I come across ladies on a daily basis who face the difficulty of knowing how to dress, given that, sartorially speaking, they are squidged between adolescence and old age.   I breathe a sigh of relief when they say that they are afraid of looking like mutton dressed as lamb, for if it has crossed their radar, it is unlikely ever to become an issue. 

Some decisions, and trends, are tough ones but, if in doubt, steer clear. The trend for revealing one’s midriff is fine on those bodies which have not been ravaged by time and multiple pregnancies.  However even those celebrities who, despite these “afflictions”, can pull it off through sheer hard work, food deprivation and lots of crunches still look wrong - somehow desperate, too try hard, too contrived.  Furthermore, it only takes one wrong move, for that flesh to crease in a way which shows its true age, and bang – that celebrity has gone from lamb to mutton in one fell swoop.

So, what’s a girl, I mean woman, to do if she doesn’t want to embarrass her daughter in the playground, nor look like her mother, however well groomed she may be?

My advice can be summed up with the anacronym - L.A.M.B

Learn about the trends - knowledge is power so, at the start of each season, research the February and September issues of the magazines and swot up on the trends. Then edit ruthlessly!  Pull images out of magazines and create a file of looks that you like for future reference. You may be left with only a handful which work each season and the rest – forget them.  Generally anything with heavy overtones of another culture – Navajo, Thai Dye, African – are not going to work on anyone beyond their early 20’s.  Anything overly short, body con or perhaps which you embraced full on in a different era of your life should not be re-visited;

Accessorise – use your accessories to given a “nod” to the trends that you like, rather than embracing them from head to toe.  This gives the message “I am up on my trends but I am not a slave to fashion.”

Make a good hard-working capsule Wardrobe your priority. It need not be expensive but it does need to contain those items that suit your shape and your lifestyle - from a blazer to a day dress, trousers to knitwear and winter boots to a party shoe.  This is the backbone of your wardrobe if you like, the on trend accessories being the flesh and bones.  
Beware of the frump factor.  Be aware of the heel shape and the length of hems. Nothing dates a look more than these being out of date.  If in doubt stick to what never dates – wedges and stack heels for summer shoes, dress and skirt length just below the knee, trouser shape will largely remain the same as to what suits your body shape but a wide leg trouser will always be stylish. Be aware of how different prints look on you and always steer clear of polyester and elasticated waists!

Most of all remember, fashion has been described as fleeting pleasure, whereas style is like an enduring affair with someone who loves you back.

So, if as a sandwich you would rather belong to the parma ham and mozzarella genre, as opposed to the luncheon meat or chocolate spread genre follow L.A.M.B and you will be frolicking through that fashion minefield, no problem!