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  • Writer's pictureJessica Taylor Yates

I’m in my 30s. How do I…dress, again?

Not quite ready for sensible slacks but past keyhole minidresses? Welcome to dressing in your 30s.

It’s time to get out your mini purses and your slogan tees, so get in loser, we’re going shopping.

No, you’re not looking through your high school photo album. Everything we wore as teens is back, but for some reason, something just feels…different...this time around. Blame it on the Covid comfy pants, going up in age, and no more rifling through magazines telling us what to wear. Because for the first time in my life…I feel too old for the latest trends.

I don’t know exactly when the latest shift came. I know sometime in 2021 the kids on Tok to the Tik proclaimed skinny jeans dead, and to be honest, they are – in a flash, they disappeared. In their place are anything else – baggy, wide-leg, mom jean, cropped jean.

Okay, fine. I could get on board. I wasn't really into snug-ness with the new Covid kilos, anyway.

But it’s not just jeans. It’s everything, from fashion to accessories, hair trends, and manicures. Don't even get me started on not knowing who any of the young 'celebrities' are. It's a noticeable vibe of feeling…out of touch.

Suddenly, the stores I would normally have shopped at pre-pandemic seem foreign to me. They’re either flogging trends I wince at, knowing they weren’t flattering the first time round in 2003 (hello, handkerchief tops and low-rise flares), or they’re for a body that hasn’t gone through childbirth, Covid-comfort eating, and general wear and tear (I say as I adjust my ankle brace and back pillow). I look at these clothes and don’t get excited to try them on. I cock my head and just…don’t get it. I feel I need to ask young store staff if things look ‘cool’ while dying on the inside knowing that if I need to ask, I shouldn’t be wearing it. And it pulls at the heartstrings - weren’t my friends and I the ones working in these stores just a blink of an eye ago?

But honestly, it’s not just the clothes. It’s a general feeling of uncertainty. Of getting older. Of no longer being the youngest generation, which yes, happened some time ago, but has really hit home as Gen Z become the dominant voice and market on style. We’re just not sure where we…fit, anymore.

In terms of fashion, suddenly, Gen Y-ers are caught in a new territory – not quite ready to hang up the jeans in favour of sensible slacks and orthopedic shoes from the chemist, but not really willing to wear a midriff-baring dress with strappy heels to brunch, either. So, aside from ‘jeans and a nice top’ what do we…wear?

Ugh, no, not you....but not you, either... Image: @depoppin, Pinterest

It’s a feeling that has been expressed by many in their 30s. Leila, 33, who had a baby at the start of the pandemic, expressed that she no longer knows what to look for. “I’ve lost my sense of personal style,” she laments. “I don’t know what I wear, what’s cool but not ‘try-hard’, or what fashion even is anymore.”

After months on end in sweats at my computer, I get it. At one point, my partner pointed out that I’d I worn the same tracksuit for a week. I cried, knowing he was right – but also not knowing what else to put on. Everything I had was too tight or uncomfortable, but nothing I looked at in the shops seemed to nail the brief - whatever that is. I feel stupid and out of place trying to dress like a teenager, but I don’t want to dress like my mum (with all respect to mums!) either.

Sasha, 31, agrees. “After Covid, none of my clothes fit. I look at everything and have no idea what I’m supposed to be wearing. Over the summer, I’ve just been wearing mumu-type dresses, and I don’t know what to buy, or what I’m looking for. Is it work-from-home gear? Am I going back to the office? I have a new shape and I don’t feel I fit in any of the categories of trends like I used to.”

This is a sentiment felt by many. With months on end in lockdown, and many not going out as much as they used to during the Omicron wave, we don’t know what to buy, or even where we are going and what we are buying it for.

Yes, we could just wear jeans and plain tops and settle into the retro idea of a ‘mom-look,’ but just because we have gotten older, doesn’t mean we don’t still want to play with fashion. I just need a grown-up version of butterfly clips and mood rings, cos I’ve done it already.

For me, I’ve realised it may be time to up the game on certain stores and fashion icons. Just like Tamagotchis and furbis, all good things must come to an end. It may be time to upgrade from the shops we frequented in our 20s, to no longer walk in and feel like we are in the fashion version of Toys R’ Us.

So yes, it may be the end of an era, and feel a bit daunting knowing that the ones dominating fashion are old enough to theoretically be our own children. And while I don’t really want to re-visit the tiny sunglasses and handbags I see in stores I used to frequent, sometimes seeing the younger generation doing this with their middle parts and retro tees makes me smile and remember how much fun I had during those times – as long as they promise not to bring back mini-skirt and Uggs. Like low rise jeans, it's a hell no, huns.


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