When I was in high school, my favorite teacher had a print of the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph on the wall in her room. The poem expresses the desire of a woman to be herself and to do as she pleases, to behave badly. However, she believes that she can experience that freedom only with old age.
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
and learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
I read the poem many times throughout my high-school career and often thought about what I would wear when I am an old woman. I mostly imagined lots of gold lamé, over-sized glasses, and spiked hair, which was fairly radical at the time, considering that the only older adults I knew were typical Midwestern grandmothers whose wardrobes are composed largely of pastel sweatpants, floral-print cotton turtlenecks, and kitschy sweaters. Then last year, my sister Sarah introduced me to the blog Advanced Style: Proof from the Wise and Silver-haried Set That Personal Style Advances with Age, and my eyes were suddenly open to a whole new world of fabulousness. The older women (and men) that Ari Seth Cohen, the creator of Advanced Style, interviews are truly inspirational in their passion for life and fashion. It is not surprising to me that there are so many beautiful and fashionable older adults in this world; it is surprising to me that we don’t celebrate them more, that they don’t have more of a presence in the beauty & style industry. In a society that has long celebrated youth, it is refreshing to see someone who is celebrating the wisdom and creativity of our elder fashionistas.
In his last post, Ari sent an open invitation to his followers to do a blog exchange. I, of course, was giddy about the possibility and wrote him about exchanging links, and he accepted. So, thank you, Ari, for including MAB LIBS on the Advanced Style site! I continue to admire your work and to thank you for it. I plan to celebrate my later years just as these ladies do: with poise, confidence, and fearlessness.