Grown-ups are Sexy

Last weekend I left the house wearing leggings. As pants! I know, I know, you may judge me harshly. But I did a survey beforehand and my Facebook friends seemed to agree that, because my long top covered the crotch/ass area, I wasn’t guilty of a fashion violation. Most even said it was a good look. So out I went to the coffee shop and to run errands.

I liked my outfit plus it was super comfortable. But something felt just… off.

After some reflection, I think what bothered me was that I was perhaps dressing a bit young. Not that 36 is old (though I was technically breaking the rule that if you’re old enough to have worn a style the first time around, you should avoid it when it makes a comeback), it’s just that I’ve always been attracted to a version of femininity that was very much sophisticated and grown-up.

Japanese kawaii girls, extremes of cuteness

Japanese kawaii girls, extremes of cuteness

The most appalling trend, to my mind, is the Japanese craze for all things kawaii, or cute. I cannot admire women in their 30s in pigtails, barrettes, and purple glitter. The time for being a Disney princess is never, but if it has to be sometime then it should definitely be prior to the onset of puberty. So, even though I was far from wearing something with pink cartoon pandas, the clothes I had on could have been worn by a 20-something university student and it felt a little wrong.

Before you accuse me of being a fashion tyrant, let me say that I think it’s ok to wear comfortable clothes in public… sometimes. We all get busy and we all have bad days. And when I’m just hanging out with friends, or putt-putting around my neighbourhood, I don’t feel the need to be as put together as I do for work or for a night out on the town. I’ll probably wear the leggings outfit again, but for the most part, I will pair that top with pants or a skirt from now on. Why? Because I like to feel that I am what the French call soigné.

Soigné literally means “taken care of”, that you care for your appearance. Soigné is the reason you can always tell the North American tourists from the Europeans when you go on vacation. The French, the Italians, and the Spaniards are always decked out in leather shoes with carefully chosen accessories. And they wear PANTS. We (well, not me specifically), on the other hand, wear shapeless cargo shorts, fanny packs or mini backpacks, and footwear that involves velcro. In short, we dress like 5 year-olds.

Anjelica Huston looking über sophisticated in her early 30s (Prizzi's Honor, 1985)

Anjelica Huston looking über sophisticated in her early 30s (Prizzi’s Honor, 1985)

Let’s bring adulthood back! Sure, 20 year-olds have the bloom of youth on their side, and good for them because that’s pretty much the only thing they have. Hopefully, anyone over 30 has the means to purchase a few key items of quality clothing that last and the self-knowledge to wear what is most flattering to their figure. Also, we have the confidence that comes from experience — we’ve had grand affairs, we’ve been admired, and we know what we’ve got to offer.

In my world, sexy men have broad shoulders and chest hair. And sexy women wear pumps (not sky-high hookers shoes, except in private), never leave the house without at least a swipe of mascara or some lipstick, and care about their undergarments as much as they do about the clothes people can see.

Okay, so I’m living in some kind fantasy land where everyone is Catherine Deneuve. Nevertheless, it’s proven that it does not take longer and requires no extra effort to put on a pair of well-fitting cigarette pants than it does yoga pants. (Ask yourself — Am I doing yoga? If not, remove yoga wear.) And I promise that thinking about these things at least some of the time will make you feel better, more adult, sexier.


Yoga wear is not appropriate in every situation

Here are a few more guidelines for achieving grown-up sexiness —

  • Wear what you’re going to wear: It’s a popular misconception in some Canadian cities that walking or cycling to your destination requires special equipment, such as moisture wicking tops or padded-butt spandex. I assure you that it is not so! Please, wear your normal clothes. Unless you’re doing this competitively on the hottest day of summer, you will not arrive a sweaty mess. IT’S JUST WALKING. Do wear athletic shoes if you’re treading far and bring fancier shoes for later. But remember, flats can be both comfortable and stylish: win win.
  • Clothing that doesn’t fit or flatter can be altered or donated.
  • Makeup is your friends… unless is has glitter in it, then it is your enemy.
  • Think about your accessories; a silver bangle or a fine leather handbag can make a difference.
  • Underwear is important. Even if no one sees it, you know it’s there and you’ll be more confident in your sexy Brazilian-cut knickers than in a faded stretched-out pair.
  • Perfume: a little goes a long way. It should be of quality, not come from the natural food store with a label that says “sandalwood”, and not be Thierry Mugler’s Angel.

One last point I wish to address and that may be controversial is that, if you’re a woman, you should never trust another woman’s comments about your clothes. I learned this the hard way. There was a red dress I loved and each time I wore it I got compliments from women. Strangers on the street, coworkers, shop girls, everyone loved this dress. But a close male friend told me it was unflattering. I chose to ignore him, the one lone male voice in a sea of women. Then, months later, as a scientific experiment, I put the dress on for my Mr. Amour. He hated it! Even though he loves me in red, he thought the dress was dour, not sophisticated, and did not flatter my figure.

I’m not saying women are actively trying to sabotage you, I’m saying a straight male looks at your body in a very specific way. For the most part, men don’t really care about trends or fashion, they’re just looking at your shape. For this reason, they are best positioned to evaluate whether something enhances or detracts from your looks. An item of clothing that you think is clever, retro, or cute, they might dismiss completely.

And now I desperately want to follow my own advice and go shopping for summer dresses! Any thoughts about leggings, grownup vs. girly styles, and asking women for clothing advice?


  1. I am a little torn on the rule about being old enough to have worn that style/trend the first time means you can’t wear it in its recylced form. If that were the case at one point you start dressing like a grandma way before you reach that age-demographic! Fashion is recycled in faster iterations … yes I wore tights and long tops and belts with Madonna in the 80s … I’m doing a more sophisticated version this time around !

    • Good point about fashion cycles being shorter these days. Maybe it’s more about picking and choosing what works for us and, like you said, doing it in a more mature way. But let me never do grunge again- I wore that old army coat to death and now I am done!

  2. I have seen many older women wearing tights with a longer fitting sweater or shirt and they looked great! I think it really depends what looks good on the person, no matter what age. Even I wear that style, as I have never done it before. I agree though that certain things such as mini skirts and short-shorts should not be worn by, well—anyone! Fashion for me has to do with personal taste, but at the same time, it should really be something that looks good on your figure (and not causing embarrassments). Maybe some people don’t feel like looking at someone else’s butt cheeks—no matter what kind of behind it is, thank you very much!

  3. By the way, I wear pig tails, but only when I work out. 🙂

  4. Oh, and as for women complimenting versus male perspectives, I think women’s opinions are still quite helpful, but it feels more true when a guy says something about what you wear. This past weekend for my 5th anniversary, I debated wearing a yellow dress because of the weather, but I ended up putting it on anyway. Of course, I got many compliments from my female friends, but when my brother-in-law told me how he really liked the dress, I realized it was a good choice after all—since he never really comments on clothing!

  5. I just remembered I have my own men vs women compliments issue this past winter. I have a supercute hat with a pretty orange flower – women tellme it’s great and i look nice… men tell me it isnt flattering… one guy actually took it off my head and said – that’s better! (i know why i blocked that out – i’m not sure how i feel about someone taking a hat off my head to say – there that’s better!! but he was being honest …)

    • Ha! Yeah, women think things like orange flowers are cute. The other thing that amazes me is when I put on something I think is just ordinary, like a pair of shorts. But the boy loves it, he can see my legs. Men are easy to please.

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