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In which my 'young gear' comes of age

MY friend and I recently decided that we'd sally away to Berlin for a weekend of divilment. After the perfunctory details were discussed – dates, flights and accommodation – we were soon reparteeing on just how wild a weekend this would be.

It was a game of oneupmanship, with each of us trying to prove to the other (and crucially ourselves) that we were still up for it. Or down with it. Or whatever it is that young people say these days.

"Well, I probably won't even bother sleeping," I lied.

My friend concurred, before adding: "They'll be none of that. We'll just spend the whole weekend in one of the clubs."

"Cool," I said, my stomach muscles already tightening with nerves. "Like, there'll be no art galleries or any of that shite."

"Not at all," my friend agreed, "and I'm going to dig out all my young gear for it."

"Yeah, and . . . sorry . . . WHAT?"

Allow me to repeat: 'Young gear'. Young. Gear. My friend told me that she was bringing her young gear to Berlin. My friend admitted that she now divides her wardrobe between age-appropriate gear and young gear.

And the worst part is that I know exactly what she means. I just hadn't put a label on the milestone. Well, I suppose I have: American Apparel, Miss Selfridge and Bershka, to name but a few.


Is age-appropriate attire a symptom of maturity or media manipulation? Do we naturally seek out more restrained clothing as we approach middle-age, or is it because we're bombarded by magazine features telling us how to LOOK GOOD AT ANY AGE!?

Either way, I clearly remember the moment when I realised that the frivolities of youthful dressing were a thing of the past. It was in the American Apparel changing rooms where I was trying on a pair of their famous disco pants.

When I swivelled around to see how they looked from behind I discovered that there was no distinction between bottom and thigh. No, it was just one endless morass; the skintight fabric almost symbolic of the youth I was trying to cling on to. I looked like an ABBA member underwater.

I decided there and then that I would invest in a practical pair of Capri pants. And loafers. And a cashmere sweater that I would drape casually around my shoulders when there was a chill in the air.

Only that's 'old gear'. I'm not there yet. I don't want to look like I'm picking my sons up from rugby practice. I wouldn't be so gauche as to suggest that a woman can look like mutton dressed as lamb because I have the sense to know that it's more an issue of attitude than it is attire. Granted, the waist can widen in later years and that relegates certain pieces to the back of the wardrobe, but the body doesn't change all that drastically in the 30s.

The significant change is in attitude. A woman becomes more determined and decisive in her approach as she gets older and this dictates the type of clothes she can wear.

Ironic, edgy clothes don't cut the mustard when you're marching down Grafton Street barking orders into a mobile phone. It's incongruous at best.

Only after a certain age you don't really care for making statements, or buying a t-shirt that reads 'I Predict a Riot' when you'd much rather be at home drinking gallons of tea and eating buttery crumpets.


Our very mien changes as we age. We learn to roll our shoulders back and hold our heads high. There's no more contrived slouching or affected carelessness, hence clothes just hang differently.

You no longer look cute in, say, an oversized hoodie. You simply look like you're wearing a hoodie that is much too big for you. In fact, you no longer look cute in anything. Magazines tell women of my age to start "investing" in capsule, tailored pieces. I prefer to focus on the outfits that you can only wear well in your 30s.

Crisp white shirts and silk palazzo trousers. Towering hats and turbans. F**k-off trouser suits – for some reason a woman always looks like she's on work experience when she wears a trouser suit before the age of 25.

I prefer to think of all the clothes I can finally afford. After 30 years on this planet you deserve more than polyester and viscose. You deserve beautiful fabrics. Silk and lace. Cashmere and jersey. Antique jewellery.

I like to think I've earned it. How this philosophy will translate to the dancefloors of Berlin is another story. Perhaps my friend has a point. It's time to dig out some of my 'young gear'.

But do denim hotpants work with loafers?