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Image by Atikh Bana on Unsplash.

Google “How to address for. age X” and plug any number in for X. You’ll find tons of advice.

Once you look at options for age 50 and up, they get really crazy.

Apparently, everyone should have a white blazer, a little black dress, a nice handbag, low heels, flats, bright colors, and dresses that come below the knee. Cottons, linens, and cashmere are recommended. Jewelry should be tasteful, perhaps “dainty.”

Some sites say you should wear high collars. Others say you should show cleavage.

Some say you should stay with solids. Others say we should wear bold prints.

Yes, these recommendations are tailored (pardon the expression) to women. You don’t even have to type “for women” into the search engines.

There’s just one problem.

Where are these people going? How often do they wear a white linen jacket (never mind white linen pants)? Where do. they wear the little black dress?

Going to the theater, classical concert, or church? These days they’re so happy to get paying customers, they don’t care what you wear.

Do these well-dressed women walk more than a block? Real women wear sneakers.

Who hassles with linen and cashmere? You’re talking serious dry cleaning here.

Do we assume all women take on the same shape? Am I working my butt off (literally) in barre classes for nothing?

I know a slim, muscular woman in her late 50s. Her body says 20s. She wears short shorts and tight-fitting tops.

I know large, non-muscular women in their 20s. They’re proud of their bodies. Some of them also wear short shorts and tight-fitting tops.

Here’s what I’ve discovered.

(1) Once people define you by your age, it doesn’t matter how you dress, speak, or move.

They’ll pull out every stereotype in the book. They won’t look at your fitness level or energy. Once they associate you with a certain age, they won’t even notice what you’re wearing. So why bother?

(2) If you go to a theater or classical music concert, the organizers are thrilled to get paying customers, especially subscribers.

They don’t care what you wear. They’ll send you requests for donations anyway.

I am a volunteer usher at a few local theaters. People of all ages wear what they want. Some dress like they’re going to a gala afterward. Some dress like they’re going to wash their dog.

(3) The best accessory is a coat of confidence.

Once I asked a true fashion expert – someone who’d taught in respected design schools – for advice on what to wear to a networking event. She refused. She said, “Wear what makes you comfortable. Walk in like you own the place. Nobody cares.”

After that, I started wearing my best sneakers to networking events.

Some people really like fashion. They enjoy talking about fabrics and hemlines. They actually know if there’s “this year’s color” and what it is.

For the rest of us, who’s got time for this? As I say in my book, if somebody criticizes you, practice saying, “Do I look like I give a —-?”

It’s the only reasonable response.