Dressing Like Grown-Ups: Why 20-somethings Suddenly Want to Dress Like Their Mothers
February 16, 2018
Why do 20-somethings suddenly want to start dressing like our mothers? The answer is less the actual “look,” but the meaning it conveys.
In Beau Willimon’s The Parisian Woman, Uma Thurman plays Chloe, a DC society doyenne amidst the city’s powerplaying elite. She lives in a Capitol Hill townhouse with powder blue walls and tasteful, luxurious furniture in neutral shades of beige and grey. When I watched the play on Broadway, I wanted everything in Chloe’s sitting room, but most of all I wanted her wardrobe.
If Normcore was all the rage a few years ago, a new style term in the lexicon that’s all the rage is “Menocore,” termed by Harling Ross on the website Man Repeller. Think of a woman in her 50s, unconcious because she’s achieved everything she’s ever wanted to, dressed in a cashmere sweater, loose ankle pants, ballet flats or leather sandals. The Eileen Fisher look, Annella Perlman in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, Phoebe Philo-era CÉLINE (Phoebe, in general) or perhaps, a more ironed version of the Olsen Sisters aesthetic. The Menocore Woman doesn’t slather herself in logos: perhaps a Gucci loafer (and never the fur-lined ones) but she’ll pair them with ubiquitous linen pants, or a Saint Laurent tote worn with a non-descript wrap dress. She has nothing left to prove, so why dress like life is a competition? She’s already won the race. She no longer cares about what other people think of her life and her body, so why should she wear trousers that show off her assets?
In the current age of millennial anxiety, it’s easy to see the attraction. We’re constantly thinking of job prospects, moving up the ladder, salaries, proving yourself, achieving social media acceptance and looking like you’re doing the best out of your friend group. So it feels normal to want to dress like the person who has everything, and our view of that look seems to have changed with the current social and economic times. Maybe years ago, it was being decked out in the latest “It” accessories and a bandage dress, but with today’s contemporary reckoning, it seems better to dress not expensively, but with quality, swathed in loose fabrics that might initially be unattractive, but give a statement of “you can look, but you can’t touch.”
I have relatives who dress like that, and when I was a child, I thought it was the most boring look in the world (“very manang,” I used to think). But the aspirational worldview it entails is what makes it so appealing: you’re dressing relaxed because your life is so relaxing. Your life is relaxing because you worked hard for it and you’ve achieved all there is to achieve.
“I guess it puts you in the mindset that dressing up is not just that “it looks nice,” but it’s a reflection of a drive to achieve something,” says BluPrint Magazine’s Digital Content Editor Angel Yulo. “And all the women who already are there dress a certain way. When you’re older, your sense of attractiveness is no longer a physical thing, but its more a character thing you’ve established, and all the things you’ve done. That’s the attraction of [dressing like] the older woman.” In other words, it’s what you want out of life.
Thinking of it this way, I still have to get up early and answer emails and stare in dismay as my Viber messages reach the 300 count before lunch. But if I can dress like Jackie O. circa 1978, then maybe I wouldn’t mind it so much. Maybe I can feel like Jackie did, after a life where she married to and the widow the President of the United States, and then subsequently, to the richest man in the world. Now she was free to attend to her children and work for pleasure, editing projects she loved at Doubleday and pursuing cultural and architectural preservation. It’s a look that conveys a certain status of life.
How does Menocore translate to the Philippines? It should, easily. Our climate is suited to the summer version of the look: loose linens, slightly rumpled tops that cover the shoulders but show off the décolletage, shoes that let our feet breathe. Comfort is key, which is what attracted Angel to the look in the first place. “Nothing that shouldn’t be showing is showing,” she says. Most important is the can do attitude, the woman who has everything, because she did everything.
By Sara Siguion-Reyna