The Dress Code Bullies & the Mini Skirt Use By Date

Gary Castles Suede Boots - Verdict: Age Appropriate| Lili Gaufrette Tartan Skating Skirt - Verdict: Age Inappropriate

About three weeks ago I found myself reading a column in Jezebel that made me extremely cross. Instead of putting the article away and staying in a good mood, I decided to finish the article and then tweeted it for examination and evisceration.

Just in case you wondered whether you had passed your mini skirt Use By Date, wonder no longer.

Below is a handy guide to make sure that you are always dressed conservatively and appropriately for your age.

I cannot help but wonder that anyone pronouncing that  Helen Mirren is too old for a bikini is simply cultivating a fine crop of sour grapes.

The famous Helen Mirren bikini shot

Having a quick look down the Wear By list, I can see that I commit a number of fashion faux pas on a weekly basis.

Let us have a wee look at the outfit that I wore on Thursday last for Red & Black Week.

The mini skirt is out as I am well over 35 years old.

I am just about okay with the knee length boots. Woohoo.

Shame that I cannot wear my leather trousers or my leather shorts. There really should be a fetishists exemption for Age Appropriate Dress Codes. (Side Note: Perhaps there is a Fetishists Exemption as Elaine Davidson, the most pierced woman in the world got married last week – in a white wedding dress. No one dared say anything about her green face but there was a fair bit of snark about her boring husband.  Elaine, from Brazil, first broke the piercing record in May 2000, when a Guinness World Records official examined her and found 462 piercings on various parts of her body, including 192 on her face alone . “People often just want to look at me or touch me – some even want to kiss me” she says. How boring can her husband be if he is in love with Elaine, really? )

Image copyright Elaine Davidson 2011. All rights reserved. via

The problem with what-to-wear articles and so-called dress codes in general is that the end result is not better dressed, happier people but conservatively dressed, self-censoring people.  Outside the armed forces, dress codes other than those imposed to optimise a corporate brand image or to ensure compliance with safe work practices are imposed by people with their own issues trying to foist their appearance preferences on others.

This brings me neatly to the second article that upset me this weekend by Emma Soames in the Guardian. It was regurgitated reprinted in the Sunday Life pull out section of the Sun Herald newspaper yesterday (12 June 2011).

Ms Soames takes the view that the culture of baby bump celebrity has gone too far and rather than sticking their bumps in the public eye, famous pregnant women should show a bit of decorum and cover up.  She says:

Nothing sums up better the changing attitudes around women than the way they now handle themselves when pregnant. Now a bump is worn, nay flaunted, with pride. If my generation’s glass of body consciousness was near empty, this generation’s is brimming to overflow. Even when things get so extreme that the tummy button starts sticking out and balance becomes problematic, women take every opportunity to display their unborn cargo, quite often showing the duff in the buff – but still wearing stacked heels, naturally. Thanks to the tireless work of the paparazzi, we know that in private the famous resort, like the rest of us, to trousers with a kangaroo pouch and flats, but in public they adopt a bodycon look that even the most let-it-all-hang-out of vegan doulas might consider extreme.

Ms Soames had her baby 25 years ago and made sure to cover herself up watching with horror the “explosion of blue veins and cellulite
on her  “formerly slim body“.

This is feminine misogyny in its nastiest and more undiluted form. If we took Ms Soames argument to its logical conclusion we would have to return to  the days of bump free yore including the 16th Century to the 20th Century (inclusive). 

No doubt if you are someone who is experiencing fertility problems the over-sharing of fecund celebrities would cause you pain. To that extent it would be quite refreshing if the media did not hunt and record for posterity pregnant and post-partum women in the public eye. But to blame the celebrity women for playing to the paparazzi and keeping their earning opportunities open (the baby photos, the losing the baby weight exercise videos etc etc) is closing the door after the horse has shut the stable door and moved into the house with you.

At this stage I have a confession to make to you. I have been as guilty of body image bullying in the past as Ms Soames.

A couple of years ago fashion writer and fellow yogi (and a girl crush of mine) Nedahl Stelio wrote an excellent article for The Punch magazine entitled:

There had been a fair amount of brouhaha in the paper about Elle Macpherson wearing mini skirts to public events. Nedahl noted

Elle Macpherson wears a mini so fabulously it’d be a horrible shame for the general public if she stopped. There are other shots of Elle you’ll see in the gossip rags this week, honing in on her cellulite in this mini. But honestly, if you were getting your photo taken at 10 shots per second, I reckon your legs would look funny too. We can’t expect perfection all the time, but Elle, at 46, is fairly close. Someone like Janice Dickinson on the other hand, who’s 54 (isn’t it funny that all her plastic surgery made me think she was older) could perhaps put those legs away for once. But it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Blanket rules for everyone in society just don’t work anymore. They’re far too generalizing and antiquated if you ask me. Isn’t it all about how you feel and the image you want to project?

From now on I am going to lay what I shall call the CocoleeFashion Filter over each and every snarky article a female columnist writes about the appearance of other women.

I shall be applying the same filter to myself because I have also made similar nasty comments about other women in my time. When Nedahl posted the same article on her blog I made some really uncharitable and unkind comments about Elle MacPherson (killer bod but time to cover your knees and cut your hair, Elle) Kylie Minogue (dressing younger now than twenty years ago) Michelle Pfeiffer (a wee bit dessicated round the decolletage). The only person that I said anything at all complimentary about was Michelle Obama (Toned, confident, killer smile & sharp as a razor to boot. In other words, don’t just rely on your looks, make sure that you on the whole package).

I am completely ashamed of myself for writing these things because I know exactly why I made them – at the time I was deeply unhappy and I was being bullied about my appearance by someone else, not a man but a woman.

That is the thing about bullying, it perpetuates itself and gathers momentum if it is not nipped in the bud.

As Anecdotal Anna noted in her post entitled  the Fairy Tale of Sisterhood:

Political Parties do it, rock bands do it, business do it and sports teams too. To what am I referring? Bickering, conflict and generally being un-supportive of the collective to elevate the individual.

Are we really so devoid of self worth that the only way as women we can feel better is by belittling the appearance or clothing and lifestyle choices of other women?

Surely not. So the next time I look at someone and think about saying something negative about their appearance – I promise faithfully to apply the Coco Lee Fashion filter and try my utmost not to. I would urge you to join me. It might just save someone else from self-censoring and self-loathing.

Have you got any dress code pet peeves or any appearance control horror stories?


Black Jumper & Red Skating Kilt worn for Sophistique Noir Black & Red Week

Boots saved for the Shoeper Shoe Challenge #30 of 105.

23 thoughts on “The Dress Code Bullies & the Mini Skirt Use By Date

  1. It would be interesting to see how the Survey Takers framed the request for participants. Perhaps they hung around shopping centres during the day looking for really grumpy older women with bees buzzing merrily around them. That would produce a really objective result.

  2. age dress codes….what a load of BS. All the women in your pix look fantastic (except the green godless). I say, forget the calendar. Dress to suit your body and how you feel or want to feel.

    I will never accept any criticism of Elle’s looks. She has been on my bucket list for a long time though I suspect I am not on hers

  3. Those numbers are hilarious, I shall now be determined to wear ponytails and trainers long past my”best before” date.

    But a short poignant story for you. My second legal job early in my career was solicitor at the State DPP prosecuting crime. This required me to go to court almost daily, something I had also done many times before, but as a commercial lawyer. I was in my mid 20s and I liked to dress well. My budget was meagre but I tried hard to look professional and still “me”. I was used to dressing for court appearances.

    I hasten to say that what follows was an isolated incident and never repeated.

    A few days after I joined the DPP, the female lawyer in charge of the office pulled me aside. I was wearing tailored navy pants and a red long sleeved silk blouse. She literally took me under her (over bearing) wing and said “Yvette, we can’t have you wearing pants in court – all our judges out here are men and they expect female lawyers to dress respectfully in skirts.” It sounded just like the advice I had received from another middle aged female lawyer a few days before: “Yvette, don’t wear red to court because some of the criminals in the dock have not seen women for many days and the colour red could set them off.” – hence my wearing of the red silk shirt with the navy pants.

    I ignored both pieces of advice because they were not really advice at all. Make of this story what you will, but I note that both of these gems of unsolicited advice were from women.

  4. Just the other day I was wondering, “is the youth this shallow?” it was a reaction to an article on entertainment daily which said that this wife of MS Dhoni (captain of Indian national cricket team) has lost her fan following because of her fashion loss and weight gain.

    Now I know, its not just the youth, audience of all age are just equally hopelessly shallow, why else would they write such articles for 40+ women. You’d think one matures with age. Blah

    Do they write such things about the men though? Or Is this whole need to conform to fashion is only for women? Its just women, isn’t it?

    • Hi Sanjukta and welcome to Law and Shoes.

      On the whole I think that men are far too sensible to fall for body image bullying. A few have succumbed to the body hair free aesthetic, usually due to a female partner nagging them to have their chest hair lasered. I have no issue with body hair on men or women but that is probably because I am unashamedly hairy and will not be bullied into removing more of it than I already do. Funnily enough I find that men are less accepting of body hair on women, whereas women are less accepting of dress standards that fall outside their comfort zone areas.
      Apparently most women over 40 buy swimwear to wear primarily for exercise purposes which makes the no swimsuits over 61 rule quite insanely ludicrous. Are 60+ women supposed to compromise their fitness to save others the unseemly sight of their flesh in a bathing suit. Bah to that.

  5. Oh my God, I was even talking about your post to a friend of mine! So terrible all these “rules”! When I was reading about the “bikini age” I thought of Elle Macpherson, and you wrote about her later on. I think the problem is not the age, but how envious other women are that Elle now 48 (or 47) has such a body! OK, even if not, why should a person avoid wearing what she feels like, just because of a number in her passport? Oh, please!
    Here’s what I was sharing on msn some minutes ago:
    “One of my favorite bloggers posted that a woman wrote and article saying that a woman must stop wearing high heels at 51, boots at 47, minis at 35
    – and so on
    – ha-ha-ha
    – She wishes
    – u are kidding, heels are for eternity! Everybody can dress whatever they like, and I will too with 60 or 70
    more important than wearing a mini, is if we have brains and a kind heart
    all the rest, not that important and people normally are envious and making comments because their dissatisfaction with their own lives…”

    I have stories about being bullied because of what I wear/wore (can you imagine it? So conservative!), so, the time of pleasing everybody is over – you look amazing, go on wearing mini skirts of course – your boots are fantastic and the mini is gorgeous!
    Thanks for this nice article!

  6. I wonder why men are less susceptible to stuff like this. A little off point, I noticed the other day that there is a hair product called “A touch of gray” for men. As the name suggests, it allows men to keep some of their gray. It seems so unfair. I can’t imagine a similar product ever existing for women.

  7. Pingback: When I grow up | the news with nipples

  8. My sis (who is a microbiologist and spends a lot of time doing researches) has a favorite quote by Mark Twain “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”.
    And what do they mean by saying there’s an age to stop wearing bikini? Is this another way to make women conscious of their bodies? As if we don’t have enough reasons to.
    These articles are just a pure laugh.. Helen Mirren look GORGEOUS in a bikini. My mom is 56 and she looks great in a bikini too!
    And this Emma Soames.. well, she can stay home for the whole 9 months if she wants too.

    Anyway, I think you look just great in this skirt and boots!


  9. Bikini, Tankini or Onesie, wear whatever you like but keep swimming ladies! Obviously age has nothing to do with it, as Helen & Elle can wear whatever suits them, and others (such as myself) might resist scaring the horses. Debbie Harry can wear a mini, but perhaps my mum (at same age) might not. One of my Great Aunts has worn a ponytail since the 1970s, she is now over 90. Oh, and my Nana did Yoga till she was 87, in…a leotard!

  10. The way I see it is that style is more important than fashion. I support and promote a person’s need to find an individual sense of who they are. Fashion is often lost on me as I choose a flavour of fashion that suits me.

    What we said in the past matters not because it’s who we are now that matters. You have always been a beacon and encouraged me to be who I am. Never once have you made me feel bad about the journey I am taking to find the beautiful me.

    Everyone should just be nice to themselves and others.

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