Musings & Miscellany

Beat Midlife Invisibility

Happy day, reader dear!

Today I wanted to share a post I wrote for Carolyn at My Chic Obsession. When it went live on her blog, I shared the link, but it was time to post it here as well. Why?

Mostly, because April’s posts have been focused on style. And also because after participating in the Impeccable Women Summit last weekend, I was reminded how often women give up on style during midlife. And midlife is really the very BEST time for style!

And ironically, midlife is also the time when many women find themselves disappearing into the woodwork. Now, some women find flying under the radar like that freeing, but I would wager that you are not close to done sharing your gifts with the world. As a matter of fact, you may just be stepping into that work now that you are done caring for everyone else’s needs! In that case, invisibility is your enemy. Your gifts need to be seen to be shared!

I’ll be honest with you. This post is LONG. And a bit of a love story… Girl meets Style. Girl loves Style. Girl loses style. Girl rediscovers Style!

The Beginning

I’m Liz Klebba, and I have always loved style and fashion. (This is the part where you all say: Hi, Liz…) I’ve been dressing men and women for more than 50 years… If you include Barbie and Ken! I grew up in the Midwest, certainly not a fashion or style Mecca in the 60’s and 70’s, but Mama was a New York girl who worked on Wall Street before she married and they moved. When our family traveled “home” to visit relatives, we would take the subway into the city and walk 5th Avenue. Those windows. The magic! Planning what we could make when we returned home…

5th Avenue still makes my heart sing!

That’s right. Make. Mama, like so many women of her generation, was handy. She sewed. Bless her. Teaching me to sew may have been worse than teaching me to drive! Garments are built from the inside out and backwards. Clothing is a marvel of engineering! I learned that changing two seams on a dress changes the entire silhouette! Which means: When clothes don’t fit, there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with the clothes!

My interest in style grew with me. In high school, college and after graduation, I worked fashion retail. It was fun and gratifying to help women find outfits that made them look and feel fabulous! Promotion to management abruptly ended that love story. My job was no longer about helping people. It was about taking their money. What’s a girl to do when disillusioned? This one ran off and joined the Navy. Yes, I had a flair for the dramatic. Why the Navy? They had the cutest uniforms! That, and my father served in the Navy in the Korean War. Through it all, I was the girl with the cool clothes and the knack for style. Friends, family, and roommates would raid my closet, ask for style advice and for help with shopping or dressing for special events. Style was simply part of who I was.

The Middle

My friend, Style, followed me into married life and motherhood. She stayed with me, even when life meant an international move every three years and raising three children on one enlisted salary. I learned to create style on a budget. Think big city DNA and Midwestern practicality combined… With more than just a little rebel! Black wasn’t the color default then. I didn’t care. Black was my signature, usually from head to toe. Besides, black was practical. You could dress it up or down. (Mama’s imprimatur for a good choice!) Inexpensive clothing looked better in black. Each year and move brought new experiences of architecture, culture, and insights into Style. I took my companion for granted.

Yup. The crop top/bralette has been around the style block more than once!

In my 40’s, our peripatetic life came to an end. We returned to the States for the indefinite future and settled in Georgia. Life went on. On my way out of the store after a quick Target run one evening, a group of young teenaged girls burst out laughing. Like they do. Then I noticed them pointing and gawking. I looked around. Oh. Apparently, a mom wasn’t supposed to wear an oversized sweater, black shorts, tights, and shoes. No one would bat a lash at that outfit today, but to those (badly mannered) 2007 Augusta teens, I was bizarre. I began working outside the home again. It was time to buy “work clothes;” less “scary” was the order of the day. So my style evolved. Because Style was part of who I was.

The End

Until she wasn’t. The shift was gradual. Others still asked me for style advice. Yes, people told me I looked cute. But the fun was gone. Shopping became a burden and dressing just another chore. One Saturday, I opened my closet and burst out in tears of frustration. Who bought these clothes? My mid-life style crisis came to a head. Nothing felt like me. Pieces I’d recently purchased made me look washed out, old, and tired. Talk about the proverbial full closet and nothing to wear! Like a shadow, my style had faded away. A frump was looking back at me from the mirror.

Ugh. Picture day was excruciating; the one on the right made me cry.
I did not recognize that woman…

Later, I stood at the coffee shop, took a moment to ponder my order, made my decision, and stepped up for my turn. And waited. The barista took care of everyone else. And I waited. Those who arrived after me were served. I waited. The wait became an experiment… AND the moment I realized I had disappeared. You might accuse the others of rudeness, not notifying the barista that I was there first, but you know how it is! They were engrossed in their phones. In a culture that idolizes youth; invisibility is one of the side effects of aging. That was my final straw. I got in the car… I refuse to be invisible, &@%& it!

It was time for a change. I needed Style by my side to make it through. Fortunately, those years spent in Europe while raising our children, gifted me the privilege of seeing physical maturity embraced with positivity. In the US, we grasp at youth; in other places, personality and experience pique interest! Personality and experience expressed on the outside IS the very definition of Style. She was there, she was just hiding. I was no longer the woman I was in my 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s. (Are you?) Showing up as who you are now honors all the women you’ve been and the one you are still becoming. That’s right; if you are still here, you’re not done yet! It was time to uncover the new (and improved) me!

A New Beginning

It turns out that midlife is the BEST time for style! By midlife, we’ve finally grown into ourselves. Youth is about fashion. Style is about self-knowledge. By style, I don’t mean trend chasing and keeping up with the Joneses. I mean dressing your personality. ALL of it. Learning the style elements (Fabrics, textures, silhouettes, and more!) that speak to you and combining them in a way that uniquely yours. Being aware of the trends and giving them a nod here and there shows you are interested. Interested is interesting. That might mean choosing to wear a scarf that is the color of the moment. Trading out your white shirt for a white tee under that blazer. Learning a new makeup application technique; updating your hairstyle. Maybe you’ll take the dare and go grey! In the workplace and in the social arena a Dated Look equates to Dated Ideas. Honing your style and wardrobe is an investment in relevance AND in yourself. Style IS self-care.

More than 10 years older on the left, but FAR happier and more vibrant looking!

Color is the fountain of youth and the secret sauce to being seen and memorable! Be brave, not beige. Embrace color! Coco Chanel said: The best color is the whole world is the one that looks good on you. Our coloring changes with age. Find the colors that make you look healthy and happy now! The black that I looked great in when I was young? I’ve let most of it go. I have one or two pieces left. I save them for evening, when the light is softer and more kind to my complexion! Bonus: Color makes you glow and other people smile. Wear color and make the world a happier place!

Midlife is THE time to invest in yourself. Career or no career. For me, that meant taking the time to uncover my new style, take more chances, start replacing the colors that no longer suited me with ones that do. I’m happy to say that at 58, I am more comfortable in my style, my skin, and myself than I ever was when I was “fresh and young!”

I’m a woman of faith; every human is created in the image and likeness of God. I see the diversity of humankind reflecting the infinite beauty and goodness of our creator. We were created to shine; when you choose not to, you are dismissing a divine gift. The gift of your physical self. The body you’ve been given to learn in, love in, and give back to the world with… ALL of yourself: your shape, your size, the color of your skin, eyes, and hair. ALL gifts!

The transformation both outside AND in, was so powerful that I felt called to share it with other women! I deepened my style knowledge with professional training and hung up the Closet Play Image shingle in 2017. I love to help other women uncover their style, find their colors, and build wardrobes that make them look and feel fabulous! Why shouldn’t looking into your closet make your heart sing? You have to dress every day. Make it a pleasure!

I love how Brene Brown put it! Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around… It’s time to show up and be seen. (B Brown, The Midlife Unraveling 5.24.2018)

Shine on and be seen, ladies! Thank you, to all of you who made it this far for you patience! I’d love to hear from you!

How About You?

Is Style a friend of yours? Was she ever? Have you grown more distant over the years? How do you want your relationship with her to look? Have you ever had a midlife closet crisis? How did you get over it? If you want to chat, let’s do that!

Stay safe and sound, and sane and stylish, XO

8 Comments

  • NATALIE K

    Liz, Good Afternoon!! Style and I have been friends for a lifetime. Like you, I had a very fashionable mother and she has her STYLE!! It is not mine! I’ve had to fight for that…my style! Yes, I learned a great deal from my grandmother and mother about style and use that information still today. I lost myself ith style after gaining eight due to being diagnosed ith Celiac disease and going through menopause. I’ve really been orking on my style during this lockdon. I’ve found my style again!! It ll take me longer to get my ardrobe in shape! Tnank you for sharing your story!! It’s not just me and there is hope!! May the LORD bless you Liz for helping all of us ho have lost our ay!!

    • Liz K

      It’s easy to assimilate the style influences of those around us. And much harder to break out later and discover and claim our own. Glad you are having fun rediscovering your style, Natalie!

  • Angie

    Hi, Liz – Having seen you in person, I have to say that you were striking and elegant. The way you know your best colors brought out the most beautiful you in a way that draws attention. I particularly remember how amazing the silver earrings looked with your silvery hair. It is interesting to read about how you evolved throughout your life to the point where you are now as a stylist. For myself, style was something I experimented with throughout my life to express my true self. It evolved with experience…and through my artistic abilities. Thanks for sharing! – Angie, http://www.yourtrueselfblog.com

    • Liz K

      Thank you, Angie! You’re the second person to use the word *elegant* in the past week. I find that descriptor amusing, because elegant feels serene and graceful, and I am the opposite of both. Maybe a bouncy elegant? Elegant bounce? Style IS a lifelong experiment and journey. I just got so busy with other things that I forgot to play… And then forgot how to play! That’s why Play had to be part of my business.

  • irene

    Thank you for your article addressing something that most mature women feel and struggle with. Onwards and upwards!!!
    Irene

    • Liz K

      Thank YOU for your kind words! It’s not really something anyone wants to talk about, but we have to in order to fight against it.

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