There's more crossover than when I was a young woman. No one my mother's age wore miniskirts or floppy bellbottoms. Girls who embraced the preppy model were less individuated; they and their mothers favoured twin sets, hairbands, circle pins, those little handbags with buttoned covers. But for me, wearing things my mother didn't was kind of the point.
Now, the dividing line has blurred, with three generations in jeans, t-shirt dresses, maxi skirts. And preppy's coming back; J. Crew have clearly re-prepped after a several years of trying to be the low-rent Marni, with offerings like this shirt:
But apart from the obvious rejection of abbreviated apparel among older women, generational differences seem driven more by aesthetics—and perhaps habit—than body.
Ah, youth! Four differences
The young women throw it all together, rarely coordinating, but there is of course thought in that un-matchy ensemble.
I had lunch with two friends in their late 50s; one was entirely in hot pink and white, down to the bag and lipstick. While she looked "perfect", the youths passing by on the street looked different; not better, but different.
I'm not saying she should change her outfit, just that there is a divide.
From messy braids to beehives, many young women wore retro or folkloric styles—not to mention young men in beards and haircuts summoned from daguerrotypes.
Older women with mid-to-long hair chose high or low ponytails, or a bun, of which the best were not too 'done':
I saw a great deal of short hair on young women, which I hope refutes the belief that short styles spell 'dowdy'.
3. The embrace of "ugly"
I watched a twentyish young woman and her boyfriend shop in a thrift store; she honed in on a track-suit top in aqua poly with hot pink v-shaped inserts and a white waistband. I thought it was hideous, but she cooed with pleasure. Bulletproof synthetics, bumpy brocade, ratty lace: somewhere, a university student is amplifying her natural beauty in something you would burn.
I shot this young women in high-waist Levis— I can't tell if they are new or vintage. We might find them a throwback (and for me, a welcome one), but for a Millenial, they're fresh.
I got a mammogram; the x-ray technician was a walking frieze. My favourite local restauranteur, Nada, looks like the star of "Blind Spot", not a plane unmarked. A great deal of this work is artful and lushly ornamental.
I stopped dead in my tracks to stare at work like Fabrizio Divari's; if getting that done, the owner wants you to look:
I have seen the occasional tattoo on women 50, 60, and even older, but not the full sleeves or legs the 30ish crowd like. However, unlike the track suit top, a young women is going to have those tats for life, so I hope she chooses images she will enjoy for a half-century.
In time, she can re-colour, but she will not be able to restore the lines' crisp definition. In a few decades, there will be a generation whose limbs look permanently out of focus.
Shared space: joined at the toe
When I was young, the highest heels, from stilettos to Bowie platforms, belonged to us. Now, young women wear Adidas with chiffon dresses, brogues with summer skirts. Their attachment to the podiatric crime known as the flip-flop has waned. I see twenty-five-year-olds and their grans in Birkenstocks; the kids are wearing theirs with socks.
Though the young show more skin, this summer it was notably pale; a deep tan was an exception. (I try not to be a scold, but when I saw a young woman in a brimmed hat, carefully applying sunblock to her toddler, cigarette dangling from her lips, I wanted to ask why she was intent on making my generation's worst mistake.)
All too soon we'll swaddle in down parkas and mufflers the size of pup tents; my camera will be shoved away till my fingers don't freeze. But for now, the vintage stores show a rack of cutoff jean shorts (which women have worn for what, fifty years?), and the older crowd enjoy light skirts while they can.