Prada on dressing and older women

"Women always try to tame themselves as they get older, but the ones who look best are often a little wilder. Thinking about age all the time is the biggest prison women can make for themselves."
- Miuccia Prada 
Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute's "Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibit

Discuss amongst yourselves... and comment, if you please.

A little wilder

If you agree, you might consider these garments. One woman's daring is another's demure, but here are some uncommon options.
Marni embroidered cotton sweater; price, $925.

Pink Hawaiian print silk tee by Lulu & Co, Liberty of London (in-store only), £170.

Ethno-print dress by Elena Miro (Women's sizes); price £157 at Navabi.

Azalea sequin pencil skirt (26" long) by J. Crew; price, $695.

Camilla Welton poplin Aurora jacket, price, $879 at FutureNotion.

 Chloe camel leather flats; price, $1,095 at netaporter.

Jil Sander lapis hummingbird skirt; price, $1,170 at netaporter.

Melissa Masse abstract-print maxi-dress (available in Women's sizes); price, $295 from Saks Fifth Avenue.

What is your favourite "a little wilder" piece?


I managed to pick up a Marni H&M tropical print top in the frenzy, which is a little wild for me - needless to say, it's still on the hanger.

Shame that exhibition hadn't opened when I was in New York.
Joan said…
I long for one of these:
Darla said…
I've always enjoyed unusual clothes and have a hard time defining "wild" these days. None of the things shown seem wild to me but neither do I like them all. I'd be delighted with the maxi dress tho.

Nancy K said…
I love an animal print and have several dresses made from assorted animal prints. I also made myself a pair of cotton brocade pants in rose print. I thought for my figure that I was taking a bit of a leap. I love them and they are actually very flattering, so yes taking some risks can really pay off.
I have a black boucle with black sparkly ribbons in the weave that I made into a motorcycle jacket. I really find that these are the things that mixed with basics add another element to a wardrobe. I'd wear that Jil Sander skirt in a minute. Of course I can't afford it but I might be able to knock it off with the right fabric.
The Marni sweater is certainly wearable and interesting so, yes I'd wear that as well.
Interesting that when you see her at the end of her shows she's wearing pretty tame clothing. A skirt and sweater seem to be her go to outfits.
Gretchen said…
In theory, I agree w Ms. Prada, and find that women of a certain age look way too "correct" and wind up looking like caricatures of themselves, with no personality, warmth, or joy. I've never been "wild" and so find the idea of these items way past my comfort zone (save for the sequined skirt, yet I would never buy it. J Crew is overpriced for its quality). Those of us classic ladies need to lighten up the Park Avenue tendencies, but wild isn't the answer. MIT would merely look, and feel, like a Halloween costume...
Anonymous said…
I agree with Prada's quote but none of these looks resonate with me. I prefer "wild" colors rather than prints. My goal for spring was to not buy any more black pieces. I bought a purple pencil skirt and cardigan, and wear red shoes with it. That's as "wild" as I would go.

I agree with the sentiment that thinking about age all the time is a prison. I must remember that!
Oh I think Advanced Style blog does wild women justice. Personally I prefer to be tame in my attire with the occasional wild accessory which is usually something vintage like a bakelite bangle or a brooch.
Anonymous said…
Do we really make an effort to tame ourselves? I wonder. Surely it's reasonable to consider how clothes might appear on women of different ages. Those strappy Chloe shoes, for example--adorable as they might be on a 20-something--could look like orthopedic devices on someone my age. But that delicious hummingbird skirt, the Marni sweater, the Miro dress--why not? I'd wear the pink sequined skirt without a second thought. So, a little wilder, sure, as long as it looks just-right on the woman wearing it.

Dressing for a short trip recently, I put on taupe twill pants, a slate-blue silk shirt, black cashmere v-neck and my old black leather jacket--all pretty tame. Then something made me reject sensible walking shoes in favor of a pair of Robert Clergerie boots: soft black leather with long tapered toes and curved, slanted heels like a Spanish cowboy's. I don't suppose that anyone else noticed them, but striding through the airport, half-undressing at the security check, sitting on the plane, I would glance down at my beautiful boots and get a zing of pleasure. I can't deny it; I felt a little wilder.

That's a very pretty picture of you, Duchesse!

Adi said…
I agree with Gretchen's comments - too "correct" is just too safe. In hopes of avoiding "dressing too young", we veer towards dull. Maybe if we replace "wild" with "fun" we could all loosen up a bit. Fashion should be fun, it shouldn't be constraining and fraught with rules. Rules, smules, who needs em? :)
riyu said…
Given the vehemence against scrunchies, one of them just might convey a bit of rebellion and "wild".
I am headed to New York this summer to check out the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibit - very excited about it. I am finding it harder to wear cheap & chic as I get older, but at the same time it's hard to adjust to the much higher prices that better quality garments command. I would wear that JCrew sequin skirt and the Jil Sander skirt but the price tags are prohibitive.
Susan B said…
The challenge for me is that, being rather petite, "bolder" clothing tends to wear me. But I do like that second tee. Have seen plenty of older women with Presence here (in France) who don't have to resort to sartorial shower curtain dressing to achieve it...very inspiring!
Duchesse said…
That's Not: Off that hanger, girl!

Joan: Wow, that's such a graceful variation on the classic moto. I'm in line behind you!

see you: As said, wild to one is tame to another". For me it is pretty much anything that's not a neutral :)

Nancy K: A placed print of such quality would be a real find, and with your skills you could make the skirt easily.

Gretchen: Prada is Italian and as Nancy K says, appears at the end of her shows simply, even austerely dressed- and usually accessorized with fine vintage jewelry. I don't think her idea of wild is extreme, just not safe and 'lady'. (How I wish she could comment for herself!)

tweedlibrarian: Colour will do it too. Prada is known for at least a couple of cheeky prints per collection.

C.: I think the *market* tames us. Just try to find, for example, a piece of Prada clothing that can be worn above a narrow 10- more realistically, an 8. Not that all women are a 10 or above, but the majority of us are. Footwear like your boots always elevates a simple ensemble.
Thanks- though realized the photo of me in an Hermes scarf is certainly not wild :0

Adi: I have such a deep aversion to "fun" clothing and accessories, I can barely summon the words. Inevitably when a grown woman does "fun" she ends up looking infantile, pathetic or like some kind of TV character (not a good one.) And such pieces are inevitably a poor investment.

If you observe the clothes Prada designs, you will see nothing fun- wild, yes, but not fun. If looking for support for "fun", you will like the blog Advanced Style. He has a lot more tolerance for the effect than I do. While the women in the video he made chirped about expressing themselves, I thought they looked appalling, but I realize some people like looking like a giant toy.

riyu: I disagree. One cannot wear an outdated accessory and achieve wild. At best one simply clings to a favourite, impervious to change and achieves "cheerfully retro".

Louise: Wonderful! Thinking of going, depends on other family plans. Once I passed 40 or so cheap clothes looked dreadful on me, but I find very costly clothes don't really give me good value. I look for local designers who have a great eye and give good value.
Mardel said…
I think an unusual piece in wearable shape can do a lot. Last year I purchased a Stella Mac dress that still gets a lot of wear as both a dress and a tunic. I keep looking at the Marni sweater but don't like the plain white back. That is something that is a good inspiration piece if one can make one's own or has a good dressmaker. It wouldn't be a duplicate, but you could make an interesting riff on the look.

I would wear the JCrew or the Jil Sander skirt in a heartbeat. A simple pencil skirt like that could be made but finding a comparable fabric to the Jil Sander would be a real find. That elevates the skirt into a "buy" if the budget allows. Mine doesn't but I might talk myself into it if it is still available in my size by the time LTC insurance gets their act together enough to get my husband's claim off "hold" and resume reimbursements.
Susan Tiner said…
Hi Duchesse! I've been reading not commenting but will try to get back on track now that we're back from our big trip and recovered from the wedding on Sunday.

I loved your tribute to Adrienne Rich and also the piece on Jane Birkin.

I'm not sure what I think of wild but note your distinction between fun and wild. I always get confused when women describe their clothes as fun and when I'm told something I'm wearing is fun I tend not to wear it again.
Duchesse said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duchesse said…
Susan Tiner: Sorry for typo in your name.
Duchesse said…
Susan Tiner: (Removed comment b/c too may typos). Sounds like you were *having* rather than wearing fun.

When women say something is "fun", they usually mean it has a note of levity.

I once saw two women on a plane in rabbit-ear headbands. Clearly they were on a girlfriend weekend and indulging, propriety be damned. I liked that. Similarly, my mother had an 80+ year old friend who wore a t-shirt to the pool that said SURF NAKED. So unexpected.

But in 98% of cases, "fun" clothes infantalize grown women and make them look like big toys (or worse). I would not spend more than $2 on a fun item and wear it only as a special, rather theatrical effect.
Margaret said…
Someone is going to have to explain to me the appeal of that sequined skirt. They can't even make it look good in the photo. It's lumpy at the waist and saggy at the hem and a back slit is not supposed to hang open like that. Nice concept, but that particular skirt looks kind of crappy. And yet everyone seems to love it. Why?
Anonymous said…
I agree with tweedlibrarian and prefer colour over prints for my "wild" clothes. One change aging has brought me is a reduction in chroma (of hair & skin) - more noticeable with fair complexion. While colors alone flatter, patterned colour can overwhelm me. So I prefer more subtle & classic pattern: striped & dots. Black drains me - my basic has always been navy!
Anonymous said…
Oh, I love the first sweater...though I would have trouble paying that much for it!
Anonymous said…
Your post inspired me yesterday to wearing my beige fishnet tights instead of my usual nude stockings. It was fun to be a little bit wild, but with my flat oxfords and pencil skirt, it wasn't "too" wild for work. Thanks for the inspiration!
sisty said…
My favorite of the ones you've chosen is the first sweater -- reminds me of an Escher drawing -- great colors.

I also like the hummingbird skirt. The rest are too wild for me.

I wear black fishnets with skirts, which I've never thought of as wild, but maybe it is.

The "fun" concept definitely scares me, too.
Anonymous said…
To Margaret re the pink sequined skirt: Maybe it's the idea of this skirt that we love--the rosy color, the dressy/casual possibilities. I would definitely want to try it on, and if it looked as droopy on me as it does on that hipless model, I would pass it up.

Duchesse said…
C. and Margaret: Solid-sequined fabric involves a heavy coverage of sequins on a fairly lightweight base (to create some drape, or you get upholstery). So, you might get some unevenness; this is not St. Laurent, here). I have the hips and butt to offset a minor dip like that shown on the model. Have you ever had a completely sequined piece? They are surprisingly heavy and hot.

J. Crew quality has slipped; I'm sorry that they now blend many of their wool sweaters with acrylic.
tinyjunco said…
I've always like to tip my hat to my wild and pioneering ancestors by including some rugged pieces in my looks. Like these Wicked boots by Johnny F:

which i do not yet possess, but they embody the vibe. It's telling how much 'wild' is determined by the wearer, all of your pieces shown here leave me flat. Quite lovely, just not wild for me.

"If looking for support for "fun", you will like the blog Advanced Style. He has a lot more tolerance for the effect than I do." yeah. That type of look can be 'fun', but i live in teh SF Bay Area and in a lot of areas it's kind of expected that artily-inclined women of a certain age starting treading those seems to me like it's hard to dress in such a costumed manner and truly be taken seriously. It's more like you get a pat on the head for 'still making an effort' and being entertaining, really your choice of the word infantilizing rings true to me. It can just be another way to discount a person, they're just that kooky creative type!

And of course on the internet the new, the overly styled, the big and brash and ultra colorful is easier to look at and to get attention with than the subtle, the elegant, the closely reasoned (which takes more attention to really appreciate).

anyways, kindred spirit over here. Happy Friday! steph
Duchesse said…
steph: The boots that buckle the swash! Hey, there is a major F boutique here, come visit!
You have nailed it. Or, we are echos. The women dressed in "art to wear" get compliments but is it just because they stand out to eyes not very discerning?

When I inhabited the corporate world, some guys got complimented on their ties, but the best ties were quiet and exquisite... perhaps those men were, too ;

When I see women or men like that I respond, aaaah.
Anonymous said…
I think women tend to go two separate ways as they age. Some veer towards a more conservative version of themselves, and others go more wild, especially in terms of color. My mother who is in her 80's and never wore anything but neutrals, all of a sudden likes purple, kelly green, etc. I'm about to turn 60, and haven't really changed my style yet, other than maybe trying to conceal the extra 10 lbs on my body!
Interesting quote coming from Ms. Prada, who as you said makes clothes that very few women of "a certain age" can wear, or perhaps even afford.
Duchesse said…
kahy peck: I think that for an elder woman to carry "wilder", the clothes have to be very good quality. The majority of women get poorer as they get older, and even those who are not living on less may not be willing to spend, say $6,000 on a Prada coat.

I wish Ms Prada would revisit her youthful ideals. In interviews she has said she was quite political and interested in social causes in her student days. Now is the time for her to offer a second line, sized to fit at least the average-sized woman and priced to compete in the "better" category.
tinyjunco said…
heehee, Duchesse i am on my way to the only city in the world with TWO Fluevog stores today - SF! and we're actually going to the Union Square shop, as a b-day is coming up (mine!)

Happily, that does not rule out a future stop in the shop in Montreal. and the rest of your city sounds like a real treasure as well.

i do very much appreciate your more thoughtful, subtler take on style - not to mention the yummyyummypearls! Happy Saturday! steph
Anonymous said…
Strangely, I was hiking and thinking about this post, and came back to add, just what you said. For older women to carry wilder clothing, it has to be of high quality, and therefore usually quite pricey. I'm willing to pay a higher price for something that I think I'll get a lot of wear out of, but for something wild, or out of my box, not so sure. Definitely not going to buy a $6,000 Prada coat that I'll be sick of by the next year for example.
And most of us also as we age, have less reason to wear "unusual" or trendy clothing.
I try to "keep up" with trends more with shoes and handbags.
Duchesse said…
steph: Would that be a pair in each store? ;)

kathy peck: I think that's exactly what Prada was getting at, we become eminently sensible.

In my early 30s, I dropped a month's pay (and believe me I had not a dime to spare) on a French silver fox (fake fur) coat. I felt like a movie star in it. Looking back, probably looked more like return of the werewolf! One night, coming home from a party, I dumped a pot of chili on it, dyeing it tomato- bye bye coat.

And now, I justify spending a lot on something I can "wear for years"- and that's her point. I ought to buy another wild coat, at least one more time.
Anonymous said…
Maybe so, but one's 20's and 30's are more a time of financial irresponsibility for most. As we age, even if we've managed to accumulate more wealth, it seems we all have a lot more financial responsibilities to consider.
I also used to throw away a whole month's salary on an outfit without a thought, but there were years of earning power and potential in front of me. I just wouldn't feel a "high" from spending irresponsibly anymore. I do own luxury clothing and accessories, but I have no desire for something "goofy". something made for young girls - does that make sense? I do own a great Prada dress, and several of the classic cardigans, but it's very rare for me to see anything that they have that I'd want, or feel I'd have any use for? When Prada makes something, even if it's a bit wild, but not goofy, then I'll take her statement more seriously.
Duchesse said…
kathy peck: Well actually I had more financial responsibility *then* than I do now, and far fewer resources. My potential earnings were uncertain and I was left with debt incurred by a former spouse. (Is it any wonder I sought escape in fake fur?)

The difference for me is in attitude. Then, I didn't think as much about whether I would love the item in a year. Prada make some garments I'd enjoy wearing; just saw the most exquisite LBD dress in a resale store, in perfect condition- size 4.
Anonymous said…
That's very true - I never thought about whether I'd like it next month even, much less a year. In my 20's I thought only if I'd like it that night..on a date!

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