Can grown women wear streetwear?

I see streetwear and wonder, can I use these clothes even though I think that "Supreme" refers to Diana Ross's group, not a clothing brand?

Women my age—hell, women young enough to be my daughter—worry about looking silly. What to do? Try some on; let your eye adjust. I find it's often shortsighted to judge from a mannekin.

This is neither denim world nor yoga-wear land. (If you think "streetwear" means hootchie-mama, you've been hanging out on the wrong street, sister.)

Nor is "street" a trend; leisure wear has long been inspired by surfers, skaters, and thrift-store devotées who prefer functional, somewhat unisex items. If you wear a hoodie, you already have one foot in street style. A simple rule is that nothing 'street' ever needs to be worn with shapewear, let alone heels.

Think you're too old? Moon Lin, a 90-year old Taiwanese woman with a huge Instagram following, has smoked your game.

The good news: many items have plenty of stretch and layer well; the shoes are always flat, the techno-fibre clothing washes and dries quickly. You don't have to dress like Rihanna (and good luck); 'soft street' looks great on grown women.

The bad: You'll need epic kicks and they will not be classic Keds. Examples:

The high-tech sneaker has been raised to a degree of pretentiousness by some designers, but that's easy to avoid, unless you think $800 sneakers are somehow okay. Left to right:
Puma Muse Maya Luxe, about $100; I'm digging that gold detail.
Mephisto All-Rounders: It's those baby blue spikey thingys: dope. About $185.
Sock sneakers: Balenciaga's cost a grand; these Adida Parelys are way less and you'll get cred from your crew.

Key pieces

Don't work too hard. Pull on a pair of bottoms in a techno fiber, simple tee, and vest. This NorthFace vest is street, but with a refinement that bows to the best Japanese designers. Just a terrific piece. And as Macklemore says, "Whatcha rockin' on yo' noggin?"

Left: North Face Cryos down vest, about $US 305
Top right: Löle Linnet pants, $CDN 140
Bottom right: Maison Kitsune hat, €65

Stealth 'street'

You don't have to turn over your entire closet. Just keep it loose and easy; pick solids, colour blocks or stripes rather than sweet florals and repeating prints; park the ballerina flats, anything with femmy details like bows or flounces, and channel the inimitable "Accidental Icon", Lynn Slater:

The one item that will street up your wardrobe is a pair of trousers with side-striped detail, whether joggers or wide-legs like Lynn's. This navy Cresswell pinstripe trouser by Boden combines a pinstripe and hot pink grosgrain side stripes. Now on sale; sizes up to UK 20.

Side-striped trousers are also available in women's sizes; check these contrast-piped wide leg pants from Asos, about $41, available in plus size up to US 28:


Street style is athleisure with attitude; street plays with quirkier proportions. Rather than yoga wear's serene shades, choose a top with a pixellated or graffiti-themed print, a spacey abstract, or a polo far from from the preppy classic.

Left: Burberry stretch graffiti top, $290 (sale price), Burberry
Centre: Aries mesh top, £165
Right: OK, hideously expensive—but Cecile Bahnsen's Pamela polo, $735, shows the difference between old-school preppy polo and street.

Grab your bag! Leave the structured styles aside and choose a Fjällräven Totepack #1, which converts to shoulder, backpack or cross-body: the street is meant for moving! This bag comes in a wide colour range.

So the answer is a qualified yes. "Street" is pricey in the culty extremes, but cheap sportswear of any genre is a mistake, and you can put together a street style from thrifts... except for one thing.

My friend Diane (somewhere in her 50s) showed up for coffee in a thrifted orange Uniqlo-type down vest, a soft grey long-sleeved tee, a pair of trousers—navy with pale blue side stripes—from a sale rack, and a beanie gifted by her nephew, who said, "Aunt Di, your kicks are snatched!"

It's the sneakers that anchored the look. Hers were Nike Pre-Loved OX's:


Laura J said…
Enjoyed this post! I bet I can pull this together once I can stop wearing the mega parka. Need spring to arrive!! Was toying with getting something pink and floral this season but street is much more interesting!! Love moon Lin !
Madame Là-bas said…
I've never thought of this as a look but I've got striped side pants and Allrounders so I'm just needing to find the top. It could be fun!
Fritinancy said…
The North Face hooded vest made me gasp in pleasure. That's my weird color, that's my love of asymmetry. And here in the Bay Area, we wear down vests all year round, so I can justify the cost -- which, btw, is only about US$210 now, although finding one's size can be a bit of a challenge.
I love Moon Lin too, but that is because she looks so fit and so cute at an advanced age. There are certainly things in this range that I might integrate, but not side stripes, logos (!!!) or oversized running shoes. I tend to prefer very plain clothing, but there are always exceptions.
Duchesse said…
Fritinancy: It s/o here in my size early; one of those "I don't care, I want it" items.
It is very attractive, but when I want something with that degree of warmth on my back, I also want it on my arms. I'm always cold there.
I'm sure you'll look splendid in it!
Fritinancy said…
Lagatta: Well, it rarely gets below 40°F/4°C here ... but it rarely gets above 60°F/15°C, either. So a down vest (often worn under a raincoat) is the perfect layer, summer or winter.
Where do you live? (not necessarily the city; the continent and region).
Fritinancy said…
Lagatta: San Francisco Bay Area (Oakland).
Yes, I've been there and it is a VERY distinct microclimate.
Christine said…
Dear Duchesse,
Thank you for a very helpful post. I am retiring in a couple of months and I've been aiming for a more 'funky casual' look but didn't know where to start. This makes it all sound so much easier. I will be 'practising' this weekend.
Sisty said…
Hahaha! At first I thought "Has she taken leave of her senses?!" Then, after I stopped clutching my pearls and revived myself on my fainting couch with some smelling salts, I realized that I needed a gentle but provocative shake like this.
Unknown said…
Grown women can wear whatever the hell they want! I wear pearls with everything.

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