In Fashion, We’re Not Forever 21

Katie Young
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Wednesday - February 20, 2008

I’m wondering, can I really stay “Forever 21” like the sign says? This is something weighing heavily on my mind this week. Let’s explore ...

Lately, I’ve been doing a bit of online shopping. It certainly doesn’t take the place of a good trip to the mall since you can’t try on what you see on screen - at least not unless you order it - but online window browsing satisfies some of my shopping urges.

I’m partial to the Old Navy and Nordstrom’s sites since they have $5 flat rate shipping to Hawaii, which is quite a deal since shipping can often cost as much as what you’re purchasing. I also like to peruse Macy’s, Arden B., Dillards, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, among others.

The other day, my sister-in-law (who’s 21) was looking at the Forever 21 web-site. It’s been a while since I’ve shopped there, but I thought as long as I was surfing the Net I might as well check it out myself.

Pages and pages of cute, inexpensive tops, sweaters, tanks and dresses scrolled by, and at the end of an hour, I had filled my online shopping bag with six sassy items.

Now, I really don’t know what came over me because when my items arrived at my door the following week, and I went to try them on, I had to laugh out loud.

What on earth made me think I could pull off that little satin skirt that was way too mini for my 31-going-on-32 figure, or that sequined low-cut top that showed more than any professional, mature woman in her right mind should show? Plus, where did I think I was headed in that outfit anyway? The last time I hit up a club I was celebrating the end of my bachelorette days, and I don’t think sequins and a mini are appropriate hang-out-at-home or go-to-the-movies attire.

Perhaps I was just caught up in the moment. I used to wear those things. My sister-in-law can still wear those things.

Not that there was anything wrong with the clothes in general. But on me? My goodness, someone stop me. It was then that I really began to wonder at what age should we stop shopping at places with names like “Forever 21”?

The truth is none of us will be forever 21, and there comes a time when you have to graduate to a more-mature look. For some of us, this comes with having children and the fashion requirements that entails - (meaning, you can’t be bending over, squatting down and holding a grabby baby at chest level wearing a short skirt or cleavage-baring top unless you want to flash everyone around you. It’s just not practical.)

For many of us in our early 30s, however, I think the transition can be a bit confusing. I’m not even talking about just dressing for the occasion or projecting a professional image. Those are a given.

But on your days off, when the casual you can be free to express your fashion flair, what do you put on? Are you too old to wear that surfer girl hoodie? Does it look odd if you have on a graphic tee with funny cartoon animals?

There are days when I don’t know whether to head to the Generations department at Macy’s or take the escalator up to the second floor where I.N.C. and some of the more sophisticated brands are displayed. I think I could still patronize both. But can I really? When will I start to look silly shopping in a section marked for juniors?

Plus, it seems that the more mature the wear, the more inflated the cost. I can’t help but want to head for the closest Forever 21, Jeans Warehouse or Wet Seal just to be able to milk five items out of my $60 instead of just one.

The reality is that at some point I will have to transition out of the 21-year-old section and into the mid-30s section, whatever that might be. I might still search out a good find at Jeans Warehouse - one that fits my mature adult look - but the chances are that in a few years, those items will be few and far between.

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