It could be argued that 1983 was a decent year for wine—high quality, elegant Tuscan wines of that year had a compelling showing and Barolo and Barbaresco wines of the Piedmont region were also held in high esteem. In the wine world, patience is certainly a virtue. Over time flavours harmonise, harsh elements are neutralised and aromas develop more complexity. Vintage wines are saved and savoured for only the most special occasions.
In that same vein, people born in 1983 have reached a certain maturity—a milestone that would be commemorated with an uncorking if only we were Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or the premium liquid grape. Instead, sometimes hitting middle age can lead to a mid-life crisis—or so we have been led to believe.
As I face my forties with nothing but self-assuredness and optimism, I want to demystify the weighty mental burden of getting older. It feels like we have social constructs that we have to work within when it comes to style and rules that we must obey now that we are “over the hill”.
Thanks to society’s over-indexing on the youthful appearance of women, our currency seems to lose its value as we age. Our desirability is shot to ordure, the male gaze has shifted to greener pastures and we are often underrepresented in the media and popular culture. As grim as this seems, women in their forties are far from irrelevant. Instead, it marks the season of becoming a bombshell.
What could be more ‘bombshell’ than donning a custom-made ostrich feather hat in cherry red by hat-maker Eskpade Millinery, gold chains by Jnamdar Jewelry and a custom sheer ruby bustier and skirt by Onarin from Thailand? Invisibility is a sheer (pun intended) impossibility in this outfit. I embellished this look with accessories from Italian labels like Versace, Dolce&Gabbana and heels from D’Accori as a nod to location. For this landmark birthday, my husband and I, born in the same year, decided to join forces and commemorate our senescence amongst our closest friends by hosting a formal ‘La Dolce Vita’ affair in Ravello, Italy. What’s not to celebrate when you’re under the Italian sun?
When I think of a ‘bombshell’, adjectives like captivating, sensational, sensual, commanding, and composed come to mind. The overarching theme is that they are confident. Consider this: have you ever been more youthful, established in your career, wise and experienced with the ways of the world? And while I never proclaim to be the finished article, I make sure to dress accordingly, with a sense of conviction in my step. One could even say I’ve become more flamboyant in my fashion because, to be quite frank, the older I get, the less I care about what other people have to say about it.
And by comparison, the thirties, while entertaining and exciting as I stared down the barrel of the unknown, was also taxing and daunting. If I reflect on my emotions exactly ten years ago, again, teetering on the edge of a new decade, it was a far cry from the inner peace I experience now. I was unproven, reeking of insecurity and clouded by debilitating imposter syndrome. It felt like it was the decade of mapping out my future and time was spent career establishing, people pleasing, betraying myself to fit in, and my personal style (or lack thereof) reflected that. I didn’t know who I was and it showed.
So how does one wrestle herself away from the tired narrative of an invisible middle-aged woman? Well, for starters, exploit the age and all the spoils that come with it. Don’t shy away from your age, liberally lean into it. You are not only allowed to authentically be yourself, but you no longer have the energy to entertain individuals who question it. You have the tools to create healthy boundaries now, so use them. You can deepen meaningful relationships, and you view your own parents with so much more grace. You no longer need to be pedantic about the outcome of things outside your control and you can surrender to the process because history would indicate that in most circumstances things work out in the end. You also now have a bit of mental space to rediscover or reignite your passions. Fashion, for one, is a form of self-expression and you are free to be who you truly are without apologising for it.
If I come back to the fine wine analogy, maturation need not be feared but embraced. A winemaker’s role in the manufacturing of an exquisite tipple is crucial and it does not simply come down to nature. The wine producer’s craftsmanship is pivotal in that they decide the timing of the bottling, the duration of ageing, when to release and a variety of other factors. It truly is a journey from vineyard to cellar, then to the lips.
And as we age like fine wine, we are also the winemakers. We can choose the elements that ultimately lead to ageing gracefully. Perhaps with less societal expectations, we are liberated and are able to embark on an adventure of self-discovery and authenticity. We are coming back to one’s self and becoming more appreciated with each fleeting year. Saluti! Let’s pop on our best outfit and raise a glass “to forty and fabulous!”