We’re starting to become seriously concerned that we’ve stumble upon a worm hole that took us through time and back to the turn of the century, because modest clothing for women is back in full effect and we just want to know: When did it come time to cover up (again)?
As if older women aren’t already trying to shed their invisibility cloaks, here comes a company riding in on its high horse to say we should be more modest—unshowy, decorous, decent, seemly, demure, proper. The Covered Perfectly clothing line proudly proclaims it offers “Modest women’s clothing designed especially for women over 50. Flattering, luxurious and oh so comfortable.” Apparently 50 has been deemed the magical number when we need to wear long sleeved shirts with a high neck, paired with ankle-length skirts.
The website advertises clothes that “cover your décolletage” (that’s cleavage, fyi) and are “perfect for your set of pearls.” So now I’m relegated to my mother’s pearls rather than my thumb ring and silver hoop earrings? Basically, it sounds like we’re being told, “Hon, try not to draw attention to yourself. You really should cover up all you’ve got going on over there. It’s not for public consumption.”
Let me fess up: I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts and dresses—well, sleeveless anything—about 10 years ago, and I haven’t worn a swimsuit in more years than that. That’s been my decision and I own it. But don’t tell me that I should cover up my bat wings or hide the crepe slowly creeping up on my neck. I respect any person’s right to wear what she likes—whatever makes her comfortable—but there seems to be an embedded message here that those of us born in the 1960s or earlier need to “put it away.” And that’s not okay! Modest clothing for women really shouldn’t be a thing—no matter how much we loved the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s clothes on Downton Abbey.
A version of this article was originally published in September 2017.