Embracing fashion at 40 means accepting your body with all its flaws and wearing what you feel suits you best.

Fashion at 40 When women stop caring about what the world thinks and wear what they wantRama and Priya
Features Fashion Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 16:48

At Cannes this year, we saw two 40 year olds rock their outfits in two completely different ways. While Aishwarya Rai sizzled away in designer gowns and elaborate make-up, Nandita Das chose to let her personal style reflect in the simple yet elegant sarees she wore. Aishwarya Rai has never shied away from being her stylish self even when she was trying to shed the weight she had gained during her pregnancy. And Nandita has made the saree her signature and looks completely herself when she is draped in one.

What, however, is common between these two women is they have figured out what works best for them and they play around with that. They totally own the look not only because they have picked these expensive outfits but there is a certain confidence about them - a confidence that comes from being totally comfortable with their body.

For many women in India, especially in the south, fashion ends with childbirth. They believe it is not their job to look good once they've had a baby. While it's definitely difficult to devote time to personal grooming when you have a newborn to take care of, there might be other factors at play too.

Could the years of conditioning that intelligence and good looks do not go hand in hand be a dissuader? Priya Kadapa Shah, a chartered account and educator, says, “I know women who dress down as they believe fashionably dressed women are not taken seriously. The cultural conditioning is very strong and I grew up with one as well – one that I had to fight to find what works for me when it comes to fashion.”

Image courtesy: Priya

For Priya, fashion began as she inched closer to 40. “In our 30s we are busy experimenting with stuff – from bangs and hair colours to fashionable outfits. By the time you inch toward 40, you know exactly what works for you. You realise you do not need to follow a trend to be trendy. You realise you can make any fashion trend your own by adding elements that work for you. For instance, I would embrace the off-shoulder trend by pairing an off-shoulder top with a saree rather than sporting an off-shoulder dress.”

Bengaluru based artist and designer, Rama Srinivasan, says, “Late 30s and early 40s have been all about style and comfort for me. I do not care for fashion. I think there is a confidence that one develops at this age – a confidence to wear what you like and what works for you.”

Image courtesy: Rama Srinivasan

Priya discovered a lot about herself and knows now what would suit her body type. Says Priya, “I am 5 feet tall and I know now what not to wear and what cuts work for me. This does not stop me from experimenting. In fact, I experiment with confidence that a 20 year old would love to have.”

Rama agrees about being confident with her body and accepting it completely. Rama says, “I wear ripped jeans and I do it with confidence. I don’t second guess what outfits to wear any more. Perhaps it comes from having achieved certain personal and professional goals.”

Fashion at 40 not only means understanding what works for one’s body but also eliminating outfits and styles that you feel don't suit you. Both Rama and Priya have stopped wearing the ubiqutous salwar kameez.

Image courtesy: Priya

While both Rama and Priya have embraced sarees the last few years, they have adapted the saree to suit their signature look. Rama who believes in non-fussy outfits, doesn’t shy away from pairing her sarees with unconventional blouses – these could be t-shirts, a cotton top or even a short kurti. Priya likes to keep her sarees simple and let the blouses and accessories do all the talking.

Rama also loves to pair her ripped jeans with over-sized tees.

For Priya, her signature look is an asymmetrically cut indo-western dresses in cool cotton. “They flatter my body type and are appropriate for the hot summery months. I stay away from tight jeans and prefer comfortably yet well-tailored outfits over them any day.”

Image courtesy: Rama Srinivasan

When it comes to travel, women struggle to find the balance. Rama travels with a couple of ankle length cotton pants that she likes to mix and match with tunics and scarfs from her collection. Priya likes to make sure her outfits are weather appropriate. She likes to layer her clothes with stoles and jackets from her indo-western wardrobe to give it a twist. Priya says, “A simple indigo dabu jacket or a jamdani scarf could transform a regular western outfit into something that reflects my personality.”

Fashion at 40 is also about accepting your body with all its flaws. Rama says, “Let people see the imperfect, weird, quirky, beautiful and magical person that you are."

Accepting the body also means nurturing it. Priya follows a combination of cardio, functional training and yoga to keep her mind and body fit. Rama runs, swims and indulges in household chores to stay fit.

Image courtesy: Priya

Priya signs off with this advice from Coco Chanel that she admits works for her: “Before you step out of the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” 

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