How Old is that Color?
You're probably familiar with Jenny Joseph's poem, “Warning,” the one that starts:
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purpleThe poem is primarily about getting to a certain age and no longer giving a hoot what other people think. But I always found the idea of purple and red behind those lines kind of baffling. Because where I come from purple, as in deep rich eggplant purple, is totally an older woman color! It's a color of maturity, of someone who is no longer young, someone who runs things such as a household and budgets.
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me
Before I go any further, I should mention that although I'm still technically an Indian citizen, I've now lived outside India for the majority of my life. And my memories of India, and of Indian wardrobes are heavily informed by the fact that we usually went home for vacations, aka, wedding season!
I do understand that as we age, we should dress appropriately, or rather, in ways that do not make us look silly. I'd say that's a fairly universal idea. But in the west, where dress has changed drastically in the last 150 years, dressing appropriately – even in a society where the definition of “older” has changed drastically, (thank you baby boomers!) has meant retiring objects of clothing, not colors of clothing. It means dressing tastefully as you age in terms of how much skin you show and how the clothes are cut.
The color didn't matter. The clothes weren't defined by them. And I say this because gray turns out to be another older lady color in India, and I learned that one the hard way while sari shopping. Because the sari and the salwar kameez in everyday garb hasn't changed all that very much in the last century. Blouse styles, prints, and fabrics certainly go in and out of vogue. And how you drape the sari may get finessed a bit. But it's still a five-yard long length of cloth, wrapped artfully regardless of age or figure. And what separates the maiden from the mother and the crone seems to come down a little bit to print, a bit more to fabric, and a lot to color.
bandhanis and garhwals. They were perfect when I was in my early twenties what with their light weight and colors and big and pretty borders, but married and approaching 30? In weight and color both, they lacked …. gravitas.
So there I was at the sari store. And I fell head over heels for two grays. Steel grays. Sophisticated grays. I'd seen my mom wear both (which should have been my first hint), and although she's lighter in complexion, I didn't see why I couldn't pull it off. At least not in the US where no one cares about such things – here I just look Indian, know what I mean? Anyway, I had this vision of me as an Indian lady who lunched, and it would be perfect if I was ever invited to some fancy sit-down embassy dinner where they would be thoroughly appropriate (and that should have been my second hint). Then we got home and Mom, trying to be supportive, said something to the effect of, “You seem to have shopped strategically, not just for now but for later!” Huh? “Well you don't know when you'll be able to shop for saris next, so you've got a good variety, including some for when you're older. Like the grays”
Cap-and-Trade to Eyjafjallajokull without skipping a beat. Heck, I look like someone who can actually say Eyjafjallajokull. Operative words, “look like.” But it occurs to me that even in my child-free days, when I was a newshound, I didn't wear certain colors.
I've always refused to wear lime greens, aqua blues, canary yellows, or fresh oranges, even when they were what a young person was supposed to be able to wear –
And then there are beige, pastels, and soft pinks. Beige is …. beige. 'Nuff said. I was never a beige girl. I have no desire to disappear into the woodwork. There are other ways to be a quiet and dignified presence. And pastels and pinks? “For babies and good girls,” as my equally arch sister puts it. I sneered at both as a kid because I wasn't that nice or well-behaved. I'm better behaved now, but I avoid them anyway because well, I'm an adult. And it wouldn't make a difference if I wore a medium weight pastel kanjeevaram or a light weight organza pastel.