How To Look Older (No, Seriously)

It’s all about belts.

I was writing some fiction today. I guess you could say that I was “working on a novel” but I have been working on one for so long I don’t think that’s a reasonable description. Let’s just say I was writing scenes about things that were untrue.

One of them was about a girl who is twelve or thirteen and needs to look eighteen or nineteen so she can get into a drug rehab to visit her father. (This never happened to me, by the way. I fucking wish!) My book takes place before the internet so the girl goes to the library and she finds an article about how to look older. The article is more for twenty year old women trying to look twenty-six but it’s the best thing she can find because that’s the best thing I could find, there are no magazine articles about how a girl of twelve can look 18, that would be weird. Also, this book takes place in the 80s, but in order to write this scene I didn’t actually find an article on this subject from the 80s. I might eventually hunt one down if I complete a draft of this book, but at this point, I think that would fall under the category of “doing a lot of work for possibly no reason.”

So all I found were some pretty meh blogposts on this, but they made for pretty fascinating reading.

One post I read was from a blog called “m gets dressed.” Whoever ‘m’ is suggested wearing things that have a defined shape. “Details like a square neckline or pleats or just anything with more construction to it like a funnel neck sweater or a belt or cable-knitting or pointier toes on shoes.” A funnel neck sweater? I don’t know if I know what that is. Does not knowing what a funnel neck sweater is make me look younger? This ‘m’ person also suggests “visually richer fabrics” like thick knits as opposed to sweatshirt material, “high-impact pieces like eyeglasses,” jackets instead of sweatshirts, boots instead of sneakers.

Next I looked at a 2009 post from Glamour, called “Your Style Problems, Solved: “Help Me Look Older.”

This piece suggested finding inspiration from Blair Waldorf, or, for those of you who don’t know normal stuff, Leighton Meester’s character on Gossip Girl. “Have you ever seen a recent high school grad with more polish and sophistication? You can snag a few simple tips from her and be well on your way to looking like the twentysomething that you are…elegantly tied scarves, textured tights, and perfectly boxy handbags all lend her an air of instant sophistication, and they can easily do the same for you.”

Other suggestions from this article: a slim-fitting pencil skirt, ballet flats instead of sneakers, “a great sweater, and a belt.” What is a great sweater? Or, more importantly I guess, what is a not-great sweater? Also, again with the belt. Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to grow up at all, you just wore progressively more and more belts? And if someone ever said to you for any reason “You’re so immature” you could be like, “Hello, excuse me, who’s wearing a belt?” This article mentions funnel necks, of course. I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.

I now have a pretty good idea of how to dress my character. She’s going to wear a white shirtdress and a navy blue cardigan sweater with (say it with me) a slim pink belt. All these items are going to come from the thrift store near her grandmother’s apartment in Montclair, New Jersey (I did really have a grandmother who lived there) and she’s going to pay for them with money she stole out of her grandmother’s purse. She’s going to forget about shoes, and at the last minute, she’s going to steal a pair of pink low-heeled pumps from her grandmother’s closet, and a pink clutch to match. The clutch is going to be her undoing. Everything about what she’s wearing is going to be perfect except for the clutch, but the clutch is so ridiculous that her cover will be blown. I don’t know what happens next. This is the excitement and danger of writing fiction.

Sarah Miller is a writer living in Northern California.

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