I don't really know where or how one develops a sense of personal fashion exactly, but we all do, to differing degrees. Our immediate environment, of course, is first and foremost -- family, friends, neighbors, peers -- and there's the larger generational cultural influence that flows through the media to us. Why do I think mid-century mod fashion is still the best? Because that was my first and strongest influence. Do I still go out to dinner in a Mondrian-pattern paper dress and white go-go boots? Sadly, no. It's not because I don't think it's fab gear, boss, and groovy. It's that I am more or less subconsciously compelled to wear what is currently in fashion to fit in with the people around me. The punk person inside me rebels at any notion of conformity, but the truth is that I mostly do conform to social norms because my brain tells me that is safe. When you look like most of the rest of your group, you are more likely to be accepted, and people are more likely to treat you well, or at least not pick on you. Have I ever stepped outside the norm? OH YES. But outside of some crazy hair colors and dubious clothing choices, more or less I look like everyone, and no one, and blend in.

What has fascinated me since I was a kid was the phenomenon of women getting "stuck in time" in their fashion choices, hair, and makeup. You see it as well with men, but it's not so striking since men's fashion is not as varied and vivid. I bet you know exactly what I am talking about, because it's not uncommon to see women, middle-aged or older, who have steadfastly refused to change anything about their looks for a decade or two or more. Typically, they settle on makeup and clothing that were popular when they were in their late teens or twenties, as they transition from child to adult and face the judgment of attractiveness/worth that the world places upon them. But as time whizzes by, it seems that what they see in the mirror isn't what we see. Is it a difficulty in accepting aging? Is it a fear of change? Is it "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Or is it the most steadfast sense of personal style ever?

I think the first time I was aware of the "stuck" phenomenon was seeing a friend of my mother's in the mid-'70s who still was rocking the major beehive. I mean, the whole ratted-up, lacquered, Marge Simpson deal. And then, a decade later when giant poodle perms were the thing, you looked at the ladies with the '70s Dorothy Hamill bowl cut or long-straight-parted-in-the-middle hair like they were living at the granola factory. The tiny grandma wearing football-player-sized shoulder pads in her silk blazer in 2004 still may have thought she was power-suiting. And we must give a nod to the classic fashion-stick of all time, the swath of light blue eyeshadow from eyelashes to eyebrow, mandatory in the '70s, which now looks shocking on the Walmart clerk, does it not?

I read an article today written by a woman of considerable years, like myself, on the sadness she had in retiring all her miniskirts. The gist of the article was that she didn't want to give them up, but in looking at other older women wearing them, she decided she had to. This provoked a lot of thoughts in me. Punk Me raged, "Don't give in! Don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks! Life is short! Wear what you want!" Conformity Me sighed, "Well, sure, it's a drag to realize things change, but no one wants to see old legs in a short skirt. It's good you didn't get stuck." And Me Me, which is a combination of the two chimes in, "Maybe a skirt just above the knee, with tights, that doesn't look like a 15-year-old should be wearing it? Maybe that is good?" All of my thoughts feel unsatisfying somehow, for none of this should matter to anyone all that much, but it does and that feels weirder as I get older.

What I think I would like most of all is that the concept of fashion would become less about selling new (or new-again) product, and evolve into an acceptance and appreciation of "it's all good." Because if you are checking the mirror and saying, "Yup. Looking good, Good Lookin'!" and stepping out into the world feeling beautiful and confident, whatever you are wearing on your face or body transforms into quite the powerful little celebration, does it not?