Why "Mutton Shaming" Has Been Around for Centuries

Gina Marinelli

Mutton shaming is not a term we were very familiar with before today. But it’s hardly a new or unfamiliar concept. In a recent New York Times op-ed, writer Julia Baird fills us in that it’s related to the phrase “mutton dressed as a lamb,” which was first used in the 1800s to praise women who dressed more youthful than their age. But today, the same is not necessarily a compliment. In fact, as Baird points out, mutton shaming is just another term to describe “dressing for your age” tropes that don’t help, but can actually hinder, a woman’s sense of personal style.

“Women are not praised for dressing like fabulous young things now,” the writer explains, going on to state how women of a certain age are often told to avoid tank tops, platform heels, and big earrings, among other trends. “As we ascend the ladder of wisdom and maturity, we are cautioned to adopt restraint, to be ‘classic,’ ‘sophisticated,’ to eschew skin in favour of prim. And with every passing year, to occupy less space and be more demure — and dull.” In short, it’s mutton shaming, and despite our adventurous appetites for fashion, nearly every woman has experienced it in some way.

Undoubtedly, there’s so much knowledge to be gained from age, including experience when it comes to what we wear. But this kind of can’t-win, one-sided (men don’t usually see such criticism of their clothing as they age, Baird states) expectation is not only hard to abide by but can also take the fun and joy out of personal style. Visit NYTimes.com to read Baird’s complete personal takedown of mutton shaming and a powerful case for dressing however you please, no matter what’s on your driver’s licence.

Are there any age-based style rules you stick to? Anything you disagree with? Take to the comments, and shop the trend all women can enjoy, despite age or so-called rules: big statement earrings.

Opening Image: The Styleograph

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