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Givenchy Previews Chola Fashion; Is This Trend for You?
June 26, 2015

Texana Necklace and Earrings Set
Texana Necklace and Earrings Set has conchos of hammered metal. Team with over-sized plaid shirt for chola style.

How can older women wear the trendiest fashion trends -- and should we? Should anyone?

Fashion is a battle ground on which the values of popular, ethnic, and mainstream cultures clash.

This was brought to my attention this week when a friend posted a link to The Folk Feminist Struggle Behind the Chola Fashion Trend.

Chola is a style statement that arose out of working-class Mexican neighborhoods. According to Barbara Calderon-Douglas, chola style is a feminized version of the chola gangster look. It includes big hair, heavy eye make-up, dark lip liner, over-sized earrings and chain necklaces. It feminizes a tough, menswear look, often because the early adopters were young women grabbing clothes from their brothers’ closets.

Minority groups often express their independence from mainstream values by adopting a specific uniform. Beatniks wore black, hippies adopted jeans and tie-dye shirts, and Bohemians expressed an artistic esthetic.

Soon designers appropriate the look, as Givenchy has done with this trend for the Fall 2015 collection. The style becomes a profit-making tool for people who are not part of the culture.

Barbara Calderon-Douglas states, "As with most instances of cultural appropriation, when the chola look is worn by pop starlets, it gets stripped of context and becomes little more than a costume."

What has all this to do with how to dress as older gals?

On one hand, we are told to update our look so we don't appear dowdy. Stop thinking about being age-appropriate, we are advised. On the other, we are counseled to adopt youth trends in small doses; for example, when see-through is in style, confine it to the see-through sleeves of a blouse so we aren't over-exposed.

The answer for how to adapt a style for yourself lies in the message this article holds for me: Be authentic.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd at the Manchester Guardian online says chola fashion “is about trying to act cooler than you think you are.”

On a older woman, that may come off as desperate: What is cute in a puppy is annoying in a full-grown dog.

Love dramatic eye makeup? Take a good, hard look in the mirror -- with your eyeglasses on, thank you very much. If sagging eyelids hide those special effects and heavy eye makeup will call attention to lines that radiate out from the edges, you may want to rethink the look.

Skirts are shorter than ever. Got great legs that you want to show off? Instead of wearing five-inch spike heels, go for a pretty shoe with a modified heel. Wear a less revealing top to balance the ensemble.

Great decolletage? Enjoy your V-neckline, make sure you have adequate support, and fill in with a statement necklace.

Never wear anything that makes you think, “"I just don’t feel like myself in this outfit."

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"Chola Victorian. She’s the boss of the gang." --Riccardo Tisci, creative director at Givenchy


What does it mean to be authentic and to live one's life authentically?

The Oxford English Dictionary has dozens of permutations of definitions.

The first is "legally valid." That doesn't help us. Let me select a few that do a better of job of expressing what it means to be an authentic human being.

  • believable; truthful, accurate, true to life

  • authoritative and is entitled to respect

  • the original, not a copy

  • genuine, not feigned or false

  • the actual thing or person that bears the name, genuine, real

  • having the characteristics of the original, created in the original or traditional way

  • truly reflects one's inner feelings, not affected or put-on

  • a mode of existence based in self-awareness and critical self-reflection on one’s goals, values, and behaviors

These definitions offer principles we may use when adopting trends for our wardrobes.

Chola originated among a certain population -- young, working-class Latina women. I am not young, have worked in the professional class for many years, and have not a drop of Hispanic blood.

Eye makeup makes my eyes itch. Typing and writing fast preclude long fingernails.

I might wear a conchos jewelry, especially on a trip to the Western states. The chola look is not part of my identity in the past or now. I would not feel genuine if I try to recreate it.

Expressing ourselves through clothing is always about externalizing who we are, not about the latest designer trends.

These we must bend, shape, and mutilate to suit our vision of our original and genuine self. Chola style emerged from what the young women had at hand -- cheap makeup from a drugstore, their brothers’ shirts, and costume jewelry.

To create your original style, consider some of these questions:

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  • What do I wear that makes me feel good about myself? When I am wearing ______ and _______, I feel cheerful, confident, and ready to face anything life throws at me.

  • What clothing do I wear that makes me feel out-of-sorts or slightly off? What clothes drain my energy? When I wear _____ and _______, I often feel like I’d rather no one catch me wearing these clothes.

  • What clothing do I wear around the house and how does it make me feel? At home alone, I wear ________ and _________. When I wear these clothes, I feel ________, ________, and ________.

You might also ask yourself what clothing makes me feel professional? What makes me feel sad? Ready to get to work? Creative? Or playful? Is this style or color something I used to like -- or need, say for business -- but no longer like or need?

Add more of what makes you feel great. Get rid of what doesn't.

Neither living one's authenticate life nor basic wardrobe planning happen by accident.

Kind regards,

Enid Sefcovic, Publisher
Fashion After 50
3700 Inverrary Drive
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33319
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