When Do You Age Out of Urban Outfitters?

Woman too old for ironic t-shirts ponders Talbots

I don’t know why I even go into Urban Outfitters. It’s not like I’m the target audience for the store anymore. (Warning to young women: If you want to wear any article of clothing ironically, DO IT NOW.) There is nothing I’d like more than to wear a t-shirt with a cute dog on it and the words, “PUGS NOT DRUGS.” But I no longer have the context. I live in fear of being one of those women in her (very early) 40s who still dresses like a kid and doesn’t realize she looks like an idiot. It’s one of the reasons I read More magazine, so I see what someone my age is supposed to look like. I think I’m supposed to look like Mariska Hargitay—elegant, pretty, classy, sane. Can you picture her wearing a pair of Chucks, skinny jeans and a t-shirt with Ms. Pac-Man on it? You cannot.

I’m sure Mariska doesn’t shop at Urban Outfitters, and I shouldn’t either*. But I recently found—thanks to a sale rack outside, otherwise I wouldn’t know—that there is one brand of jeans there that fits me perfectly. And when you find the perfect jeans, you must buy them—it’s a rule. I don’t know where the rule came from; I didn’t learn it in English class or anything. I believe it flows from Denim Anxiety: If I don’t buy this pair of jeans, I might never find jeans that fit me again. Every woman I know has 30 pair of jeans, and only one or two that she actually likes. It’s pathological.

My Urban Outfitters jeans, though perfect, worry me because I fear they read too young. Today I was walking through the Drexel campus and a girl stopped me and said, “Excuse me, are you a student here?” I calmly said no, turned around and gave myself a high-five (which is just clapping, really). I thought, “Wow, I must look pretty great for my age if she thought I was a student.” I blamed and/or congratulated my jeans.

To be honest, it wasn’t just the jeans. Everything I was wearing was quite youthful, given that it had all been purchased when I was a youth. The down vest has a Gap logo from at least four rebrands ago. Whenever I wear it into the store, I pray no employee will recognize it and think, “I can’t believe she’s still wearing our vest from 26.8 seasons ago.” But if anyone ever confronted me, I’d say, “What about you? You’re still working for the Gap!” The fact that I spend most of my time in the store rehearsing this conversation is probably why I never buy anything new.

I can guarantee you Mariska Hargitay, if she wears Gap at all, is current with all corporate branding. I’m very sure she’s not coveting Atari game systems and Pet Sounds albums at Urban Outfitters while the salesperson checks to see if the perfect jeans are in stock in burgundy. I hope that one day I too can proudly shop wherever it is adult women shop (Talbots?) and forgo pseudo-alternative youth marketing once and for all. I just have to stock up on those jeans.

*Yes, smart people, I am completely aware of all the serious reasons—political and cultural and aesthetic and philosophical—that should keep me from shopping at Urban Outfitters. All I can say is: I would like to be a better person than I am.