I was a pretty girl back in ’75, when hair was brown and skin was dewy. I had long straight locks, a clear complexion, and liked wearing a bathing suit top with cutoffs at Orchard Beach near where I grew up in the Bronx.
In 2022 Manhattan, I’d rather reminisce wistfully about my “hot girl summers” than participate in the new sartorial trend: Coastal Grandmother, which style mavens tell us we need not live on a coast or be a grandma to enjoy; just have an affinity for loose-fitting linen clothing, aka a chill elderly style.
These people have probably never met women of a certain age who come from NYC. Even those who are actually grandmas don’t want to be called out as such, coastal or otherwise. The look has also been called “Martha Stewart adjacent,” yet the poster child for the aesthetic responded to being cited as a CG with a simple, “Not really.”
Now I’m no stranger to linen wide-leg pants. I have a few pairs in my closet that are my breezy warm-weather go-to but they’re never coupled with an equally baggy, tucked-in linen button-down, as well as straw Panama hat and tote. This look screams “frump” — except if you’re young.
I recently saw tall, slender and beautiful Anne Hathaway embracing the trend. She looked kitschy and fun — a little Annie Hall-ish actually. The TikTok creator Lex Nicoleta, who coined the term, can only be described as young, blonde and glamorous.
No one would mistake either one of them for a real granny in body-hiding clothing; no matter what you wear when you look like them, a youthful glow comes through.
Those who are reporting and following this style craze keep bringing up Diane Keaton in the Nancy Meyers movie “Something’s Gotta Give.” What many have failed to notice is that even though her famous, rich playwright character has a massive beachfront property, Keaton’s “Erica Barry” is not living her best life (no, not even that house.)
Her ex-husband is marrying a woman who is two years older than the couple’s 31-year-old daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) and despite Erica’s enviable figure, face and hair, she hides in her baggy wardrobe, even wearing turtlenecks in the middle of summer because, like the late Nora Ephron, she feels bad about her neck. Plus, there’s a small matter of her potentially career-ending writer’s block.
As soon as she starts dating the 36-year-old Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves) and having sex with Jack Nicholson’s “Harry,” her usual self-conscious ensembles are replaced by a slinky, black, V-neck dress. The turtlenecks go the way of Goodwill as well. As soon as she started feeling good about herself, the last thing she wanted was to look like a coastal grandmother.
According to Stitch Fix, older women “are redefining life in their 60s. This is no time to turn into a wallflower (like the mother-of-the-groom who shows up in beige) or become bogged down by limited options. This is a decade of distinction and self-expression, tempered by the grace and wisdom that only a 60-something woman can possess.” The site recommends patterns, colors, and paying attention to details as well as tempering trends with the timeless classics.
This epitomizes many fashionable Upper East Siders like me who have passed the 50 mark. Many look younger than our years because due to keeping hairstylists, dermatologists, personal trainers and such busy, we’re trying to dispel the image of older women sporting buns, dentures, and rocking chairs.
Then there are the women who, unlike me, really go hardcore taking the Christie Brinkley route. They can be seen on our streets as well as on Instagram with a quick search of the words like “60 & fabulous,” “silver” or “grey.”
You will find these post-menopausal beauties indeed dressed in flowy linen pants, but paired with tank tops to show off their still sinewy arms. If they’re wearing loose-fitting linen button-downs, the shirts are open and over a bikini.
To all those especially young people who continue to follow the Coastal Grandmother phenom, a few words of advice: buy an iron. Linen wrinkles like, well, a Botox-free grandmother.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the new novel “The Last Single Woman in New York City” (Heliotrope Books, 2022).