Grandma Style: It’s a Dirty Word

I had an interesting experience last week and the longer I reflect on it, the nastier it feels. If you’ve read me for any length of time you won’t be surprised that when I feel angry about something I like to share a small rant here and get your opinion on it.

I spent several days at a business event with women who were all younger than me. That’s not unusual in my business but it can be unnerving. Most were in their 30’s, some in their late 20’s and one or 2 may have been in their 40’s or 50’s.

We shared a panel to discuss style and fashion in a shopping environment. As the conversations progressed I started tallying how many disparaging remarks were made about “grandma” style. It was made to sound like a fate worse than death.

A dinner conversation turned to how adamant some of their mother’s were that they are never called grandma…ever. They’d chosen other names like Mimi, Gigi, Glamma, etc instead.

When did grandma and granny become offensive titles worthy of contempt?

And just what does grandma style look like? These ladies were talking about frumpy, that dreaded term none of us aspire to. They were categorizing it based on age which is pretty stupid because I’ve seen plenty of frumpy young ladies in my time.

Being young doesn’t mean you’re more stylish or hip. It simply means we’re coming from different places and you’re less experienced. You can may wear higher heels, shorter skirts, and tighter garments but that doesn’t make you superior and it doesn’t make me frumpy.

Even Tim Gunn takes pot shots at grandma style which I find pretty assinine and yet…we all have an image that flashes up when we hear it. Mine is not negative, but then I’m a proud granny and dress with confidence. I’m not offended by the term grandma or granny and hate to hear it being used as an insult.

How about you?

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What do you picture when you hear the term Grandma style? Is it what your grandmother wore? Is it what you wear? Is it frumpy? Is it insulting?

Thanks for reading ladies and as always, I’d love to get your take on this.

 

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149 Comments

  1. I’m proud to be Mamaw to 5 grandchildren. My 15 year old granddaughter tells me I’m trending. Makes me happy.

  2. When I think of Grandma, I think of individuals, including my mother,my grandmas and my great-grandma. Each of these women had her own individual style, and they always looked stylish within their own means. I don’t like to type cast anyone in any way and prefer to be interested in who she/he is. Having recently joined the 3/4 century club, I am grateful for your column, which gives me creative ideas, and for living in an era where I can freely choose comfortable, stylish clothing that I feel good in.

  3. I have to admit that I am guilty of using that term, looking like a grandma, when I really meant frumpy!!!(and I’m a 67 year old, very proud to be Grammy) You are so right! Thank you, for Speaking up. I will no more use that term.

  4. I am 60 years old, grandmother of 12, great grandmother of 2 and I am proud to be called grandma. I do not dress frumpy but dress what I like to think is classic. I want to always look put together not like it is an after thought when I go out the door. I don’t do it for others I do it for myself. Except for a few times when I have been ill, I get up everyday and put on my makeup and dress in an outfit that was thought about beforehand even if I am going out to rake leaves. This is my time of life to do those things that I want to do and I want to look and feel confident while I am doing it. If anything I am more interested in fashion now then when I was younger and had less time to think about it. I follow the trends and if they are appropriate I buy a piece or two. My heels might be lower now but my confidence is not. As for those grandkids, there is nothing sweeter than hearing those voices call me grandma. They can call me anything they want as long as they still call me.

  5. I am turning 70 on my next birthday. I am reasonably fit and in shape. I have a good sense of style and willingness to put some effort into my appearance. That kind of attitude has been my style all my life, no matter my age. I must admit that I, too, referred to older women as having “old lady” style….’gramma’ style. I need to change my terminology.

    Age doesn’t determine one’s style sense at all. It’s time society, each and every one of us, recognizes that.
    Style sense is ageless!

  6. This made me laugh! I am in my early fifties with younger children. Most of my friends already have a grandchild or two. I figured by the time I have grandchildren, I want to be called grandma! HA!

  7. I am an extremely proud 63 year-old grandma of four with two more on the way who loves to be called “Grandma” or “Ammaw” by our grandson wh can’t pronounce Gs yet. I try to dress stylishly as I always have and enjoy fashion and syle. I enjoy receiving compliments on my style. Many people are ignorant about age as they are about race, ethnicity, religion, etc. It is interesting that those who demand “tolerance” often feel totally free to redicule others’ age and religion. I wish the “Grandma” style comments had been addressed, but the “tolerant” intoleratnt may not have taken it well.

    I truly enjoy your blog.

  8. Ohh… steam is coming out my ears now! I’m with you, Jennifer. I may not be a granny, but I am of of that age group, and if some young thing disparaged me, and my style, in that way, I’d blow a gasket!

    We are stylish (not trendy), comfortable (not frumpy), confident (don’t need to dress sexy to be admired), experienced, wise, and appreciative of quality. We do not have to prove or empower ourselves by putting others down.

    And those of us who are in this age bracket will understand when I say “I am WOMAN, hear me roar..”

  9. Well spoken. I understand completely. I believe your comments reflect what many of us feel. The term “Granny Style” has indeed become a derogatory term.
    To me “Granny Style” is head to toe polyester, ill fitting undergarments, a pullover knit top that is too short before it rolls up in your fleshy rolls, tee shirts with cute little things embroidered on the front, blouses that look like the maternity smocks of the old days, someone who doesn’t dress in their color range of flattering colors, with a 20 pound purse full of JIC’s (just in case items), and SAS like shoes.
    In full disclosure: I will soon be 74, I am a larger person. I am very healthy and walk daily at a quick pace. Get frequent compliments on my grey hair. I am not what some people would call stylish because I don’t dress in fads and am careful with trends. Classics are my preference. My everyday style is “neat and clean” but I enjoy stepping out of my box and dressing up in what is attractive and best for me.
    .

  10. Maybe you should suggest to the meeting plannners of these events that there should be one session on proper terminology. Singling out older women is in poor taste. I am a grandmother who reads blogs written by young women but know what is age appropriate. And while you are making suggestions, a grammar session would help many of them improve their writing skills.

  11. I understand exactly how you feel and even wondered (when I saw your IG story, I think it was), how you were faring in a ‘young’ crowd. I’m glad you went as a stylish rep of our generation! In time those women – if they are lucky – will grow to be our age and will feel exactly as we do when others disparage them simply because they are of a certain age. Karma. 🙂

  12. Don’t get me started. I’m honored and lucky to be a grandma. I don’t think I’m frumpy at all. But if I were I earned it. How dare anyone put me down. I’ve heated even oprah disparage grannies. I get furious. So with you jennifer.

  13. Boy, am I glad I’m seventy years old and have some common sense and consideration. Did these young upstarts explain what they meant by “granny” style or were they just parroting what someone else said? Frumpy isn’t necessarily a label for the gals who are of a certain age or have grandchildren. As for the term frumpy, I totally agree with you…I have seen some “really, did you look in the mirror?” outfits on younger gals. Actually, that attitude is really rich since Pinterest and the internet show young women dying their hair gray. I am very proud to be called Mamaw. Do these women really fear aging so much they are trying to disguise it by choosing a cutesy name instead of what they actually are? I share your indignation and I wasn’t even there…ha! This post should start a good discussion. Have a lovely weekend. xoxo

  14. Hi Jennifer,
    A quick share.
    I attended a “Cher” concert in August.
    She is amazing!
    In her opening monologue, she discussed her career, where she started and where is she now. Also, the fact that she is 71 years old. The crowd started clapping. She stopped them. “It is what is , referring to age, glad to be here. And then she stated that she had just won a bet that she could hold a plank for 5 minutes.
    Then abruptly turning on her heel and heading off stage, she said over her shoulder, “AND WHAT IS YOUR GRANNY DOING TONIGHT?”
    As you can imagine the crowd when wild!

    Referring back to your group, What was their Granny doing that day?
    We all know one Granny who was right in the middle of the group, keeping up with them every step of the way!
    Congratulations , Jennifer for being an inspiration!

    “WHAT’S YOUR GRANNY DOING TONIGHT? ” has become my new mantra.

    One proud Nana, (my boys other Grandmother is Grandma because she had grandchildren first)

    Rosemary Davis
    Distinctly Southern Style

  15. Jennifer, I agree with you that “granny” style infers frumpy; I used to work on a college campus, and let me tell you — frumpy was rampant among the students (how else can you describe it when they wear pajama pants and tee shirts to EVERY class). I’m a proud new Nana and I hope my granddaughters remember me as fun, fit, and fashionable:).

  16. Amen!!! I have 2 step daughters with children, so I knew I would be last to be “labeled”. When it got to me, I was “Grandma”. Yea!!!! All other mothers chose those play words and I was thrilled that I could be Grandma. That’s a proud and wonderful person to be!

  17. I’m not sure what “grandma style” is supposed to look like. I think of my mother. She was close to 90 when she passed away. She was a tall slender mother of six ,as well as a grandmother and great-grandma of several. She always dressed stylishly yet in comfortable clothes. Her friends also dressed appropriately for whatever they were doing. Age has nothing to do with style!

    I love the way you dress so keep your blog going and showing what you are wearing. I take inspiration from you.

  18. Hi Jennifer, in my experience, people don’t suddenly change as they age. Women with style, stay stylish. Frumpy young women become frumpy older women.
    I can remember as a child thinking, “at what age do women start carrying Grandma purses and wearing Grandma shoes, etc, etc”. I thought there was this scary moment in time when everything automatically changed. Stylish mentors were few and far between in my life.
    One of my good friends is in her late 70s. She’s been my style icon forever. She’s probably going to see this since she too follows your blog. She continues to inspire me and since she’s a decade older than me I know for a fact we don’t suddenly turn into frumps. She has a great granddaughter, is not afraid of being called Grandma, and will inspire that generation too.

  19. I was thrilled when my first grandchild called me Nannie. I find that dressing classy makes me feel good and shows that I have happy with this wonderful time in my life. You are so right that there are certainly younger women that dress frumpy. Don’t you find that our younger generation look down on us and have no respect. I admire your sense of style and look forward to all the wonderful and stylish outfits you share and great advice you pass to all of your readers. Thank you and you are a beautiful Grandma!

  20. Great post. I turn 70 today, so yes this is on my mind. What my friends mean when we label something Gramma Style is how OUR grandmothers would have looked. And then we have a riotous conversation comparing ourselves and our wardrobes, makeup, and perfume to what our grandmothers wore. I remember Evening in Paris Perfume and nylons rolled up into garters. And that was when she was in her 50s! So much has changed. Her image is always floating in the back of my mind. I am 70, but sweet as she was, you’d never mistake us.

  21. I am a very proud Grandma who loves fashion and loves to dress. I dress for myself and nobody else. I wear clothes that are classic in style, timeless, but with a bit of an edge. I dress to make me feel confident & polished and I don’t care what others think. At this point in my life, 64, I do what I want to do and what makes me feel good!

  22. I am well into my 50’s and I try to be stylish. I am surrounded by women of many ages that are supportive and positive. I remember when I was young and my grandmother was alive, she was not the frumpy one. She couldn’t leave the house without her hat, jewelry and bag just so. Now, the hat may have been one that she crocheted and the jewelry not expensive but she put out an confident attitude with what she had. That’s how I want to present myself. And when its time for me to be called “Grandma” (no hopes yet), I will be very proud. Thank you for helping to encourage confidence and promote style for us experienced ladies!!

  23. Oh boy, do I hate this term too. Because honestly, nothing looks worse than a woman who tries to dress like a younger woman (we also all know that image, don’t we). Aging has nothing to do with style, you can get it at any age, but it is not related to age. It is related to dressing in a way that is attractive, does the most for you personally, and gives you a sense of confidence. No matter what your grandchildren call you, you can be stylish and confident by choosing clothes that suit you!

  24. I actually wrote Project Runway and Tim Gunn last year about the fact they use “grandma” to define bad fashion designs. I don’t have a problem with FRUMPY, but defaming grandmothers is a whole different concept. Thank goodness bloggers like us are changing that discussion, by encouraging grandmothers to look and feel our best. But we need to support each other and take a stand with younger bloggers and fashion industry professionals like those with Project Runway and tell them to stop using Grandmothers as a description for bad fashion. Shame on them. Shows that they do not understand what is happening with today’s Baby Boomer generation…we are more active, healthier, living longer, and spending money more than generations before us….and we are in style. What would happen if suddenly bad fashion was descriped as “so-millenial.” They would have a cow. Come on grandmothers…let them know we don’t appreciate it or accept it. They should not use us as a way to describe fashion that doesn’t work. Just say it’s frumpy or out of date…that is enough. Leave grandmothers alone!

    1. I am in total agreement with Pamela’s comment here…These millenials need to stop their negative references to grandparenthood…One thing is for certain, most of them will be at this age at some point, and I dare to say that most will be “over the top” grandmothers just like we are!!! Thanks for reminding these younger ladies that we have many fine attributes and disposable income that pays for a LOT of clothing items. All the best to every grandmother (and grandfather) out there!!

    2. Unfortunately, ‘youth worship’ is still a prevalent mentality in American culture, and we all hope that this will evolve to higher order thinking as more Baby Boomers become senior citizens. The “Grandma” comments are also quite sexist, if one thinks about it. The grandfathers are called ‘Silver Foxes’ and we women are to be relegated to ‘Granny style’. Rather than worrying about how one looks in leggings, let us all focus on being Lifetime Learners, growing in experience and worldliness, and impacting society in positive and productive ways. Shuddering at the word ‘Granny’ is simply a reflection of buying into the Youth Worship thinking….Let’s be current, be vital, stay connected, impart our wisdom, and be role models to younger women, but not role models that wear skinny jeans and who insist on being called Gigi….Confidence, style, elegance at all ages, and mostly, growing intellectually are goals that reflect that we will be growing past the highly restrictive ‘worship of youth’…..We shall be ‘wise women of stature, wit, style, and elegance.

  25. One of my grands was tall and slender but wore her hair teased till the day she died. She dressed very fashionably. I can remember her wearing off white trousers, a navy blue sheer striped blouse and loads of bangles to go out to dinner….My other grandmother was very conventional. I am built like her…short and stout…she only wore pants for gardening and made many of her own dresses and suits…I would be fine with dressing like either of them…I am 60 but no grandchildren yet!

    1. I never saw my granny in pants. She paid attention to details with her appearance but was quite subdued. She was confident which is the most important thing.

  26. Thanks for this. I swim with a group of women who are all Grandmas save one. We range 8n age from 65 to 83. One thing I’ve noticed is that we all have our own personal style. And appreciate each other for our individuality. The 83 year old is an aunt who recently went to a family wedding of a granddaughter but was convinced to get a sassier style than the staid grandmother dress from Sears. She chose rainbow colours. Our youngest member who is a Grandma twelve times over always looks pulled together regardless of the occasion and is very fit. The other members fit in between as far as fashion gies and are comfortable in our skins for the most part. I have been told I have a flair for fashion and I think I inherited that from my Mom. Today more than ever we live in a very judgmental society. Good of you to comment on this and make it public.

  27. Yes! I”m a young active grandma at 52 and I have asked the kids to just call me Gran or Granny, because all those other cute names seem like trying too hard. Just this morning I was reminded that in our 20s and 30s we worry what others think of us. In our 40s and 50s and we don’t care what other think of us. In our 0s and 70s we realize no one was thinking of us anyway. It doesn’t matter in the end.

  28. I will be a first time grandmother in December. I will be blessed to be called whatever he chooses to call me. I will wear the name hopefully with class and style.

  29. You are right, there are plenty of frumpy younger women. I have grey hair and I am 65 but I don’t think I’m frumpy, and I stay conscious of that. I do’t overdue it either.

    1. I’m 71 and I’m told I look forty, which is cool. When I was forty I looked twenty….duh. You know why? I eat veggies, fruit, and drink water. I haven’t had a soda in ten years, and I never smoked or boozed. I despise grocery store genocide. I pass by aisle filled with bottles of blue and yellow sodas, packaged garbage, and the processed meats are gross! I gave up chicken years ago and ground beef etcetera. Zombie products for zombies.

      I stick to sleek colors, no floral flour sack colors or plaids, no DENIM! No hats or scarves around the neck. I invest in good leather handbags and shoes, black and darker sleek leggings, boots, sweaters… no short sleeves in the warm weather, no skirts EVER, no dresses. Aim for slim hips and thighs! Granny looks are fine, and my grand son calls me Grand MA and its fabulous, arguing over familial protocol in dotage is delusional.

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