The first thing we do on New Year’s Day is put away all the party hats, plastic beads and noisemakers. They will be stored on a shelf in the closet for another year. Nothing in this box seems to age or look anything but perfect for the occasion.

My closet, however, the second item on the to-do list, is open for its annual critical inspection. There are clothes that have been worn and are out of shape or have holes in them. There are clothes that have been in my closet so long that they are out of style. There are clothes that a woman of my age should not wear. And there are clothes that, a friend of mine reminds me, you could wear… but SHOULD you wear?

I have read and heard quite a lot about what women of a certain age should or should not wear. Here are some of the things I believe women would not want to wear:

1-anything that does not fit

2-anything that makes you feel silly

3-anything that is so old that it is seriously out of style

4-anything that does not seem to work for your lifestyle

5-anything that is torn, or has holes in it, and can’t be fixed

While we can’t always afford the high-end styles that we really love, it is the woman, rather than the clothes, that is often talked about as we age. My question is, what does a woman’s age or stage have to do with it? Why can’t a woman wear what fits and feels good to her?

My husband and I took a fabulous three-day trip last year to a spa in the thermal springs region of Costa Rica, far away from the usual tourist destinations. There were no beaches or beach style hotels or restaurants. There was only the constant sound of the rain forest, the rushing of the water over the volcanic rocks and the vapors coming from the hot air escaping the volcano.

I took my bikini that I wore ten years ago on a trip to the beach. It was my way of looking back to fond memories of our early days together.

“That is a good thing to wear with me,” my husband said. “But not the thing to wear with friends or our kids.”

All I heard was…maybe you can, but should you?

“It still fits,” I exclaimed.

“Yes, and you look great for a woman of a certain age,” he replied. “But I can’t wear my old Speedo either.”

I thought about this bathing suit. It fit. It wasn’t torn and didn’t have any holes. It wasn’t out of style. And it certainly fit the lifestyle of the three days, soaking in a pool of hot volcanic vapors and sitting in a vapor soaked sauna. So, what did my age or stage have to do with it? And what does it mean… a woman of a certain age?

A few months later I was enjoying watching the new Star Wars movie with my family, when my six year-old grandson exclaimed, “Grandma, Hans Solo looks really old!”

“Yes,” I told him, “and we are the same age.” I noticed he said nothing about Hans Solo’s or Luke Skyewalker’s clothes.

Princess Leia was no longer the girl in the gold bikini. She was a mature woman who kept her same hairstyle but shed her bikini and donned a flowing robe. Maybe the bikini no longer fit, or made her feel silly, or now seemed seriously out of style. Who, I wonder, chose a costume that caused such outrage and criticism from her former admirers?

I often see an older Judi Dench in romantic roles. And an older Aretha Franklin took the spotlight and rocked the audience the other night in a star-studded performance. Maybe showing the beautiful person inside is the most important role of those clothes in your closet.

It was because awareness comes with this age that I threw away my old hot pants and the lace leggings. My three-inch spiked heels are a thing of the past since I have to be careful of turning my ankle again or hurting my knee. And it is time for me to toss out the short tops that have a hole or two in them and can’t stretch over my skintight jeans. But the jeans are staying. And so is that old bikini.

And you have to be a woman of a certain age to appreciate when to reveal and when to cover up, and that truly …Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.