My darlings, today’s article is written by the lovely Andrea Pflaumer, an author and fashion guru. Andrea has an interesting topic to discuss with us today: What do younger generations think older women want to wear? And what are the stereotypes they have? Let’s hear what they have to say!
Questions About Fashion For “Older” Women
A little while ago I received an intriguing email from two young women. They wanted to interview me, as an older woman who writes about fashion, to discuss an idea they had for a new startup: fashion for older women. Since they each had a track record of success in their area, i.e. fashion-related businesses, I thought it could be an interesting discussion.
When we met they began by asking me a series of questions (I’ll post those and my answers at the end). Then they showed me some images they came up with, based on the surveys they conducted about what older women want in fashion.
A Fashion Disaster
The first slide featured a woman wearing a very boxy, oversized, cropped length, stiff fabric, white tee-shirt type top. It had a round collar, loose sleeves that ended about half-way between her upper arms and elbows. It was worn with a pair of voluminous white knife-pleated ankle-length culottes with an elastic waistband. On her feet she wore sneakers.
It looked like an expensive fashion train wreck. I don’t know any woman, skinny or tall, thin or plus-sized, who would possibly look attractive in that outfit. But it checked several of the boxes that their readers mentioned: mostly natural fibers (although they certainly didn’t look natural), comfortable, and a stretchy waistband.
The second image was of a sweater/jacket from the MMLaFleur catalog: nice, sophisticated, classic style clothes. I personally like that brand and recommend it for older women who are still in the workforce.
As tactfully as possible I pointed out the flaws in the first outfit and in their thinking about the subject of older women in general.
Misunderstanding 50+ Fashion
This is how they misunderstood us. We are not of one “voice” when it comes to what we want to wear. And, we are not all the same size and shape, we never were. We have very different personalities and lifestyles. Some of us will be working until the day we leave this mortal coil. And some of us have retired to tropical climates and live in flowing printed caftans. Some of us were and still are, natural bohemians. Some of us volunteer at the library and the symphony and need clothes for those occasions. And some of us are just hitting our stride at 70!
There was a more important message I wanted to convey because we are modeling for younger generations the upside of what it means to have lived a long life.
Fashionable At Any Age
Our lives in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond are as diverse as life itself. They are as diverse as we all are. And when it comes to what we wear, just because we have lived decades longer, and just because we don’t wear micro-minis or as much sparkle as we once did, our wardrobes still have to be joyous. They have to elevate us emotionally. That’s the power of fashion. We may like comfort, but we don’t want to look dumpy, old, or resigned. We want to be seen. And we want to be seen as relevant and hip. To paraphrase the late wonderful Patrick Swayze: “Nobody wants to be put in a corner.”
So here’s what they asked me, with my answers following.
Why do women most often come to see you?
They know what they like and look good in but they often don’t know how to work with their colors and style at this stage of life. It just demands only slight adjustments to what they always wore and loved.
What are the top misperceptions about fashion you hear from women above the age of 50?
There is nothing out there for them. The truth is that they just don’t know where to look. Ignore the age of the models showing the clothes. If the items themselves speak to you and work for your coloring and style, they work for you too.
Are there items you wish existed that you have trouble finding?
Longer sleeves, better quality, and yes, less polyester. And, of course, comfortable, fashionable shoes that don’t look “orthopedic.”
Is there a Holy Grail piece that you recommend to women in this age group?
Two or three fabulous jackets, blazers, or outerwear pieces to dress up or make their other pieces look more sophisticated, hip, and/or pulled together.
What are some design ideas to help optimize for older women’s bodies: e.g., sleeve length, neckline cuts, materials, fabrics?
Three-quarter length or longer sleeves, all neckline cuts–because different ones work for different women–and again, more natural fibers, less polyester.
How Women 50+ Want To Be Seen
I also did my own research in preparation for our meeting. Here are the words that my readers came up with to describe what they want in clothing and how they want to be seen:
Finally, I asked my 80+-year-old sister, a former actress and now a producer and writer, about the subject. Here was her reply:
“I don’t want (need) to be the coolest thing happening. But I do want to be part of the current world. I want to be seen as relevant. With my new, undyed punk haircut, I have been receiving a lot of comments and compliments.
Staying fashionable means bringing your whole persona to the outfit: your hair, shoes, glasses, and jewelry, such as a great necklace that pops. Accessories are crucial. Add those few little dashes and you’ve got it.
It really is as simple as that.”
What kind of clothing do you want or like to wear? Let us know in the comments below. We want to hear from you!
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of two books: the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
She does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. Her free course, Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe is available on GoHighbrow. Andrea hosts two video series: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. She interviews women in the areas of fashion, beauty and wellness on her Shopping for the Real You YouTube channel. She is a regular contributor to several national and international publications for women over 50 and is presenting an online class this November through the American Institute of Image Consultants.