Reader Question: I’ve thought for several years that we are the most neglected demographic even though we perhaps have the time and money with our children off our hands. I live in Canberra where the shopping is limited. I’m tall and size 14-16; not busty enough for some of the plus-sized clothing. I don’t know why clothing for bigger sizes tends to come in horrible prints and fabrics. I find online shopping for clothing difficult. I can’t be the only larger, older female who can’t seem to find anything much for the casual retired lifestyle.
Dressing stylishly is definitely tougher as we age but certainly not impossible. Fashion for the more advanced women is much more limited due to demand – we have competing interests for our time and money and we already have established wardrobes. However, I have some suggestions to finding clothes that reflect your personality and style choices…
Broaden Your Horizons
There are fewer shopping rules about what to wear and where to shop than previously so don’t limit yourself to any store type or demographic. There could be some great stuff in store aimed at a younger demographic and you’re completely bypassing it. I’d avoid the junior market, aimed at teenagers but anything that is targeted at the 25yrs+ is fair game. There’s no reason why you can’t wear a pair of jeans or a leather jacket if it suits your personality and lifestyle.
There are also lots of options to get fantastic reasonably priced accessories that look great from everywhere from art and craft markets to boutiques to Etsy, Amazon and other online stores.
When you live somewhere where there are limited clothing options, shopping in the online space can be really useful. There are many smaller designers who don’t have the distribution channels to turn up in a store local to you as well as larger retailers that can deliver clothing and accessories direct to your home.
When you shop online, the key to remove any expectation that all the items you purchase are going to work for you. Don’t feel like it’s a failure on your part at all if the colours aren’t what you expected or the cut of the garment isn’t right for your body. You have to treat the clothes as if you were just trying them on in a store. Some will work but the majority will be sent back.
You’ll need to spend some time getting to know the different stores and the types of fabrics they typically use and how they size their clothing. It’s worthwhile reading through the return policies and considering the shipping costs in your budget. As you become more familiar with brands, you’ll learn stores that tend to design clothes that fit your body and the fabric types that you enjoy wearing. Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe and I discuss some shopping strategies and techniques in this video, that you can use when online shopping to ensure that your experience is more productive.
In my opinion, sizes 14-16 Aus/UK (sizes 12-14US/ 44/46EU) are often the hardest size because it’s at the top end of the regular stores and the bottom end of the plus size stores. Be judgemental when you shop, just because you can put it on, doesn’t mean it flatters you. Some stores assume that Plus size women either only want to wear black, or really bright colours – there just isn’t the variety of colour choices. Make sure the colour and style work for you.
Clothing manufacturers are trying to make clothes cheaply and quickly. Often this means cutting clothes straighter rather than curvier. Don’t wear clothing that is too large. It’s common as women get older to get more obsessed with comfort and will choose clothes that are a size too large. This will help you to avoid looking frumpy of matronly.
Alterations are a perfectly valid way to tailor an item to be perfect fitted and comfortable. It could be an bust dart; a shorter hem; taking in a seam to slim down a sleeve or sewing a pocket closed for a sleeker hip line. Knowing your body shape, body proportions and body variations will help you you can figure out which alterations are most useful for you. Being taller and out of the ‘average’ adds an extra layer of complexity as you can’t tailor things to make them longer very easily – I have some suggested retailers for tall women here.
Rate your purchases
Lastly, don’t buy anything you aren’t super excited about. If you have any doubts, you probably won’t wear it. Before you leave the store or rip the tags off an online purchase, rate the garment on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being perfect and 1 being crap. Don’t allow items any space in your wardrobe without being at least an 8. There is no point in filling your wardrobe with those pieces that don’t tick all your boxes.