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.
Thank you for this post! I will spend some time going through the links you provide. Though I am only 41, much resonates. I am a US 10-12-14 (I usually wear a10-12 in bottoms and 12-14 in tops). I agree that it is a very difficult size to shop for, as most manufacturers seem to cut skimpily in regular women’s clothing (cutting more to a 12 than a 14 in a garment that is supposed to fit 12-14), but plus size clothing is generally always too big for me. I am only 5’6″ but have longer legs and need at least a 32″ inseam, which is hard to find at some retailers as well, especially given that ankle length pants have been so popular lately.
You are exactly in this tricky spot! And I like to think that age shouldn’t define our style too much!
Dear Imogen , a brand I would recommend for women in the size 14+ range is Punto Roma. They have great clothes. Thank you for all your great advice. XXXX
This was such a wonderful reader question and your tips are so great as well! I am in my 40’s and while I don’t have much trouble finding things I love anywhere I shop, I do fall into that very troublesome size range of 12-16. Regular sizes often don’t fit my bust and plus sizes are often to large everywhere else. And yet, it seems that a large majority of women fall into this size range. So I always find it strange that this size range is so difficult. Thanks for sharing your tips and linking with me.
So annoying – yet I’m sure there are millions of women with the same issues! Why won’t they manufacture clothes for all women?
I’m 72 and sometimes find it hard to “dress my age”, since I actually wear a size or so smaller than I did when I was younger! (size 0/1 jeans)…. We go to a resort between Cancun & Tulum, Mexico, 3x a year and my tip is to buy lots of tankini mix ‘n match tops & bottoms. SO much more comfortable than a 1-piece! …. also, stretch jeans that have a mid-rise (an inch or 2 below your belly button, usually 7-1/2″-8″ rise) are much more flattering than high rise (to the waist), which tend to “pouch” out at the zipper when you sit down.
Imogene, I, too, have had questions about dressing stylishly for readers who are in plus and similar sizes. Since nobody is excluded from being stylish, I appreciated your advice to this reader. Thanks for linking up!
My mum is in her 70s and I try to encourage her to keep an open mind about where to shop. She once refused to go into a Zara store with me because she felt it was too young and modern for her. You just have to search out the pieces that you can work with and disregard the rest. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a shopping rut. Thanks for linking up!
Try shopping at Jjill.com..where I buy the majority of my clothing. In addition, when you buy the bottom, a top will match! The website will offer returns, easily. Also, Coolobar.com for summer swims/ dresses. From a 72 yo old plus size gal..heart!
Thank you very much for your blog. It describes me perfectly. I’ve been searching for some ideas to update my casual wardrobe and to develop a style that fits a 70+ retiree size 12-14! I can find size 8 models over 60 all decked out like they are going on a cruise or on the other hand an older women with baggy trousers and a cardigan (definitely not my style!). I’m not putting on a scarf, a necklace and a drapey sweater or changing handbags — I don’t care what size I am. That’s just too many pieces to deal with on a day to day basis, just cooking, gardening, and running errands. I’m going to follow your links and subscribe. Thank you again.
Glad you’ve found some useful tips here Patt!
How can women dress their outfits at age 70, like wearing their pants with their belt or without belt?
I’m unsure of your question – belting or not belting is based on the individual and their body and style – women over 70 can dress their outfits the same way women under 70 can – there is no specific style rules for the over 70s
Ok, cause some women I see wear jeans without belt, neighbor never wears belt with her jeans, her undies show.
Should she wear her belt?
I think it’s more to do with the size of the jeans or needing a longer top – maybe she needs smaller jeans that stay up without a belt, or she can wear a belt if she wants – but some people find belts uncomfortable.
Will the belt help stay her jeans up? cause my neighbor Mrs.Ky never wears belts.