So there I was.. browsing the clothing racks at a well known boutique chain at the local mall. I was really just hoping to find some cute tops and a few pairs of pants that would make me feel better about my problem areas.. And let me assure you – as the years go by, everyone, regardless of how much we exercise and diet, has problem areas.
Let me start by saying that I don’t expect to have the same body I had at 25, or 35 or okay even 40.. but the past few years have ushered in some body changes that are just plain baffling.. Arm cellulite. Saggy knees. Crepey skin. Underarm bra spillover.
Sidebar: Can I just say that the next salesgirl who tries to sell me one of those poor excuses for a bra (aka the “bralette”), is in for a lecture on the importance of a really good underwire..
And there’s more.. The ever expanding waistline. Back fat. Belly bloat. As many of my similar age friends can attest, the return of the high-waisted pant has definite benefits. Muffin top be damned! When your waistband is two inches below your bra line, it’s entirely possible to avoid any overhang.
Back to my little shopping excursion… After perusing several displays of off the shoulder tops, strappy little dresses and other looks that usually don’t work for me, I settled on two tunic length tees, a pair of green capri pants and some cropped jeans. Pretty basic, but that’s me..
I felt good about my choices as I chatted with the 30 something sales associate who rang me up. She’s one of those sales associates who is refreshingly helpful and will tell you when certain styles just aren’t working for you and then bring some options that you actually want to wear out of the store. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve done that more than a few times!
Which got me to thinking.. We could all use some helpful guidelines for dressing well without looking like:
- A middle aged woman who’s given up on figuring out what’s age appropriate and looks good, and therefore settles for the same old tired styles currently hanging in her closet.
- A middle aged woman trying to look 25, or:
- The ubiquitous fashion victim who will wear anything that’s trendy, regardless of how uncomfortable it is or how ridiculous it looks.
And so, dear reader, I decided to call upon the expertise of my good friend who also happens to be a fashion consultant and asked her to collaborate on some basic guidelines to dressing stylishly and appropriately whatever your age.
Her first comment was “know your body type”.
Are you tall or short? Curvy or straight? Fit, or not so much? Seems obvious, but a lot of us try to wear styles that just don’t fit our God given body type. We all need to accept and dress to flatter the body we have. Working with a fashion consultant (or a good friend who’s fashion savvy) can certainly help.
Her next point was that there are some styles that have earn the reputation of “no go” that really can work. Case in point: horizontal stripes.. yes, horizontal stripes done right (scale, garment style, fabric, color, etc) can in fact be very flattering. So before nixing a certain style, give it a try. There are many similar examples; prints, bright colors, jumpsuits, etc.. Try before you nix!
And one of my favorites.. Quality trumps quantity. When in our twenties, it may make sense to buy lots of cheap, trendy outfits.. from past experience with a college aged daughter, I can say that sometimes “disposable clothing” makes sense.. But as we get to our middle years, quality fabrics and a well cut style is flattering and confidence building.
I’d rather have a small, well cultivated wardrobe of high quality pieces than a closet packed with impulse buys that get often get donated after one wearing. Which leads me to the next point:
Be selective. Don’t buy things that really aren’t “you” or trends that make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. I have more than a few “regrets” in my closet.
And this is why it’s so important to shop at stores that offer good customer service, meaning sales clerks who are not too pushy, but available when you need them, who give honest feedback and and don’t roll their eyes when you leave a pile of clothes in the dressing room and walk out without making a single purchase. And honestly, who hasn’t had that experience?
Everyone has their “go to” shopping destinations. Here are some that I’ve had good service along with good finds:
Cabi: This is a home shopping with a fashion consultant. Cabi clothing is beautiful and timely. Clothing is well made. Price points are a little higher than some stores but still very worth it. I’ve loved every Cabi piece I’ve purchased. www.cabionline.com (or message me for a referral to my Cabi consultant).
White House Black Market: Excellent customer service and a wide variety of options for work, casual daywear and dressy occasions. A good place to find a fun weekend outfit with a little flash. This was the subject of my recent shopping foray. www.whitehouseblackmarket.com
Soma: For bras, undies and sleepwear. Their “cool nights” pajamas are amazing. I can’t leave the store without buying a new pair and replenishing my supply of “no show” underwear. And they are always there with a handy measuring tape should you need to verify your bra size. www.soma.com
Evereve: A somewhat trendy boutique chain – they focus a bit more on young mom styles but I’ve found some great tops and jeans. The staff is friendly and helpful and the company also offers “TrendSend” – a service where a stylist sends you outfits based on an online profile you fill out. If you’ve tried one of these services and have feedback (good or bad) – I’d love to hear it! www.evereve.com
Soft Surroundings: I discovered this store/catalog a few years ago. A lot of their styles are oversize/tunic/lounge-wear with a leaning towards resort style. They definitely cater to the retired set but I’ve found some fun wardrobe additions. They also carry shoes and skincare, make-up and even bedding and household accessories. Their quality is not always consistent which is why I prefer to purchase from their stores instead of online. Plus, the staff are always friendly and helpful. www.softsurroundings.com
So there you have it.. my take on dressing stylishly in the middle years.
One final piece of advice..
Find your style and wear it with confidence.
There’s only one you and no matter what the “fashion rules” dictate, when it all comes down to it, you have to be comfortable and confident about what you’re wearing.
Here’s to ageless dressing!