[Reposted from blogher.org] I am 5 feet 2 and for decades I weighed 110-115 pounds. My body (as opposed to me) has always wanted to weigh more and for forty years following puberty, I counted every forkful that went into my mouth to maintain my svelte figure.
Inevitably, the number on the bathroom scale would creep up (I like to cook and I’m good at it). The panic point was 125 at which time I redoubled my exercise efforts, filled the refrigerator with gallons of V8 juice and pared off the excess. It’s not fun to lose weight. I know; I’ve done it dozens of times. But it’s not hard either.
Well, it’s not hard until menopause after which, weight loss requires super-human effort. It is exhausting and, I suspect for many in addition to me, a (non)losing battle. So one day about ten years ago, I wondered what would happen if I stopped thinking about my body size and ate anything I wanted.
Anyone could have predicted it. Tubby would not be an unreasonable description of my new shape. My body settled there and although I ditched the bathroom scale when I stopped counting calories, I can tell from how clothes fit that I don’t gain or lose anymore.
And with that, I have arrived at the point of this post: elder fashion – the ultimate oxymoron and the forgotten woman.
Everything above size 12, even 10, comes with too many flounces, too much trim, an excess of pleats and an abundance of cheap, machine embroidery. Colors are indistinct, ranging in the vicinity of peachy pink and greenish blue, while fabrics lean toward oily-feeling polyester. And style? It is obvious that anyone who designs for elder women flunked out of FIT.
Even shops that cater to hefty women ignore those of us in the upper age groups. The grandmother of “plus sizes”, Lane Bryant, and the more modern shops too have way too many waistlines and belts - not a smart move now that my waistline matches my hips. The spring and summer tops now on display feature see-through fabrics which, although they follow the nude trend for youth in the past few years, are unseemly for a 65-year-old or, at least, this one.
Old standbys from my working days like Nordstrom, Saks, Bloomingdales, etc. carry some clothing for larger women. But they are upsized from styles originally designed in size 0 for those six-foot, emaciated models, and anyone who thinks fashion design knocked off from those to sizes 12 and above are workable doesn’t understand the principles of proportion.
It took a long while of studying it to figure out the problem of older women’s clothing which is this: designers believe older women who have put on weight natural for their ages are the same as younger “plus-size” women. We are not. Our bodies are shaped differently; the weight is distributed differently and what hangs well on a 30-year-old of the same height and weight as I am does not fit me.
No designers are creating clothes for women my age. There is nothing available for older bodies that is smart, stylish and fits well. I know now what would fit well and look good, but not how to create it; it’s not my line of work.
The baby boomers coming up behind my generation will add about 38 million women to the elder population who need more attractive clothing that fits our bodies. Any fashion designer who wants to make a few million, give me a call. You can have my research for free.