ELDER MUSIC: Windy Songs
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Non-Existent Elder Fashion

[Editorial Note: I last wrote about this subject five years ago. Due to that post, on Friday I was contacted for advice by a young fashion designer who wants to specialize in fashion for elder women.

That gives me a good reason to repost the story with a few updates. Mostly, nothing has changed in five years.

One big change in women's clothing since 2008, is the disappearance of sleeves and I directly blame First Lady Michelle Obama. As soon as the media swooned over her toned, upper arms, clothing designers ditched sleeves.

So much so, I'm surprised they have left sleeves on winter coats.

Watch any television news program, especially on basic cable, and every one of the women anchors, pundits and reporters – you know, the ones who all have matching hairstyles - also show up sleeveless in every appearance. Summer or winter. Day or night.

There aren't many elder women who want to expose upper arms that tend to sag by age 50 or 60 but designers don't care about us and we have no choice. There are no other clothes.

'Tis the season now for bargains in summer clothes – a good time to buy for next year - but as I peruse the catalogues that pour in, I see more transparent blouses and even pants than much of anything that actually covers a human body.

The euphemism for transparent, by the way, is “gauze.” Perhaps there are so many left over because even younger women don’t want to be seen in public looking naked.

With few exceptions, even with such retailers as Coldwater Creek that supposedly cater to heftier bodies, there are fewer elastic waists on pants than in the past.

When I wrote this post in 2008, I said: “In my case, that means when a pair fits my hips, the waist can’t be closed since mine – and that of many other elder women - long ago expanded to equal the size of my hips.”

Now that I've lost a good deal of weight, the problem is reversed. Although my waist will never be as svelte as when I was 25, it's small enough that if the waistband fits comfortably, there is enough extra fabric through the hips for another pair of pants.

I think, perhaps, there needs to be another sizing mechanism to go with petite, misses and tall that we have for length. Something that measures hip-to-waist ratio.

In blouses and tops, they are enamored of so-called boat necks that lie about two inches below the back of one’s neck. There aren’t many women who don’t get a bit beefy in that area as we get older and it’s not something I want to show off.

And aside from turtlenecks, a large number of sweater styles meant for cold weather are designed with boat and v-necks. Do all designers live in warm climates and not realize we want something cozy around our necks?

Lately, I’ve been buying winter sweaters in the men’s department. The necks are located in the same place as human necks, they hang much more nicely than women’s sweaters and aren’t made with thin, clingy knits.

It is nearly impossible to find a suit that fits an older body. Designers just add fabric for larger sizes without considering differing proportions so that if a jacket fits at the shoulders, it is unlikely to button at the waist. A larger size results in shoulder seams halfway down one’s upper arms while the matching pants or skirt are then baggy.

Lack of thought in design applies to shirts too. Even with the recent weight loss, I like what are called “big shirts” to wear with pants, but those, too, are missing proportion in petite sizes (I’m just under 5’ 2”).

They are so long, I look like an eight-year-old wearing daddy’s shirt. The problem is easy to see (and should be to correct): clothes are originally proportioned for 5’ 8” and above models, and in sizing down for petites, short legs and short waists are ignored.

Another thing: why do the few dresses designed without waists all look like muu-muus of the 1950s – totally shapeless? There are numerous ways to cut and sew fabrics to give some style to dresses without waists, but no attempt is made to do this.

And don’t go telling me to shop in big-size stores or whatever the polite phrase is for fat-girl shops. Those clothes, too, are designed for younger bodies that although they are larger than clothes for skinny girls, are created for young, not old, proportions.

Our bodies begin to thicken about the time we start menopause (our forties for most of us) and although there were more than 52 million women in the U.S. 45 and older in the 2000 census (37 percent of the female population), and millions more now, we are the forgotten women in the rag trade.

One of the ways old people are maligned are with accusations that we lack a sense of style. Don't blame us. It's the fashion industry which has not given one second's thought to how our body shape differs from that of a 17-year-old.

Tomorrow morning, I will be Skyping with the young fashion designer who contacted me. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a whole lot of good information for her to consider from all the different sizes and shapes of elder women who read TGB. Add your comments and requests below.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Splish, Splash


This is the EXACT reason why I have started sewing again. Thankfully I have the skills. I want clothes that FIT and are made how I want them. I get to stay as fashionable as I want.

Plus-size old lady here, and there are plenty of us. In general, there are 2 kinds of fat women. Women with big butts and legs (pears), or women with big stomachs and skinnier legs (apples). I am of the big butt variety.

The watchwords are: camouflage and comfort.

1. I want my flabby upper arms and elbows covered. Three quarter sleeves are perfect.
Don't make the upper arms too tight in the sleeves! Looser sleeves please.
2. I don't want to display my bosom or lots of neckline. I prefer a generous jewel neckline, just not too tight.
3. Elastic waist pants.
4. Evening dresses that are mid-calf, simple, flattering camouflage (see above). We can dress them up with jewelry.

The sleeveless really bothers me, too. I now layer (when going out in public!) with a sleeveless top and a blouse with sleeves.
Tell the fashion designer we need pants that are the right length - I am 5'2" also and wear capris all summer, but regular length pants are much too long and petites are often, as you noted, poorly proportioned and do not fill well.

My waist is the same size as my hips as well, so with pants it's not necessary to make the hip and thigh measurement so much larger in proportion to the waist. It gives the appearance of a clown costume. I was never much of a seamstress, but if my eyesight were better, would give it a try again. The sleeveless look is not for me either so the new thin cardigans do come in handy for that problem.

I too am a plus size elder. But unlike many of the previous generation, I am 5' 9". Pants that fit an average sized person are water walkers on me.

Necks and scarves. So glad they are still in fashion. Sleeveless look, no thanks. Cap sleeves, yes, 3/4 sleeves, yes too. Cardigans...a wonderful solution. I thought clothes as well as counter tops were still designed for the 5' 6" woman.

Yes, Some of the top designers make clothes for "women" too. Eileen Fisher's things fit me really well....or would if I were richer. No, I won't wear the JC Penney polyester fat-lady look. Yes, too, I own a good sewing machine and know a lady who does good alterations. Give me linen, cotton, and wool's any time. I ruin silk.

I hope these are tips your young fashion designer can use. Great article, thanks

T shirts that don't show skin at the waist when I raise my arms. I almost have to shop for t-shirts in men's wear because women's are so short. And tops In general (shirts, blouses, sweaters) that aren't constructed to force me to show cleavage. I'm 66 years old for crying out loud, not interested in showing cleavage at this point in my life. Particularly in professional duds. I only recently retired from working in education, and for years it's been difficult for me to find attractive tops to wear that were also appropriate to wear around kids, teenagers, and young adults.

Thank you for providing me a forum to vent about this. It's been a pet peeve for years.

Very good points, Ronni, et. al.

If I were at my ideal weight, I would still wear a size large. Since that isn't the case, I often fall at the cusp of Misses and Women's sizes. Depending on what I'm looking for, I look in the Women's wear and am aghast at the difference in styles. All at once the styling goes bonkers to large gaudy prints with very little flattering to the female physique. Yikes!

I would appreciate adjustable waists on skirts (long to hide veiny legs) and on pants. The adjustment should be generous enough to accommodate tummy size matching or greater than hips. Does elastic drive anyone else crazy? I mostly wear casual pants that are hip-huggers. Their tops tend to be larger than those fitting the waist. Also, why can men buy pants with varied inseam lengths and women can't? I'm just on the border of Petite, so regulars are too long and petites show my ankles.

Please -- more dresses and skirts that reach just below knee or mid-calf. Not only more flattering to older legs, but revealing thighs and twats works better on the beach and in the bedroom.

I'm just going gripe. No solution. Often I have found the larger sizes have longer sleeves as well!? I'm still tall and long waisted and nothing has ever fit me correctly thin or fat. Sewing had been my refuge, but that's getting hard now I hate the ugly prints out there. And there is no style to most clothing any longer, tucks, decent shoulder cuts, darting, I'm sure it's cheaper for manufacturers. My favorite Chic elastic waist jeans starting being made shorter in the legs a couple of years ago, the next size up is long enough but is too big everywhere else. Even Landsend has changed their sizes, now smaller than the same size item hanging in my closet. And the fabric is flimsier. And clothes for older figures, nada.

Quality is also an issue.....a catalog my mom & I have used for years has steadily diminished in quality. Remember when you could wear something "good" last a few years? Now you're lucky if you get a few months. Sad. Dee

Duluth Trading Co sells longer t-shirts. I'm starting to have my simple clothes made or remade from things that don't fit. It is almost impossible to find pants that fit so when I do I buy a few. Lee Jeans have been good with the side elastic and some Woolwich cotton pants for summer. I'm a pear but my waist is expanding so maybe someday I'll meet in the middle. Gudrun Sjoden is a Swedish designer making lovely things with all ages and sizes as models on her site. If I lived in a city I try them.

I feel lucky I've never cared too much about clothes, and always favored the classic tailored 'big shirt and pants look', and I'm lucky to find things I like at thrift stores. I'm a pear shape. Erika brand pants at Fred's fit me well too, and I generally pick them up for under $20. Why do I need new clothes now that I'm retired? My old work clothes will provide me dressier fare whenever needed...which is almost never.

Thanks for this opportunity to comment. I am tall and skinny, and I've found that designers seem to think that the taller you are, the fatter you are. I used to buy most of my pants at LL Bean, but recently they decided that their tall sizes should start at size 8 (I wear size 6). I wrote to complain, told them I'd bought thousands of dollars worth of clothing from them over the years, but it didn't do any good.

Now I'm at a loss to find tall sizes almost anywhere. I need a 33 inch inseam, but worse than the leg length on regular pants is that they are too short in the rise for me, making them very uncomfortable to wear. My plea to designers would be to sell women's pants by measurement rather than flat size. For men's, it's waist and inseam; women's could be waist, hip and inseam.

As for tops, the things that bug me are the low cut necklines and the flimsy material. It seems to me that everywhere I look, women are showing cleavage. Apart from the fact that I am too thin to have any cleavage to show off, low-cut necklines aren't warm enough in the damp Northwest, where I live. The flimsy materials aren't warm enough, either.

I know that many older women like elastic waists, but I find them uncomfortable. What I do like are waistlines the industry refers to as "classic," meaning they fall just a little bit below your waist so that they don't accentuate a protruding tummy, which I have, despite my thinness.

I rarely wear skirts or dresses, but when I do, I'd like a length just below the knee. These days they seem to be either way above the knee or way below.

Finally, these new skinny jeans may be great on young bodies, but they are not for me. I love the "boot cut" look with a trim thigh and a slight flare at the hem. Please don't stop making those!

Tell your designer friend: no boat necks; a loose crew neck is good; no sleeveless; 3/4 sleeves are great;dresses that are well below the knee; larger or adjustable waists. I am a sewist, so I adjust the high back of everything to account for the "dowager's hump" some of us have. The only remedy for pants length is a sewist on hand to adjust them. Even young people have that problem. She should not use standard pattern designs to work from, but design her own.

I found the perfect dress from a catalog company that sells travel clothes. Short sleeves, elastic waist, long enough. And in a lovely shade of blue.
I don't have trouble finding clothes to fit, now that the larger size I wear is standard. Same for shoes. Once upon a time I was confined to wearing whatever fit, whether I liked the style or not, but now I can get whatever I want.
My husband has more problems, actually, especially finding jeans to fit. He might consider suspenders. I'm working on him about that.

I've just about given up on finding stylish clothes that fit. I generally wear men's T-shirts in pleasing colors, or polo shirts. I can wear a neck-scarf with a T-shirt, one of which I modified by putting buttons with loops on the lower outside edge near the cuff. I like the look, not so baggy, so may do it to more of them.

There's an old tailor in Cheong-ju who makes martial-arts pants in the traditional way, with wrap-around ties at the waist and frog closures at the ankles, so that they "blouse" attractively. He put in pockets for me.:-)

As I age, my already short-waisted shape is shorter. I've lost about an inch in my spine length. Waist and hips measure the same as my bra girth, at age 71.

I would like to see contemporary colors and attractive prints (more than florals), in addition to agreeing with what others have suggested.
I use scarves for cover-up, to add design & "pop," at times also to hide a stretching bosom button.
Also use cargo/loose capris with light elastic at waist and below knee (for exercising, too). Some good ones at Garnet Hill this month.

Excellent article!
I hope your young designer can help us find more age appropriate ( and better cut)clothes.
Please keep us updated on this. Thanks

Sleeves please! As noted above, the upper part should be roomier. I prefer 3/4 but will wear a short sleeve IF it is roomy.
Petites fabric should have small prints please!
I have resorted to purchasing slightly long capris because I don't have to hem them--they fit as a full length slack.
LLBean now has a relaxed fit polo shirt that has a good fit.
I prefer collars that sit up on the neckline, not the ones that will only lie flat.
A good look in dresses for me is a 3/4 sleeved, loose fitting cropped top that comes to the elasticized waist, with the skirt falling straight down and just below the knee, all in one solid color. A matching belt completes the look.
Another nice look is that of the classic St John knit suits and pantsuits. There are some knock offs of this look-fitted, solid colors, etc that can be found but I wish there were more!! But even the St John's get silly at times, especially with over large or strange looking buttons and zippers. My mother changes out the buttons to fit her extremely petite size. BTW she last purchased some of these suits at least 8 years ago and most of them even longer ago. She wears
them daily rotating through her wardrobe. So QUALITY does make a
Difference in the fabric!
I hope this helps!

I lost 40 pounds mostly due to pneumonia a few years ago and am now the same size I was in high school -- 5'3", 125 lbs., with a short waist and small breasts. Nothing fits me anymore except clothes that were meant for 14-year olds!!

I now suffer fits of melancholy over the no-longer-existing "Junior" sizes that used to fit so well -- anyone remember sizes 9,11,13 that were so good for short women??? I was never so delighted as I was in the 1950s when two-piece skirts and matching blouses came into style -- you could buy two different sized top and skirt and they still matched!

Now I have resorted to buying Boys size large T-shirts and sweaters -- they fit better than girls/women's clothes do, and believe it or not, the quality is better!

Where or where are clothes to fit us smaller women!? The "Plus" sizes in more mature styles all start at 1X which is a 16, I believe, and go to XXXXX. I need 8 to 10s and they just don't make them for us women of a certain age anymore ... at least not in my price range, which is low and lower!! HELP!

I've virtually given up finding a nice pants suit in anticipation of the inevitable day I'll have to show up at a funeral. A dark suit that fits comfortably and attractively on a 5'8" apple-shaped body. For comfort I really need some elastic in the waist, but that usually means the hips and legs will balloon into parachute pants. Ugh!

Cheaper foreign construction is ruining all my favorite brands like Lands End and LL Bean polos. Thinner, "clingier," cheaper fabrics. Short sleeves that used to cover the upper arm are creeping toward being cap sleeves. Skimpy lengths in both tops and pants. (Larger sized shirts should also get longer, but they don't. )

I've often resorted to buying men's outerwear jackets because they have longer torsos and sleeves. Ditto T-shirts and sweats.

I'd gladly pay more for the quality of 10 years ago, assuming I could fit nice fitting garments, but retailers seem to think price is the only selling point.

This post made me remember my grandmother's dresses, sewn for her by my mother--always the same style, just different fabrics--mostly black or black background, dotted swiss in the summer and heavier cotton in the winter. They were just what you all say you want, and they were lovely on her. She was short and a bit thick around the waist and hips; the dresses had short, billowy cap-sleeves, and hung loosely, fitting but not tight thru' the waist. I would wear that style now, at 89, but I have very good luck finding my older-style clothes in thrift shops. I don't want to show my low-hanging bosom & and many scars either, but I'm not self-conscious about my flapping arms--I wear sleeveless, long sheaths all summer long,for comfort, in bright colors, then switch in winter to pants or long skirts with bright-colored high-necked sweaters.

We come in all sizes and shapes so I don't suppose it would be economically feasible to expect a manufacturer to make all the adjustments necessary to fit all individuals, but larger waists would certainly be nice for most of us.

I have another problem. I have to buy all of my clothes on the Internet and I have stopped buying slacks because, although I order the same size from all, some are too short, some are too long, and some stretch so badly that you could get 2 of me in at the day's end. So the idea of varied inseam for women holds a lot of attraction. I hate having to re-hem them.

I found a t-shirt at LL Bean that is just right in hip length, has 3/4 length sleeves and washes well and I bought a different color for each day of the week. It is my uniform now. I can add a scarf to dress it up and that solved my top problem. I must admit it has a V-neck that shows my ugly chest but at my age I don't really care as long as it's comfortable and reasonably attractive.

We need to bring scarves into the limelight. It is amazing how much they can hide and cover and create a sense of style.

If the tees or shirts happen to have sleeves, they are usually cap sleeves which don't help hide upper arms, either. I have found that Lands End has some loose cut tees with regular length sleeves but they are hard to find in stores. Even though I am not heavy, I still have the problem of waists being too tight or cut too low in slacks or crop pants.

OOPS!!!!!!!!!! i ACCIDENTALLY GAVE MYSELF 9 EXTRA YEARS IN MY POST ABOVE--IT HAPPENS OFTEN, FREUDIAN? Or just because the 9 and the 0 are side by side? I'm 80, not 89.

I am just about to the point of buying men's T's for shirts. I am petite and SO SICK of tops which have necks that come down to the *bottom* of my bra line. God in Heaven! No one wants to see my cleavage any more, any me! Right now I'm buying sleeveless vests to wear under "gauzy" tops, or wear a 3/4 length sleeve blouse open over sleeveless tops.

Lee Rider makes a lovely line of *shaped* (darts at bosom and waist!) crisp cotton blouses with 3/4 length sleeves, but the selection of fabrics is limited. I've found only one in my size, a white with a thin blue and lilac striping, but I keep my eyes open for more. This comes from the drier looking as if it has been ironed, which is a huge plus for me!

Pants, I found a great little stretch-waist jean that *fit* perfectly and bought a half-dozen pairs twice. Now the last two pairs are faded and threadbare and they have discontinued them. I can't find another pair of pants which fits to save my life. I have large old surgical incision which starts at the right hipbone, extends to sternum and heads back to the other hipbone. It's over 35 years old but there's nerve damage associated with it and it's sensitive to tight clothing, so waistbands and buttons/zips etc. make me absolutely miserable.

I don't know what I'm going to do other than go nekkid with no knickers! I absolutely hate clothes shopping. It is *torture*.

Another correction to my post: when I said short cap sleeves, I don't mean the tiny ones that barely cover anything. I mean nearly to the elbow, but with lots of fabric so that they drape like a skirt and sort of billow.Hard to find.

Tell your interviewer if she wants to see what's wrong with plus sizes, just walk through any Kohl's. Interesting fabrics and cuts in the younger gal's section, and over in "womens" (plus) what looks like the remnants of cleaning out your granny's closest, who last shopped at Sears in 1963. Come on designers, you all by fabric by the bolt, so I know you have access to good fabrics and flattering colors! What fabric designers come up with these hideous floral patterns and colors and polyesters that are splattered all over "our" department?

While I love Coldwater Creek (outlet or gift card is my ticket in that door though) why do their nicest dresses stop at size 16?

I too started sewing again. Forget buying pants or jeans from a catalog, they MUST be tried on in a store, or sent back with the customer paying the shipping costs.

Avenue doesn't get it right anymore; Dress Barn Woman gets there 50% of the time.

I live in the Washington DC area, and can find almost any store I want within a half hour's drive...but I just don't want to anymore. Remember the joy of shopping for clothes when we were younger? Now it's a nasty chore.

Someone above mentioned Duluth; I started buying their hats and gloves, but their largest size glove is too small for what must be my man-hands. Guess I also have a fat head. So I won't be trying any of their other clothes, that are supposedly sized for "real women doing real work." You see any 200lb women milking cows or driving a dump truck in that catalog?

Don't get me started on clothes . . .

I have gained 15 lbs. since I quit smoking and my jeans don't fit. I was upset as the doc was waxing poetic over my quitting and saying I looked fine and so was my weight.

Needless to say, I am not happy.

I'm petite and sympathize with the lady above who mourned the loss of petite sizing -- 10, 13, etc. I'm 5'2", weight 110, and have a terribly wrinkled neck as well as unattractive upper arms/thighs. I do not want a low-cut blouse/shirt/dress; I love turtle-necks, if they aren't too tight/hot/uncomfortable. I also find that thrift shops are great for finding clothes out-of-date (which often are styles I'm looking for).

It would be great to have inseam measurments for women's pants; that way the jeans/pants wouldn't be too uncomfortable.

You know, I'm sure you've all seen (usually younger) very heavy ladies out in public with flimsy clothing that makes you cringe. I'm talking cut-off jeans riding the butt crack, etc, with a low-cut tank top leaving nothing to the imagination. I always dressed modest, hated anything skimpy. And now as I age, that goes double -- I want comfortable clothing that covers me well.

The best thing I've found for the hot summers in the south (where I live) are skirts that have partial elastic waists. They allow air flow, and look somewhat attractive if they fall midway calf.

Best advice for a designer for older ladies: comfort and attractive clothing. I suppose getting both in a garment is probably too much to hope for.

Dresses that go past the knee or to mid-calf.

Tunic-length tops that cover the hips.

Roomy sleeves that cover ugly elbows.

No low-cut necklines, no flimsy or clingy fabrics.

Looser cuts, easy to get on and off, durable construction.

Plus sizes 3x and above.

Oh my you have hit on such a peeve for all of us! Clothing that fits and is appropriate.

I agree with what has been said - no low-cut necklines, no flimsy or clingy fabrics, sleeves, longer tops and jackets. There are few women of any age who look great in low-cut tight jeans, tight fitting tops.

Sizing has changed (again) in the past couple of years. Comparing simple t-shirts that are a couple years old with one recently purchased, I find the newer are closer fitting through the bust, torso and hips so that I have to go up a size. Then the neck is too large, the waist length (shoulder to waist) is too long, and the shirt itself is too long. Other pieces (shirts, jackets, vests, etc.) follow suit. A larger size around does not mean I am suddenly 4 inches taller. (I find Coldwater Creek very guilty of this.)

We need clothes that fit - where are sizing standards?

Another complaint among all of my friends is that pricing now includes an extra $10 or so for the "plus" sizes and the plus range has gone down a size at least. What used to be regular XL or XXL is now plus size 0X (is that new?) or 1X with the increased price.

OK, maybe they use more fabric. There is no discount for my sister and niece who wear petite size 0 to 2.

I do love Eileen Fisher, but way out of my price range these days.

I could not have captured many of my concerns/issues better than each of you already mentioned.

The only additional request from my pov is tops with long (aka full length) sleeves in a soft but not clingy material. I'm one of those who - per dermatologist order - is nearly forbidden to expose skin to the sun. But gauzy long sleeves are worthless for sun protection (not to mention I don't care for that material). Cap or short sleeves are of no use. Button cuff or tapered sleeves are such a pain being inconvenient (cuff) or impossible (tapered) to push up and pull down for inside/outside variations on warm days.

So for my 3 cents, lol I'd adore solid color tops in a soft yet not saran-wrap clingy material with full length sleeves you can push up over the elbow or pull to the the wrist!

Excellent topic.

**And what a huge market awaits any designer who'll listen and then consider a reasonable price point for such pieces. There are currently significant numbers of women (and there will be many more!)who desire garments that consider these requests and needs.


Please - wide leg pants and jeans, such as was found with Eileen Fisher and J Jill and even LLBean no so very long ago. My problem is large hips with a relatively small waist and very fat legs. I, and many of my friends, simply cannot wear skinny jeans or really any of that stretch stuff. I have been on a personal quest to find loose fitting pants, but alas, to no avail.

I can't say that I like any of the clothes that are on the shelves these days. Like man of the others, I am left going to thrift shops, searching for clothes which might be more my style.

Living in the hot and humid south, turtlenecks and other seriously warm clothes like that are out of the question. I guess that it's time for you to come up with a great clothing line. :)

Yes, what Rubye Jack said.

Well, seems we all have clothing issues. Living in the desert and dealing with on going hot flashes I look for light weight cloth and prefer cotten even if it requires ironing. And our retired life allows for simple clothing - haven' t worn a dress in four years. Besides elastic waists I want pockets for cell phones and tissues. And I agree that the prints on larger sizes are horrible. And don't get me started on underware for my age and size.

Pants/jeans that fit AT the waist please...

I live in Paris and have had plenty of time to watch fashion especially on older women like myself..One of the tricks I have noticed is wearing jackets with pants..Jackets cover up everything and left opened over a tank top with a good pair of jeans worn with flats or boots and you have a great look.

I've worn men's jeans for so long that I can't remember when I started doing that, maybe for the last forty years!

And I started buying men's sweaters and tee shirts about eight years ago.

I wish I could find a nicely-cut women's jacket in wool for winter and in a linen-y fabric for summer to wear with jeans for a little dressier look, but I hate clothes shopping and it's a pain to have to return catalog or on-line purchases because I guessed wrong at a size.

And don't get me started on underwear!

I have one bra that kind of fits that I have to force myself to wear when I go to the dentist, doctor or out to eat once in a while. I wear no bra at home which is where I am 99% of the time.

I just don't want to show my nipples to the world -- that's the only reason I wear a bra at all...

Ronni, you KNOW this post is going to hit a nerve.

I certainly join the other posters in *hating* the sleeveless/short sleeve tops in hideous prints--grimlly unflattering.

The Lee shirt fan (I'm one, too) should try both Marts (K- and Wal-); they have them in a range of colors, variable from store to store. These are reasonably priced, as are Lee jeans; some of their cuts are very flattering for the waistline-that's-just-a-memory, which is definitely me. Plus, Lee's sizing is VERY consistent, which, as everyone noted, is sadly becoming rare. Like everything else, try them on--ALL the cuts--and I think you might well find the one (I just bought my third pair of the same cut).

Also, check out QVC on Tuesday morning. Although I suspect I'm too short-waisted for most of their tops, it astounds me how the Denim & Co hosts market to senior ladies like they and their money and their wishes actually matter--something, I'm sure we all agree, that's totally missing from most of fashion. It's definitely a tight-waistband-and-gauze-free zone, for which their customers reward them with huge multiple orders.

We don't need tons of clothes in retirement, it's true, but everyone likes clothes that fit and function well and make the wearer feel presentable and contemporary. Doesn't seem like a lot to ask! Luckily, all of us here are uppity enough to persist until we find 'em, one way or another.

While diminishing quality and lack of standard sizing are problems that one lone designer can't solve, most of the ones that can be have already been mentioned. Personally, I want to emphasize the need for less garish colors and fabric patterns in styles geared toward elders. Also, good quality knit fabrics are very forgiving and are much more comfortable than woven. A double-knit or ponte knit blazer pants can be dressed up or down. I live in knits, even knit jeans - and, yes, women's pants should be sized like men's and include hip size as well -- and they should have adjustable waists (if not elasticized). Tops should have roomy arm-holes. Keep us posted, Ronni, on how your designer friend responds.

Oh, and I don't like wearing a bra either. So I sew a double knit lining on the front of my t-shirts and then I don't have to. I use striped t-shirts and use the stripe lines to sew along. A creative designer can make front-lined knit shirts that have a top-stitched design over an image on the front. An image and the stitches over a lining keep the front of the shirt from clinging and you can't tell that you're not wearing a bra. Wish I could patent that idea!

Long open jackets with kimono sleeves are very flattering over simple, comfortable formalwear dresses in lovely fabrics. Why can't I find ensembles like this for evening wear? Trying to find a mother or grandmother-of-the-bride dress is a nightmare.

I don't want to feel like a trussed up pig at a 6-hour wedding.

It is heartening to hear that SOMEbody wants to design for us. I'm a plus size 62 year old who has shrunk to only 5 feet tall now, so there is absolutely nothing that fits me.

Please mention to your designer that many of us are short AND wide, and please, please, please give us some luxurious fabrics? No more big, polyester prints!

I haven't checked out all these links but I buy my undies from [REMOVED] and my pants from either [REMOVED] or [REMOVED]. I like my pants loose so I wear a larger size and have my local tailor put in extra elastic. Combine that with a nice jacket and I'm good to go.

I know that[REMOVED] gets some justified knocks but you can find decent larger women's clothing there as well. After losing 45 pounds since I retired, I am now a plus size 0 or 1. I find the sizing ridiculous and I am not the only one: Fahion guru Tim Gunn thinks so as well and points out how sizes have gotten smaller (not larger as the fashionistas like to claim).

Plus sizes, elastic waist bands, men's tee shirts...I find this so sad! So many overweight and obviously under active seniors. My friends and I are in our early 70's and dress very stylishly. We have not let our bodies become obese through watching what foods we eat, walking, doing yoga, kayaking, cleaning our own homes, etc. I just returned from a trip to Russia where women are dressed attractively no matter their age and I am ashamed to say the fattest people were those from our boat. Americans are all consumed with eating and this shows up in a variety of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. We need to be proud of our bodies no matter the age. Yes, our bodies sag but to go braless especially as we get older is shameful. We can put on a lovely blouse and yes, they are out there, a nice pair of slacks minus the elastic and attractive shoes that don't have to be 4". Take pride in the body given to you and please don't neglect treating your body with respect just because you are getting older. You were given a gift so treat it well!

I have to put in my two cents worth!

Not many of us like sequins, jewels, embroidery, lace, applique and huge, busy prints - especially not when all are found in the same item.

I, too, decry the lack of sleeves, and I prefer 3/4 length. Jackets are fine in the cooler months, but most of them make me too warm in summer.

Everything should have at least one pocket. I carry my phone on my body because I can't hear it if it is in my purse. Pants or slacks without pockets are useless to me.

I like linen, cotton and silk fabrics; wool materials are okay too, but not directly next to the skin.

Mauve and dusty pink are not flattering to most skin tones, so forget they exist. I tend to prefer bright and dark colors, not pastels, but that is just my taste. I don't wear white next to my face because it points out how much yellower my teeth are than they were, even when I use whiteners.

Barbara Klein...
Well, aren't you the fancy style setter for old women with your pronouncements of what is right and wrong.

And "sad"? I don't think so.

At this blog, you may not shame me (or anyone else) for not wearing a bra. I haven't worn one since 1964 and I'm not starting now. That doesn't mean I don't dress well and attractively within the confines of the lousy fashion available for elder bodies.

There is also nothing shameful about elastic waistlines. Comfort is a wonderful thing.

With your pretensious self-satisfaction, you have embarrassed yourself here.

I take medication which has resulted in weight gain (a common side effect). I am very tall as well (6') Imagine trying to find clothes for a tall "big" lady. I work as a professional and am expected to dress that way. I Hate, Hate, Hate shopping for clothes, because it is the most depressing exercise in self-loathing experience imaginable. I need a longer torso, inseam and sleeves. I need sleeves, period. I had knee replacement surgery, and I cannot wear the "skinny" jeans, as the fabric doesn't fit around my knee. I used to be able to order longer lengths in catalogs, paying extra for that honor, but many of the major retailers have discontinued that option. I have lost count of the number of pairs of jeans that I have hopefully ordered and then, disappointedly returned.
And Barbara, if you read the comments, you should understand that many of us find it very hard to "take pride in the body given to us" when we never feel that we are able to look good in the clothing that we find.

Sorry about posting links - I forgot that rule. But if anybody is interested in a set of useful links, just e-mail me.

And Ronni - thank you for responding to that judgmental post. Bodies come in all sizes and just because you are larger, doesn't mean you are a couch potato, gorging on junk food.

I'm curious as to why acceptance isn't a 2-way street...if those of us who work hard to maintain our bodies and to find clothing styles that are attractive AND comfortable are deemed "pretentious and self-satisfied", how is that different from the judgmental tone you take with clothing available on the market now?

When you speak with the designer, please mention shoes. It's so difficult to find comfortable shoes that don't make my 68 year old feet with bunions look like I've purchased a matching pair of leather boats with giant rubber soles. Many older women have foot problems and need shoes where orthotics can be inserted -- but we aren't ready for the black lace-ups that our grandmothers wore! How sad to finally find a nice outfit but no dressy shoes that can last for an evening!

My two cents worth: I am a short-and-small older woman: 5'2" and about 95 lbs. Obviously, a perfect Petite 2, right? Well, not exactly! Somehow I've managed to retain my waistline, but everything else has definitely gone south. I need clothing that fits a small frame and is proportional. I can't/won't wear sleeveless anything, and forget short skirts, especially since hosiery is out of style (except, thank goodness, for opaque tights in the winter) and exposing 76 year old bare legs isn't an option. The maxi-skirt trend is one I could embrace enthusiastically--if I could just find one that isn't designed for someone 5'8".

I agree that finding good quality clothing designed for a petite woman much closer to 80 than 18 for a reasonable price is virtually impossible. As do several other respondents, I like Eileen Fisher's clothes but cannot afford them. I still enjoy fashion and am interested in looking as good as I can. I'll sacrifice some comfort for style but not as much as I once did! Any help your young designer can provide would be most welcome!

Clothes that don't constrict and that move well.

Maybe only older designers could appreciate our needs. IDEA - maybe we could design our own. Ladies who sew, what about it?

Blaming fashion statements on the First lady is wrong. I am 60 plus and honestly speaking i do not wear elastic waist pants.In addition i love to showcase my arms.I use to suffer with Lupus however i took control of my life and health. I also learn to sew so i make my own clothes and very proud of it.

Ronni...Is the problem age or how well you look in clothing whether you're 21 or 71? There are plenty of good looking clothes for women out there and one of the joys of my 4 women friends and I are thrift shops where every so often we find that perfect top or pants. Happy to be 71 and enjoying it! I am not at all embarrassed about what I wrote...I'm proud of who i am and how I look.

Guess I might as well join in.
A lot of what Barbara Klein wrote is me.
At 78 petite, 109 lbs and size 2 or 4. A lifetime of exercise, walking,eating right now yoga. A lifetime of being in business world,
dressing stylish but now in a cottage at the edge of the woods where I garden and do photography to my hearts content. Have 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Buy a lot at upscale thrift shops and same stores (always on sale) as my daughters and granddaughters. I can no longer wear stylish shoes of the past since gardening I fractured my ankle and never had it set - thought it was a sprain. But find good feeling shoes but still do not like the style :)
I do have health problems at this time of arthritus and Sjogrens but still very active and like to look nice.
So many say you are so small
but it is a lifetime of good habits and guess good genes.
Anyway may live in the country at this time but still like to look nice and so many as they age maybe never did a lot they should have done through the years.
If any of this makes sense.

I love the idea of sewing tshirts so you don't need a bra. That is very clever and I might give it a try. Elaine, I'd love to see a sample!

I missed your post yesterday but I wanted to add a couple of things. I am 77 and 5'6". I used to be a couple of inches taller. I have not worn a skirt since I retired. Mostly its pants of one kind or another with a T or other stretchy fabric. I have a large surgery scar under one breast which is still sensitive so I do not even think about underwires. I mostly wear the all elastic ones. They are light weight, come in all kinds of colors and are very comfortable. I have others but save them for when I feel I need to wear them (Not very often). I need clothes that come in one size. Not L=14/16. That just guarantees that it fits no one well. I need pants with more rise. I hate crotch cutters but it seems impossible to find any that are comfortable. Elastic at the waist. Even if it is only partially elastic. No more short zippers please. More places that carry size 11W in women's shoes. I default to men's. As usual, they are better made and cheaper but they are also heavier. I have tried the mail order route. I got a pair of 11W from one of the big places mentioned here. They were great so I ordered another pair in that size for when these get worn. I tried them on a couple of months ago and I couldn't even get my feet into them so they went to charity without ever having been worn. They were sized 11W but they weren't. And they weren't cheap. I'm sure there are plenty of women who have these problems. When will clothing designers wake up?

As a woman, common sense dictates, in public, a bra is to be worn. It is sad to do otherwise. This DOES mean you aren't dressing well. What a powerful description of shameful.

Being jealous of those who made a dedicated effort, sacrificing for decades, to maintain a height to weight ratio, was an unexpected response. Acceptance of healthy views froma dedicated readership is now questionable.

The minority who once were the majority is a fact. No one was grandstanding their particular status as, in 50 prior posts, this lifestyle had yet to be mentioned.

It seems to me from these comments and from my conversations with friends around my age, 66, that modest, attractive and comfortable clothing is hard to find for most of us, whether we are generously proportioned or slim.

I have never enjoyed shopping as a skinny (skinny, not slim) build coupled with broad back made finding clothes that fit nearly impossible and always an agonizing experience. i have struggled with shopping from the time I quickly grew taller than nearly everyone else in the sixth grade.

The 80s and 90s were not as bad but downhill again from there. I haven't given up, though, even post-stroke. Fortunately, my husband is still interested in my having attractive attire, and we are trying different strategies to achieve that goal and still stay within our modest lifestyle that allows a bit of sharing, travel and trips to a favorite coffee shop.


Don't work so hard at attracting us, ladies, we're not worth all the commotion.

I had set this aside for later reading, and just finished reading the article and comments. My favorite idea was ElaineofKalililly's doubled fabric front tees, since I always imagined I would add shelf bras to my favorites. Since I've never liked constriction, whether under my breasts or around my waist,those projects never happened, but Elaine's idea might!

I've always preferred the colors/materials/prints/construction/ and style of "menswear", so I am going dapper as I age. The people I admire have developed a look all their own, so I am emulating that spirit.

That said, I see a lot of internalized misogyny, fat bigotry and self hatred in some of these comments...and send some loving kindness to those who are struggling.

Thanks, Ronnie for your "no shaming" stance. I too have always been immune to "common sense dictates" whether in public or not!

I am a fan..a new fan.

Don't get me started on clothes..especially for those of us 60 or older. What is with the tiny flowery print? And the t-shirts with gardening tools on the front...or cats?

Drives me nuts.

Does Gabbygeeser really think women dress for "men"?....they dress for themselves or other women...self satisfaction is a strong motivator...

I totally agree that standardization is sorely needed in ready-made clothes, as well as commercial sewing patterns.
By the time I try to alter a sewing pattern to fit my too rounded back and foreword-thrusting head, I am exhausted.
And don't even get me started on the lack of decent fabric stores. In my case, it is a 50 mile drive east or west, and over 70 miles is I go north. Living on the Gulf coast rules out a southern trip. Let's face it, Walmart just does't cut it for fabric, unless I want to look like a quilt. Hancock fabrics are not even ordered by local stores, they "have to take what the company sends them" so that local climate conditions are seldom considered. (Hot and humid)

Forgive this 75 year old "apple" for responding to your blog so late, but I have only just found it. Now I will go put on my only comfortable outfit, my pi's.

Reading these comments is quite entertaining. I am struck by how short sighted people are. We must remind ourselves that our bodies, (whether short/tall, fat/skinny or any combination betwixt and between) are ours to dress. Also, we cannot completely control whether we are pudgy, or skinny. Our genes dictate this. And yes, there are times when people cannot lose weight no matter what they do. Or gain weight. I went from being 6'2" and 127 lbs soaking wet (a healthy person mind you) to an apple shape at age 55. Still healthy! Please do not tell me I am not decent if I don't wear a bra. If you are a perfect size 8 and work out, then be proud of it. But don't look down at others if they are a perfect size 22 and don't work out! What annoys me is the idea that women are only supposed to be a certain size. Look around clothing industry! We are all sizes. AND beautiful. Make basic, comfortable clothing that fits a variety of sizes and shapes. We'll take it from there to the tailor if we have to.

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