It's About Retired Men Today

Elder Fashion – Still an Oxymoron

We gave Wednesday over to a men's club this week. Let's make today, Friday, women's day although men are as welcome to chime in as women did on Wednesday.

When I first wrote about “elder fashion” here in 2008, I labeled it an oxymoron. Here is a sampling from that post:

"I see more transparent blouses and even pants than much of anything that actually covers a human 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.

"Shirts...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.

"And why do the few dresses designed without waists all look like muu-muus of the 1950s..."

Nothing has changed during the intervening seven years. Except me. I weighed about 160 pounds then; now, yesterday morning, I weighed 122 pounds.

Losing 25 percent of one's body weight requires a dramatic wardrobe do-over - total replacement for the most part - and that, beginning early in 2014, gave me an opportunity to see if anything has changed in the world of fashion for old women.

Nothing I could see.

I did most of my shopping in the two, excellent consignment shops where I live and found most of what I needed at bargain basement prices. Example: brand-new, unworn $150, lined cotton or linen pants for $20.

Of course, the price doesn't mean they fit this body as well as clothing did in my 20-, 30-, 40-year-old body. I mentioned a while back that my butt had disappeared and losing a bunch of weight only exacerbated that issue.

Those reasonably well-made pants in my new size, for example, are even baggier in the butt than when I was fat.

Recently, I have been trying to fill a few additional holes in my wardrobe – a medium-weight sweater or two, teeshirts, a couple of summer blouses. Nothing was turning up at the consignment shops so I checked a couple of the better known brand stores that cater to grownup – that is, older - women.

Teeshirts are impossible; they all are made with Spandex and even the largest size clings.

There is no such thing as a summer blouse (or, often, even heavier ones) with sleeves.

I blame Mrs. Obama for this. As soon as she showed off her toned upper arms during the election campaign in 2007, clothing manufacturers glommed onto the idea as a new way to increase profits without improving the product: just lop off all sleeves.

After two years of lifting weights every second day, I'm pleased with the little old lady biceps I've developed but even with the proper exercises, my triceps are still too bat-wingy for me to wear anything sleeveless.

(I know, I know. I'm old enough not to care anymore but I do. So shoot me.)

And don't get me started on the tacky, machine-made embroidery on so many blouses and shirts that might otherwise make the cut, if barely. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Sweaters? Even in winter styles, the knit is almost as thin as gauze and just short of transparent so they do nothing for warmth. Plus, with Spandex commonly added, they cling like the teeshirts.

In general, it is all so shoddily sewn that garments are likely to disintegrate the first time they are washed or cleaned.

Have you noticed anything about this post yet? Aside from baggy-butt pants, I'm not even asking for anything that could even vaguely be described as high style. I'd just like it to fit my body, be opaque and last for more than a month.

Here in suburbia (where I haven't lived until now for more than half a century), most of the women in or around my age group seem to live in sweat pants and shirts. If that's what makes you comfortable, fine, but it doesn't work for me on so many levels.

Besides, sweats are what I wear to bed so I would like something a little nicer to change into when I'm vertical.

I'm not asking for clothing that would put me in the style category of the elder women Ari Seth Cohen features on his Advanced Style blog, book and video. They make fashion their hobby and they do a fabulous job of it.

But that's not my interest. I don't want to spend anything but minimal time thinking about clothes. All I need are a few reasonably priced pieces that fit well, are comfortable and not too frumpy.

How much is that to ask of a multi-billion dollar business?


Have you looked at LLBean catalog? Classic designs for women. Also, I just found some linen Coldwater Creek bermuda shorts on ebay that fit me well and are stylish.
I admit I wear mostly PJ bottoms and T shirts at home, but like to look somewhat put together when I venture out.

I've never been overly concerned with clothes so I don't know if my habits are typical. I find that I wear the clothes that fit me well until they wear out. It's the "misfits" and mistakes that get donated.

Through experience and experiments I've learned which styles and brands work best for me, then I wait for them to go on sale, even better on clearance, to buy them. I also shop end of season sales. I expect to wear the clothes for several
years so what does it matter when I buy them.

You're singing my song. I have two weddings and a bar mitzvah coming up and therefore need a dress.
I haven't stepped one foot in a store yet and I already know that it will be a grueling quest to find a dress with sleeves.

Just try to find plus sizes to wear, JC Penneys has them, but Target got rid of their line, the GAP in big urban cities has them, but they are not in my town..My only child helps me to get clothing and I watch for JC Penney sales, it is hard to find a top or a dress or slax for that matter, I am not gonna go nude or naked just to feel comfy in the heat and humidity that will soon be here, if I have to I will order online and send the ones back that don't fit!

I inhabit the blog world of fashion over 50. If you have money, of course, you can throw it at the problem. But for the regular people of this world, the best strategy is to find a mass market retailer that works for your body, and stick to them.

My current favorite for low-priced classic basics is UNIQLO. Others prefer Land's End, LLBean, etc., but I can't wean myself from a bit of edge, so Japanese prep-derived it is;).

I moved to Cape Cod from NYC and I've changed my way of dressing -- mostly. At least 50% of the over 65 women wear jeans for every day, including going to classes, and I do too although I wouldn't have thought of it in NYC. Winter brings out fleece tops of all sorts and, frankly, I like it. It's warm and washable and sometimes styled nicely. I have not relinquished the cache of cashmere sweaters I've been collecting for years. I take care of them and expect to keep on wearing simple turtle neck and crew neck (good weight) cashmere in the winter forever (under fleece jackets often). Sneakers are the shoes of choice for most people. That I can't give in to; I like moccasin style shoes and collect them and wear sneakers only for walks. One adjusts and doesn't like to stand out as too different. But some difference is a good thing. My scarves are many, colorful and usually worn except in summers. In summer, yes, it's necessary to avoid those clingy tee-shirts. Frankly I search a large Goodwill store and usually find higher end tees (from Talbots, Chino's, Land's End and such) that don't have the spandex.

I am 5'1", squared! Oh, I miss the days when I was a perfect size 10-12. Of course, I miss being 50 something, but that is another tale.

I like Bonworth clothing. Have worn them for years. They do a marketing trick, mark sizes differently.

LL Bean has been mentioned by several women and I love their T-shirts. I like the v-neck 3/4 length sleeve and get another color every time they are on sale.

The T-shirts do not have spandex and some are made of Pima cotton and very soft.

I found pants that fit without having to be tailored from Alfred Dunner. Again, I have many different colors that I bought on sale.

I now mix and match the colors of my T-shirts and slacks for a different outfit every day.

Comfort is more important than style now, but I still like to dress attractively and use scarves to dress up the T-shirts. This is my uniform now.

Because I am short and fat, it is often hard to find clothes that fit. Most fat clothes are made for women who are much taller.

I have found Talbots petite and women's petite to work for me. I can even order pants from their catalog and they fit. It's even better if I can go by their store and find some items on the clearance rack.

Diane said quite well what I was going to say -- but I'll say it anyway.

LL Bean is an excellent place to shop for practical, well-made, attractive clothes that last a long time.

The website is very well set up in terms of options for size, fit, and color for tops, pants, and jackets. I have 3 of their scoop-neck cotton tops which are identical except for the color. They look great.

I also have an LLBean zip-up jacket with lots of pockets inside and out, including a zip-up pocket on one sleeve. I wear it nearly every day when I go out walking.

I only ever wear men's T-shirts, as those are straight up and down and don't cling. I find men's shirts more comfortable too. Can't stand the feel of tight clothing.

I am having a huge struggle with finding pants and the "no butt" issue. There is a market out there for someone who would create pants that fit an older woman's body. I have had some luck with stretchy knit pants and also the stretchy leggings that young women wear (the ones that look like tights) are fitting and comfortable (can wear with a long tunic style top-embarrassed to just wear them, except around the house.

i have to echo LLBean as a good source for pants, and especially sweaters. You have to learn what size to order. I think some Bean things run large.

I like Lands End knit wear. And they provide 3 styles of fit for their tees to choose from. Their knit Starfish collection is good.

Both catalog retailers do good coats and jackets. I much prefer their stuff to any I find locally.

Finding jeans is hard for me. I am not slim, but like Ronni. I find regular slacks awfully baggy in the bottoms. Jeans fit closer to the body, so they have become my preferred choice. But finding a fit is hard. I found a pair of Chaps at Kohls last fall.

We walked through a major local mall yesterday, and I realized, yet again, that 95% of the offerings there were not for me. It is so discouraging!

One retailer to try if there is one near you, is Chico's. Their market is the older woman. Their stuff is on trend and often interesting. However they aren't anywhere close to me now. I've never tried ordering from them.

i'll join the LL Bean fan club. I've been wearing their clothes since the 1980s, and believe it or not, I am still wearing some things I bought back then! They're good quality and don't go out of style. I also buy from Land's End, though not as often. I've always hated shopping, so I treasure the ability to buy from a catalogue.

I have two gripes about today's clothes. One is that it's hard to get tall sizes. I'm 5'8" and regular pants are not long enough for me. Beans and Land's End carry some tall sizes, but not in everything. Moreover, Beans recently decided that tall sizes will be from size 8 up, and I'm a size 6. Not sure where that decision came from. I've written a letter of protest, but to no avail.

My other gripe has to do with low cut necklines, which seem to be on everything today, even oxford blouses with button-down collars. I don't have any cleavage--I've always been thin--and I don't think I'd want to show any if I did have it.

I haven't been near a mall in years except for underwear -- no reason to go, especially since my waist disappeared. I'm not heavy; just thick around the middle!

When I need clothes at all I usually order them from J.Jill. I tried Soft Surroundings but found the fit to be weird. I like the look of Sundance clothes, but most are too young and pricey.

"A'hah!", said he, pointing excitedly to a Ronni thought:
"- - my triceps are still too bat-wingy for me - - ". Is that the voice of a woman concerned with becoming a "Wall-mart photo" posting? Or is it the voice of a woman hoping to restore the 'tight bod' of a 30-year-old?
Personally, I plead guilty, in a male fashion, to the latter, but is this not an indication that you'd like to "have it both ways", Ronni?
Your 'Blog-ee", Tim

I too purchase men's T-shirts because they are long and do not cling. I cannot understand how the designers of larger sized clothing have not yet figured out that offering see through flimsy fabrics is not appropriate for larger figures. I have not been in a box store in years and order everything on line from Landsend, Chico, JJill etc. all the usual suspects. For dressier quality clothing I go to They have a large range of sizes from petite to 4x and their sales are fantastic. All these on line stores have liberal return policies and I figure the shipping costs to and/or fro even out to car fare and time saved. I even buy shoes online. Works for me.

Clothing selection in Houston retail stores is heavily skewed to twentysomethings. If a store carries anything for the mature woman, it's the ubiquitous Alfred Dunner line. This city has a large low income population and resale shops -- even in better parts of town -- get picked over quickly. As a result, I've started shopping online. Appleseed's, Draper&Damon's and Tog Shop have some nice things, if a little pricey. What's not so nice is the preponderance of tacky floral prints and wimpy pastel colors in warm weather clothes.

Just looked at the fun website you gave us - Advanced styles - got to view some very colorful, interesting fav was the gal who goes "thrifting" as that is my passion too. I'm a size 8,verging on a 6, no butt either, but I find very nice clothing for such a low price I can afford all the name brands, and do love tee shirts and casual shirts, pants, and jeans. Try to find a thrift store you like and go often as the best items go quickly so if you like it, get it, it won't be there when you return.

At your weight and 5'3", the only clothing I can find in the so-called Women's departments are for very tiny teens or very large matrons!

As a consequence, I have taken to shopping in the Boy's department, especially for sweaters and T-shirts. The quality is so much better, the fabric stronger and better sewn, and not so long in a boy's size large or x-large and they fit me very well.

However, I do have the opposite problem from you, my derriere is still well-rounded and the boys are cut for slimmer people than I, so the pants don't work quite as well.

Right now, my pet peeve with women's clothes is that they have decided to save material by also not putting pockets in slacks anymore!! That irritates me no end!!

And, like you, I am very fond of my local consignment shops ... especially in the more well-to-do areas of town. Have been shopping in these in every city I've lived in starting in the 1960s in Atlanta ... or maybe even earlier with my Mother at the church basement rummage sales, come to think of it! LOL

GREAT comments today!!

I'm 5'0" down from 5'4" (arthritic scoliosis, luckily I don't look like Quasimodo, just tiny), and 3 years back I lost 46 pounds, down from 176 to 130. I do things every day to be sure I don't gain that weight back, and I LOVE the fact that clothes hang decently on me now.

But it's certainly true that my proportions aren't what they were when I was 30. Sigh. Well . . . I'll be 78 this summer, and aside from the arthritis I'm doing well, so I'm not gonna complain.

I SHOULD be going to consignment stores, but so far, I don't. I rely heavily on Lands' End, and also occasionally use LL Bean. J Jill is a tad too yin for me, and Coldwater Creek used to be way too pricey for me, but I see that in their new incarnation they're more reasonably priced. I'll have to browse there.

But my lead paragraph shouold've read: MAKE YOUR OWN STYLE. Develop a look that you like, and go with that. (And FWIW, for years I've been sleeping in large men's teeshirts. Soft, loose . . .

I'm planning a new ward robe. I've been working from home now for about 3 years..and it shows! I'm tired of the slouchy side and want to show my "hip and polished" side a little more. I've gained some weight since menopause and elastic is my best friend. I still want to be comfortable. Thanks for all the tips ladies!

Lands's End, Chico's for travelling, and a bunch of men's t-shirts for everyday's use.
It is not so difficult to knit your own sweeters, soft and loose.
Tennis shoes for a better walking (nike the air line)

Why only the young people can be confortable using tennis shoes?
We olders deserve them sells everything

Do any of you remember the half sizes? My grandmother wore and sewed her own half size dresses- Simplicity had a line of patterns that were half sizes. The half sizes had different measurements/ dimensions than the clothes for younger people. It seems so odd that in 1965 there were clothes made for elderly people and now, when there are so many more of us, proportionally, they do not bother with us.

Clothes are no longer supposed to fit.

Not only do we oldsters not have sizes to fit our bodies -no one does. Clothes only come in small, medium, large, etc. medium is supposedly to fit all sizes from 10 to 12 - so that would be everyone bigger than a size 8 up to a size 14. How can that work? The garment has to be made in some static size, I don't think it changes to fit those different sizes. So it is actually a size 12. so if you are bigger than an 8 you wear a 12, bigger than that you wear a 16. There are really just the sizes 8,12,16,20. Then they add the "lycra", to make it stretch to fit. The lycra shrinks with every wash. Look around at how others are dressed, young or old. It isn't pretty.

Since walking is painful and difficult for me, I shop almost exclusively online. I have been an LLBean and Lands End shopper for years. LLBean has free shipping and free returns if you have a LLBean VISA card, which I do. I have tees that I have worn for fifteen plus years. Like others mentioned, if I find something that I like that fits, I tend to buy every color offered.

I have also found good quality items from Woolrich, Appleseeds, and Eddie Bauer. Most of these online shopping venues have generous return policies, too.

I have even bought swim suits online, though it sometimes takes several tries to get the right size and style. It is so hard for me to try on things in a store that it is worth the hassle of re-packaging everything for return when I order online.

Thanks, Ronni, for this timely topic; also, thanks to all who commented for your great ideas.

I'm a great fan of Goodwill. I'm 5'2" and about 95 lbs. so I can browse in the women's, girl's and boy's departments. Usually, I'm able to find something that fits--sometimes even higher-end clothes--and the price is right. I also have pretty good luck with tops at Target and occasionally shop sales at Land's End, LL Bean, etc.

I haven't lost 25% of my previous adult weight. I've gained 20%. I was going to reply, but decided to go in my room and cry instead.

There are excellent clothes for those 65+--some pricey, some not, with comments about the specific clothing pictured--expressing customers' satisfaction-or not--with fit, and quality. Clothes may be more expensive than a consignment shop, but most retailers have tabs for sale, clearance or their outlet store.

I learned about them from my elderly mil, who is careful about money and always looks well put-together.

Namely, mentioned above Appleseeds, Chico's, Draper's & Damon"s (eg. advertising "Chic comfort fashions for mature women. Check "Clearance $19.97 and under") and j.jill. Also Nordstrom's Rack's sale items.

Non-form-fitting sweaters and tops with sleeves, can turn old separates into fashionable outfits.

Just posted some as Mother's Day gift ideas and will buy one for myself (whose figure is also changing) from D&D's $19.97 Clearance.

Oh, don't do that, Diane Lee.

Before I lost 40 pounds, I gained 50 and let it sit there for six years. It happens. To to the best of us.

Interesting topic. No one has mentioned the source we depend on: Eddie Bauer. Also REI clearance.

I know it doesn't seem like a place that an older woman would shop, but as I do not have hips, I regularly buy my jeans and shorts in Old Navy Men's department. I have also bought many tops there from both men's and women's departments. You have to sort through for good quality and opaque but it is worthwhile.

Most everything i wear is Lands End or LL Bean. I'm furious, though, at how their quality has dropped in recent years. Cheaper fabrics, skimpier cuts, irregular sizing, and spandex in cotton shirts that used to drape attractively. Zappos for shoes. I just don't have the energy to tramp around local stores, trying on 10 items for every one that might fit.

Oh you have struck a chord here! The poor construction and fabrics, the skimpy, clinging tees and sheer blouses, no sleeves and wide scoop necks. Really, a lot of it is ugly.

I have friends who regularly complain at department stores about there being no reasonably priced, well-designed clothes for older women. Clearly it has done no good.

I have plus-size friends who must now pay extra for their clothes - the extra fabric you know. But there is no equivalent discount for my petite, size 2 sister-in-law and her daughter.

Yes, LLBean sells nice t-shirts, and I have bought a couple. They are not as nice as they once were and are considerably more expensive (3 or 4 times more than at my local stores; can't afford too many of them).

I use to love shopping. Not so much anymore. I think greed drives the manufacturers to skimp. I agree with PiedType about tramping around. I do still look fairly often. And go home empty handed.

Cheryl, my grandmother also wore half sizes. She said they fit better - shorter-waisted, fuller across the chest but still fitting at shoulders and neck. I too have wondered what happened to them.

I appreciate all the shopping tips, but I already know them. They don't change the fact that readily available, good clothing is difficult to find.

I'm still working and would like to find clothing I like and feel good in.

I found a way of getting around the "top" problem, but with a catch. I buy all sorts of sleeveless, on-sale t-shirts and tank tops in various colors and wear them beneath my linen or more everyday blouses. I stay cool and with a scarf or colorful necklace, the outfit can easily be suitable for going beyond my neighborhood. I pair these with jeans or other slacks.

Of course, you can't take off the blouse.

I've also tailored blouse sleeves so they just reach the elbow or slightly below.

Lastly, the Gap sells an all-cotton short-sleeve t-shirt called the Favorite, which can be had at a good price in the off season.

Clearly, too much ... :/

I was so disappointed not to see a long post that I wrote on this subject. Perhaps I forgot to click POST, as I often do--or maybe it was too long? It is a subject near and dear to me,as I love clothes, but have little money to spend on them--I mentioned clothes swaps which nobody else did, and is a yearly event at my housing complex of 240 seniors.

I just came back by to see where others are shopping and found all these LL Bean suggestions. I was taken aback as that 's the catalog from which hubby recently ordered some slippers. All I saw was outdoorsy/camping clothes, much of it made of corduroy.

Lyn Burnstine...
There is no space limit on comments. Everyone is free to write as much as they want.

I do plead with you all that if you are doing so to make paragraphs.

No one wants to read long chunks if text - certainly not me.

Two words - THRIFT SHOPS - it takes time and physical stamina to pick thru the junk, but there are almost always treasures to be had. I live in a major city, with multiple thrifts in every neighborhood. It's easy to change your size or your style and spend very little.

I was taken as a child to the St. Vincent de Paul and other thrifts on Long Island with my mother. I was young enough to pick thru the baby clothes for doll clothes - so I guess I am a lifelong thrift shopper!

This is one of my ways of living within my means. Shoes and many other things like lingerie and swimwear of course I buy retail, but things like pants, tops and accessories are plentiful. Household decor and office supplies too.

People give things away for many reasons - I know I do - and there are many high quality name brand items in perfect condition in the thrifts.

I often get compliments on an outfit or an accessory, and I look down and realize I've gotten everything I'm wearing at a thrift.

Wear comfy shoes and bring your reading glasses, and look stuff over very closely. Try it on if you can, no refunds.

I appreciate the comments very much and learned about some online stores I was unaware of. Thank you.

I am old and fat, but I volunteer a lot and I am out among the public most days. I want to look clean, respectable, and appropriate, but I also want to feel comfortable. I don't like to shop and I have a hard time finding clothes when I do.

Mainly, I want loose 3/4 sleeves, modest necklines, mid-calf dresses and skirts, nothing tight. Loose-legged pants with elastic waists, because I wear comfortable tops on the outside. Most of my body parts look best when they're covered up.

Contrary to what many people seem to think, most fat people don't want stretch fabrics, which cling to your form. I want simple, clean designs, and I have no desire to look like I'm 25. Thanks for listening.

The most flattering top is actually made by Talbots. It's a perennial best seller, a 3/4 sleeve bateau neck in 100% cotton and no Spandex. It's not too long or short and it looks good both if you are slim or are trying to hide a bit of a paunch. Many shirts are too long, or tight at the hips or don't go in at all in the waist. I also buy their short sleeve vee neck tees but have to wait for a few years to get them in the grays I prefer.

What I dislike about "older" fashions is they often come in what I call "granny does Vegas" or "babies and toddlers", very gaudy or pastel tones.

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